FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Dan Marino's tenure as the Miami Dolphins' top football executive ended before it really started.
Marino, who accepted a job as senior vice president of football operations three weeks ago and was to begin next week, surprised team owner H. Wayne Huizenga yesterday by telling him he would not rejoin the organization he led as a quarterback for 17 seasons.
In a statement released by the team, Marino said he wasn't prepared to make the "significant lifestyle change" that the position would require for him and his family, which includes six children. So he backed out, creating an embarrassing situation for the Dolphins, whose decision to hire Marino was met with skepticism by media, NFL people and some fans.
"I can't worry about perception at this stage of the game," Huizenga said. "All we've got to do is put our best foot forward and see what happens. I'm not concerned where we are at all. I've got all the confidence in the world in the guys that are here and we're going to be fine."
Marino's change of heart surprised Huizenga, who said he "didn't believe" a Sunday ESPN report that hinted at Marino's waffling. Huizenga said he found out the truth when Marino was waiting for him when he left a meeting yesterday afternoon.
Huizenga, who is close friends with Marino, said he pressed him on whether his decision involved more than just time commitment, but said Marino insisted that was the only reason. Huizenga said he tried to talk Marino out of it, but his mind was made up.
Huizenga said the Dolphins would spend the "the next few months" finding another senior executive with a football background. An immediate hiring isn't necessary since the Dolphins already are close to making final their offseason plans for free agency and the draft.
Huizenga said he doubts the Dolphins would enter the season without a new executive in place. It's unlikely the new hire would enjoy the same clout the team gave to Marino, who was to oversee coach Dave Wannstedt and general manager Rick Spielman and rank behind only team president Eddie Jones and Huizenga in the hierarchy.
Marino, an analyst for CBS and HBO since retiring in 2000, has never worked in an NFL front office. But he approached Huizenga about a position after the owner decided to take away Wannstedt's personnel powers after the team's second consecutive season without a playoff berth.
Huizenga later made Spielman GM after considering six other candidates.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.