By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
Published July 31, 2005
Former Miami quarterback Dan Marino is preparing his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech for next weekend's ceremony, and the Dolphins still are looking for their next great passer.
Six years later.
This season's leading candidates are A.J. Feeley and Gus Frerotte, which means Marino's sun-kissed legend is safe in South Florida for at least one more year.
Who knew that when No. 13 retired, it would be so unlucky for the Dolphins?
Marino rewrote the NFL record book during his 17-year career, setting career marks for passing yards (61,361), completions (4,967) and touchdown passes (420), and receiving nine Pro Bowl selections. But since Marino threw his final pass in 1999, the Dolphins have been searching for someone to move the chains through the air.
Try as they might, team officials couldn't find anyone better qualified than Jay Fielder, which really shouldn't have been that hard. Ray Lucas. Damon Huard. Sage Rosenfels. They even tried a legacy in Brian Griese, son of the Dolphins' elder Hall of Fame quarterback, Bob Griese.
That Griese latched on with the Bucs a year later and this season opens camp as their incumbent starter makes the Dolphins' situation that much more disturbing.
Apparently, Marino haunts anyone who aspires to play quarterback in Miami, his accomplishments setting a standard too high for mere mortals to reasonably attain.
"You don't look at the negative side of trying to live up to him, but every quarterback wants to be like that," Feeley said. "So use that as a motivational tool and try not to find the negative in it. People make a big deal about it around here, but for us we just have to worry about what's going on with this team."
There is another angle.
Marino will share the stage in Canton, Ohio, with another first-ballot quarterback of his generation, former 49ers great Steve Young. In San Francisco, the search for a franchise quarterback hasn't gone much better than Miami's since the lefty left, Jeff Garcia's DUI arrest and 2004 release trumping his three Pro Bowl appearances.
Only now, in No. 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith, do the 49ers believe they have their quarterback of the future. So, the Dolphins' best hope for exorcising Marino's ghost is to be the worst team in the league in 2005 and earn the No. 1 pick in 2006.
Maybe Matt Leinart will make it to the Hall of Fame.
BEEP, BEEP: Bad-boy receiver Randy Moss made a memorable first impression at Raiders training camp, pulling his purple SUV into the prime parking space and nearly blocking the entrance to the field. The truck features 30-inch tires, with sparkling, spinning rims and no door handles.
"I don't think I could pull that off," veteran quarterback Kerry Collins said.
PLAY FOR PAY: For the past two years, troubled running back Maurice Clarett put his mouth where his football career was. Now, he'll try the opposite. Clarett, the final pick of the third round, signed a performance-based contract with the Broncos.
No signing bonus.
But if the former Ohio State star plays like the first-rounder he believes he should have been, he could earn up to $7-million over the next four years. It's up to him.
SNIFF, SNIFF: Dolphins rookie defensive lineman Manuel Wright, who left the practice field in tears Tuesday after a scolding from coach Nick Saban, later found his locker decorated with facial tissue. He walked into a meeting room to find a box of tissues on his chair. Apparently, there's no crying in football, either.
T.O. TIME: Brace yourself. The Eagles report to camp Monday, the final team to begin training, and flashy receiver Terrell Owens plans to be there. It's a savvy negotiating move. Really, what better way to force team executives to give him more money or trade him than to show up and be a daily nuisance?
Information from the Associated Press was used in the report.