The 1983 NFL Draft has been widely regarded as one of the best in league history.
Numerous stars would come from the draft that included defenders, running backs, receivers, and even kickers.
However, that particular draft is better known for the six quarterbacks who were selected in the first round.
University of Pittsburgh’s Dan Marino was the last of those signal callers, taken with the 27th overall pick by the Miami Dolphins.
Marino had been a stud QB with the Panthers and would wildly exceed expectations as a pro.
In 17 years, he frequently set league marks in passing, including an astounding 1984 season that led to the NFL MVP award.
This is what Dan Marino did in his second NFL season:
– 362 completions (Led NFL)
– 564 attempts (Led NFL)
– 5,084 yards (Led NFL)
– 48 TD (Led NFL)
– 8.5 TD% (Led NFL)
– 9.0 yards/attempt (Led NFL)
– 317.8 yards/game (Led NFL)
– 108.9 QB rating (Led NFL)
This was in 1984! pic.twitter.com/E8KS9Jduaa
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) August 10, 2022
That same year, Marino took the Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX.
Although Marino and Miami wouldn’t return to the league’s biggest contest, he continued to be one of the best quarterbacks in the game for several years.
This is the story of Dan Marino.
Pittsburgh Born and Bred
Daniel Constantine Marino, Jr. was born on September 15, 1961, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Good morning and happy birthday to Dan Marino, born today in 1961 in Pittsburgh, PA.
A standout athlete, he was drafted by the MLB out of Central Catholic HS, but chose football and the Univ of Pittsburgh. As a Dolphin he made 9 Pro Bowls and his #13 is retired by MIA and Pitt. pic.twitter.com/iaDq2LcMh1
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) September 15, 2021
Growing up in Pittsburgh’s South Oakland neighborhood that was filled with kids, young “Danny” (as he was called then) was “just another kid playing ball in the street,” his father, Dan Sr., recalled in 1982.
The Marino house was a mere five blocks from the University of Pittsburgh campus and Danny and his friends would frequently play their own version of Pitt games wherever they could.
When he signed up to play American Legion baseball, one of the only uniform numbers left to choose from was “13.”
Marino reluctantly chose the digits and then continued wearing the number later in college and the pros.
As a student at Central Catholic High School, Marino played baseball and football.
He excelled at both sports, often at the expense of his studies.
“Danny could recall everything on a bubble-gum card but couldn’t remember when the Civil War started,” said Dan Sr.
It wasn’t long before Marino’s talent in football-mad Pennsylvania gained nationwide attention.
He was an All-American on the gridiron and was a fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in the 1979 amateur draft.
Marino Chooses Pitt
With a strong right arm and athleticism for miles, Marino had his pick of colleges.
In honor of Pitt’s win last night here’s Dan Marino moments after being unfrozen. pic.twitter.com/8ceU0oiB0O
— Tim Ryan (@TheSportsHernia) September 2, 2022
Despite interest in playing for large programs in warmer climates, Marino decided to stay close to home and become a Pitt Panther.
“That he chose to stay at home and play football,” said Gil Brandt, the Dallas Cowboys vice-president of personnel development, “tells you a whole lot about him.”
During his freshman year in 1979, Marino picked up on the offense quickly.
In the seventh game of the season against Navy, he replaced Pitt starter Rick Trocano and never looked back.
— pittsburghpirateguru (@harvardplayer) September 9, 2022
Marino started for the remainder of the year and helped the Panthers achieve an 11-1 record and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
He passed for a Pitt freshman-record 1,680 passing yards along with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
During the bowl game, Marino passed for a third-quarter touchdown to Benjie Pryor as the Panthers defeated the Arizona Wildcats 16-10.
In 1980, Marino helped Pitt to a 5-1 record before injuring his knee.
He would end the year with 1,609 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 14 picks as Pitt went 11-1 again and beat South Carolina in the Gator Bowl.
The Panthers went 11-1 for the third consecutive year in 1981.
Marino had a season for the ages when he passed for 2,876 yards, 37 touchdowns (a program record), and 23 interceptions.
He would later finish fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, although he was voted a first-team All-American.
During a game against South Carolina on October 3, the Gamecocks gave up six touchdowns to Marino, which set a single-game record.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, whose team lost to Pitt 42-14 on October 17, was sold on Marino’s talent saying he was “a pro quarterback in college, really.”
Dan Marino threw 37 touchdown passes his junior year at Pitt despite electing to wear shoulder pads that restricted his range of motion by 37 degrees. pic.twitter.com/rbSfRAKtQc
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) September 22, 2019
Pitt was cruising with a 10-0 record before facing rival Penn State on November 28.
Ranked number one in the nation, Marino and the Panthers fell flat as the quarterback threw four interceptions and the Nittany Lions crushed Pitt 48-18.
Despite the setback, Marino didn’t flinch weeks later in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia.
The contest was hyped not only for Marino but for Bulldogs running back Herschel Walker.
Walker scored twice during the game while Marino tossed two touchdowns.
With Pitt down 20-17, Marino found teammate John Brown for a 33-yard touchdown pass with just 35 seconds remaining.
The score gave Pitt a 24-20 victory.
As a senior in 1982, Marino passed for 2,432 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 23 picks as Pitt dropped to 9-3.
In the Cotton Bowl against SMU and the “Pony Express” duo of running backs Erick Dickerson and Craig James, Marino and the Panthers found the going difficult.
Playing in freezing conditions, neither team got much footing and the Panthers lost 7-3, their first bowl loss during Marino’s tenure.
— Chris Gates Fitness (@Chris_Gates) August 19, 2018
Marino wrapped his college career by finishing ninth in Heisman voting for 1982.
He ended his time at Pittsburgh with 8,597 yards, 79 touchdowns, and 69 interceptions.
Without a doubt, Marino was a phenomenal quarterback, but he had help during his Pitt days with an exceptional offensive line.
Many of his protectors would play in the NFL.
“I played behind some great offensive linemen, including Jimbo Covert, Mark May, Russ Grimm, and Bill Fralic, among others, and I never would have had the success I did without all of their help,” said Marino.
A year after leaving Pitt, the program retired Marino’s number 13.
Marino’s Stock Drops Due to Drug Allegations
As the 1983 NFL Draft loomed, numerous NFL teams were salivating over the great quarterback class available.
Marino was highly touted by a number of NFL personnel veterans.
“He can handle it when the receivers adjust the routes, he can see above the rush, he’s a leader, he has played in lots of big games and before lots of big crowds. I don’t know anything negative about him,” said Dick Steinberg, the New England Patriots director of player development.
There was a small chance that Marino would be available at the 21st pick when the hometown Pittsburgh Steelers had their first selection.
In the winter before his senior year, the team hinted that they were definitely interested in seeing Marino come in to eventually succeed Terry Bradshaw.
“We would like him very much,” said Dick Haley, the Steeler’s director of player personnel. “The only thing is, we don’t want to do what probably will be required to get him.”
The Marino hype hit a snag when rumors of recreational drug use surfaced.
“It was certainly out there that there were ‘issues’ with Marino,” Ray Didinger of the Philadelphia Daily News said.
“It started off with just the idea that he was partying,” Didinger recalled. “Then it grew more sinister from that.”
Eventually, the rumors turned out to be just that and some teams believed they were an attempt to sabotage Marino’s draft position.
“People started finding reasons to not like Marino, and I think that the drug rumors were just another thing that they threw on the pile,” Marino’s agent, Marvin Demoff said.
The 1983 NFL Draft
As the ’83 draft began, fans and NFL front offices were on the edge of their seats.
Apr. 26/1983 – 1983 NFL Draft takes place. Drafted: John Elway, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Eric Dickerson & Roger Craig. pic.twitter.com/3NwSButiYp
— Today In History (@TodayThatWas) April 26, 2018
The first quarterback off the board was Stanford’s John Elway, who was initially drafted by the Baltimore Colts before being flipped to the Denver Broncos.
Next up was Penn State’s Todd Blackledge who went to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The University of Miami’s Jim Kelly was picked by Buffalo at number 14 followed by Illinois signal caller Tony Eason to the Patriots.
By that time, there seemed to be even greater confusion as to why Marino kept dropping.
“This happens in a lot of drafts,” Didinger said. “Once a guy starts falling, everybody runs the other way. Everyone assumes everyone else knows something, and they back away.”
There were only five more picks left in the first round when Commissioner Pete Rozell walked to the stage to announce the New York Jets selection.
University of California-Davis’s Ken O’Brien was the pick.
“Who is Ken O’Brien?” Marino asked Demoff.
Three picks later, the Miami Dolphins ended the Marino saga by grabbing him with the 27th overall selection.
🇺🇸 With the 1st pick in the first ever USFL Draft back in 1983, the LA Express selected…
Quarterback Dan Marino – Pitt
Other notable players selected were John Elway (Invaders), Eric Dickerson (Wranglers) Curt Warner (Stars) and Jimbo Covert (Bandits).#USFLDraft pic.twitter.com/rPmwxDaYow
— 80s Football Cards (@80sFootballCard) February 22, 2022
Marino had also been the first overall pick of the Los Angeles Express in the new United States Football League but he declined the Express to sign with Miami.
What Happened to the Steelers?
During the ’83 draft, the Steelers had the opportunity to grab their hometown product.
However, Pittsburgh still had Bradshaw and coach Chuck Noll wanted to beef up his defense.
“The Steelers were enamored of Gabe Rivera, ‘“Señor Sack,’” the behemoth defensive tackle from Texas Tech. Chuck envisioned Rivera as the cornerstone to the Steelers’ move to a 3-4 front,” wrote Michael MacCambridge in his book “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work.”
Many in the local media, as well as some Pittsburgh scouts, believed the team needed Marino.
Instead, Noll got his wish.
“We built this team on defense, and we should do it again now,” Noll said on draft day.
After drafting Rivera, the Steelers lost him permanently when Rivera was driving drunk in late October 1983 and collided with another vehicle.
We send our condolences to the family of Gabe Rivera. Rivera, Pittsburgh first round pick in 1983 NFL draft passed away at the age of 57.
Rivera was infamously known for being selected over Pitt QB Dan Marino.
Rest In Paradise Gabe, you’ll be missed! 🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/BkqjoXn1Ye
— Four Verts 🏈 (@FourVerticals_) July 17, 2018
The accident caused Rivera to become paralyzed and he never played another down of football.
Marino Leads Miami
The Miami Dolphins weren’t far removed from success when Marino joined the franchise in 1983.
In the early 1970s, the team won two of three straight Super Bowls including Super Bowl VII against Washington, which capped a perfect 17-0 season.
Miami returned to the Super Bowl in 1982 led by David Woodley.
However, the team faltered and the Redskins got their revenge by defeating the Fins 27-17.
A few months later, coach Don Shula was certain that Miami wouldn’t be able to win a championship with Woodley at the helm and drafted Marino as insurance.
After the first five weeks of the ’83 season, Woodley had the Dolphins at 3-2.
Their record wasn’t bad, but Shula believed the offense could be better.
He inserted Marino as the starter for Game 6 and the rookie almost beat the Buffalo Bills, coming up just short, 38-35.
Marino got into the zone quickly and Miami lost only once in their final 10 games.
Fun fact. In 1983 in their first career starts, Dan Marino (1st round) had 322 passing yards and Mark Duper (8th round) had 202 receiving yards. pic.twitter.com/W9EVvR6Hlg
— FB_Helmet_Guy (@FB_Helmet_Guy) April 25, 2022
The Dolphins then faced the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional round.
Marino connected on two touchdowns during the contest but ultimately Seattle got the best of Miami 27-20.
As a rookie, Marino passed for 2,210 yards, 20 touchdowns, and six interceptions, and was voted to the Pro Bowl and selected as a PFWA Rookie of the Year.
He also led the AFC East in passing, the only rookie to do so.
It turns out that 1983 was just a foreshadowing of things to come in 1984.
Marino was in his second year that season and all of 22 years old, but he played like a wily veteran.
With the assistance of receivers Nat Moore and the “Marks Brothers” (Mark Clayton and Mark Duper), Marino and the Fins scorched their opponents in ’84.
The team began the year winning their first 11 games before losing to San Diego in overtime in Week 12.
One week later, Marino passed for four touchdowns against the New York Jets to tie the single-season touchdown mark.
The Dolphins won three of their last four games to end the regular season 14-2.
Miami’s offensive stats were insane.
Marino passed for 5,084 yards, 48 touchdowns, and 17 picks.
— Let’s Talk NFL 🏈 (@TalkFootball34) May 14, 2022
He ended up obliterating the NFL’s passing yards and touchdown mark with ease.
No quarterback had ever thrown for more than 5,000 yards (though the mark has since been reached seven times).
Additionally, Marino led the NFL in several categories that season including completions (362), attempts (564), and passer rating (108.9, also a career-high).
He was named the league MVP along with NFL Offensive Player of the Year, first-team All-Pro, and voted to his second Pro Bowl.
Duper and Clayton were Marino’s go-to receivers and combined for 144 receptions for 2,695 yards and 26 touchdowns.
The Dolphins then torched Seattle in the Divisional round 31-10 before burying the Steelers 45-28.
Against Pittsburgh, Marino passed for 421 yards and four touchdowns, both are AFC Championship game records.
Super Bowl XIX
For the second time in three years, Miami was returning to the Super Bowl.
The matchup for Super Bowl XIX looked juicy as Marino would face the San Francisco 49ers and their ace, Joe Montana.
Miami was in control by the end of the first quarter, taking a 10-7 lead.
That proved to be the highlight of the day for the Fins.
Montana and Niners back Roger Craig controlled the second quarter, combining to score 21 unanswered points.
The second half was even worse as San Fran held Miami scoreless while scoring 10 more points of their own.
Montana would win his second title easily 38-16.
Marino had 318 yards and a touchdown during the game but also tossed two interceptions.
Meanwhile, Montana passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns along with a rushing score.
“As far as my own game, well, I’d have to admit it was pretty close to the best I’ve ever played,” Montana commented after the game. “I didn’t throw anything I didn’t have confidence in. We got in sort of a groove. Once you get going like that you gain confidence, and it carries over to the defense, and then back to the offense. It’s a snowball kind of thing.”
After 1984, the general feeling in the NFL was that Marino would have several more opportunities to play in a Super Bowl before he retired.
He would attempt to do just that in 1985.
Through the first 12 games of the season, Miami had an 8-4 record.
That included a Week 4 victory over John Elway and the Denver Broncos, the first time Marino faced Elway as a pro.
In Week 13, the undefeated Chicago Bears came to Miami looking to challenge the Dolphins as having the only undefeated season in league history.
Marino made it look easy as he took advantage of the Bears’ legendary “46 defense.”
Before a Monday Night Football audience, Marino torched the Bears for three touchdowns and a humbling 38-24 loss.
On this day 35 years ago, Dan Marino passed for 270 yards and three touchdowns as the Miami Dolphins handed the eventual world champion Chicago Bears their only loss of the season, 38-24: https://t.co/7Vb2RzJNGZ pic.twitter.com/qzYs7tzdPH
— Fifth Quarter (@FifthQuarter) December 2, 2020
In 1985, Marino passed for 4,137 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 21 picks.
He led the NFL in passing yards, touchdown passes, and completions (336) before being selected as a first-team All-Pro, and tabbed for his third Pro Bowl.
The Bears’ victory was followed by three more wins as Miami closed the year 12-4.
In the playoffs, the Fins beat Cleveland 24-21 before getting bounced in the AFC Championship game by the New England Patriots 31-14.
The Pats would then play the Bears in Super Bowl XX and get waxed 46-10.
After the ’85 season, the Dolphins failed to reach the playoffs for the rest of the 1980s.
In 1988, Miami had a 6-10 record, which happened to be a rare losing season by Coach Shula and would mark the last losing record during his Dolphins tenure.
Despite the lack of postseason appearances, Marino continued to dazzle the NFL.
He led the league in several categories in 1986 including passing yards (4,746), attempts and completions (623 and 378, respectively), and touchdowns (44).
Those numbers led to more first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl nods.
Marino had similar results in ’88 when he led the NFL in yards (4,434), attempts, and completions (606 and 354, respectively).
Buffalo Trips Up the Fins
Marino and the Dolphins got the 1990s started right by netting a 12-4 record and returning to the postseason in 1990.
They defeated Kansas City by one in the Wild Card round before losing to the Buffalo Bills (and former 1983 first-round pick, Jim Kelly) in the Divisional round.
In a wild, snowy postseason affair, Jim Kelly outdueled Dan Marino as #BillsMafia defeated #FinsUp 44-34 in the 1990 AFC Divisional Playoffs. Both Hall of Fame QB's threw for over 300 yards and 3 TD's in the memorable encounter. Buffalo went on to appear in Super Bowl XXV. #NFL pic.twitter.com/UZ08rokE0H
— Ken Gelman (@kengfunk) January 3, 2021
Two years later, Marino cracked 4,000 yards again by passing for 4,116 yards along with 24 touchdowns and 16 picks.
In addition to leading the NFL in passing yards, Marino led the league again in attempts (554) and completions (330).
Miami posted an 11-5 record before blanking San Diego 31-0 in the Divisional round.
Returning to the AFC Championship game for the first time since 1985, Marino and the Dolphins were dispatched again by Buffalo 29-10.
A Serious Injury Leads to Comeback Player of the Year
Miami began the 1993 season 3-1 before a Week 6 game with Cleveland.
During the game against the Browns, Marino threw a pass and then fell to the ground without being tackled.
He was examined by the Miami medical staff, found to have torn his Achilles tendon, and was lost for the year.
For the remainder of the season, Scott Mitchell and longtime vet Steve DeBerg held down the fort as the Fins limped to a 9-7 season.
As the calendar turned to 1994, Miami signed former Browns QB Bernie Kosar to backup Marino after Mitchell signed with Detroit.
Fully healed from his ’93 injury, Marino faced Drew Bledsoe and New England in Week 1 of 1994.
The game turned out to be one of the best opening week games in recent memory.
Both quarterbacks combined to pass for 894 yards and nine touchdowns as Miami pulled out a close one, 39-35.
On this day 25 years ago, Dan Marino passed for 473 yards and five touchdowns in his first game back from a season-ending Achilles tendon injury to lead the Miami Dolphins past the New England Patriots, 39-35: https://t.co/gvh3Xqh45e #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/jDYZQWQ4w4
— Mike Ferguson (@MikeWFerguson) September 4, 2019
For his part, Marino threw for 473 yards and five scores, including three touchdowns and a game-winner to receiver Irving Fryer.
The win showed just how far Marino had come since his injury against Cleveland the year before.
“It was really devastating,” Marino said. “A ruptured Achilles is one of the most difficult injuries to come back from. It’s time-consuming and tedious. You go through times when you aren’t making the progress you think you should be.”
Initially worried about how his surgically repaired heel would hold up, Marino was flying high after proving the doubters wrong in Week 1.
“I had confidence in myself,” said Marino. “The satisfaction I got from coming back from the injury and winning that game is something that will always be with me.”
The Clock Play
After the victory against the Pats, Miami won six out of their next 10 games heading into Week 13.
That day, the Fins played the New York Jets and were trailing 24-6 at one point.
Marino and receiver Mark Ingram got the team back on track and they combined to erase the deficit and get Miami to within three points.
The Dolphins got the ball with over two minutes remaining and Marino began to drive the offense down the field.
With the ball on the Jets’ eight-yard line and the clock still running, Marino lined up the offense.
He then yelled out “Clock! Clock!” and signaled for a spike play that would stop the clock with about 30 seconds left.
However, the call was a fake as Marino and Ingram had worked on the play previously.
8. CLOCK PLAY
Nov. 27, 1994
With :38 left, Dan Marino pretends to stop the game clock with a fake spike but instead throws TD pass to Mark Ingram, giving Miami win over the Jets.
Factoid: The outcome would prove to be difference in Miami winning division title over Patriots. pic.twitter.com/sdFiPDuc3w
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) August 28, 2019
The ball was snapped, and with the Jets standing still, Marino reared back and connected with Ingram for a touchdown, his fourth of the day.
As the Jets and their fans stood with mouths agape and wondering what just happened, Marino celebrated his 359-yard, four-touchdown day and savored the 28-24 win.
Miami ended the year 10-6 and lost to the Chargers in the Divisional round 22-21.
Marino was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, to his eighth Pro Bowl, and named second-team All-Pro after passing for 4,453 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions.
New Coach, Same Marino
After the 1995 season, Don Shula decided to call it a career.
He was replaced by former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson who took the franchise to the playoffs during three of his four seasons.
— TodayInSports (@TodayInSportsCo) May 13, 2021
In the next four years, Marino never passed for fewer than 2,400 yards and led the NFL in attempts (548) and completions (319) in 1997.
During a game against Indianapolis in 1996, Marino became the first signal-caller to reach 50,000 career passing yards.
Two years later, he became the first quarterback to throw 400 touchdown passes.
Partway through the 1999 season, Marino became the first QB to reach the 60,000 career passing yards mark.
In the ’99 playoffs, Marino and the Dolphins lost to Jacksonville 62-7, which was the worst loss in AFC history.
Marino Considers Playing Elsewhere Before Retiring
The 1999 season was Marino’s 17th in the NFL.
He was torn between retiring or playing for a contending team in early 2000.
Marino strongly considered playing for Minnesota, Tampa Bay, or returning home to Pittsburgh.
Remember when the #vikings had interest in Dan Marino after the 1999 season?
At the time I really wanted it to happen even though he was well past his prime. Thought it would’ve been a cool story and it was unknown at the time how Daunte Culpepper would do. pic.twitter.com/SszOW6jkqx
— Ali Siddiqui (@asiddiqui15) August 29, 2022
Ultimately, he decided against it.
“I thought about it for a long time; it just didn’t feel right,” Marino said. “I just decided I’ll just be a Dolphin for life and it’s worked out great. But I did, I will tell you that. I did think about that.”
Seventeen years with one team was more than enough and Marino retired.
In his career, he had totals of 61,361 passing yards, 420 touchdowns, and 252 interceptions.
Marino also had 87 career rushing yards and nine rushing scores.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP, NFL Comeback Player of the Year, member of the All-Rookie Team, Offensive Player of the Year, Walter Payton Man of the Year (1998), three-time first-team All-Pro, three-time second-team All-Pro, five-time NFL passing yards leader, three-time passing touchdowns leader, NFL passer rating leader once, and appeared in one Super Bowl. He also has the distinction of being the winningest QB not to have a championship.
Additionally, Marino was named a member of the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, had his number 13 retired by the Dolphins, and was placed on the organization’s Honor Roll.
Legacy and Life in Retirement
Marino left the NFL with several records that are still intact.
In 2003, he became a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Two years later, he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) August 7, 2022
During his final playing years, Marino co-owned a NASCAR racing team.
He was a member of The NFL Today show from 2002–2013 before becoming a special advisor to the Dolphins in 2014.
Marino and his wife, Claire, have six children. One of his children, Michael, was diagnosed with autism at a young age.
Due to the diagnosis, the Marinos established the Dan Marino Foundation and the Dan Marino Center to research and treat children with neurodevelopment and other at-risk disabilities.