Hinton, a practice-squad wide receiver, played quarterback against the New Orleans Saints. The result was a 31-3 loss to the Saints, with Hinton completing 1 of 9 passes for 13 yards.
The Broncos found themselves in this spot when quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were removed from Saturday’s practice and told to isolate after being designated as high-risk close contacts to quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for COVID-19 last Thursday.
What if this happened in any of the other 31 locker rooms in the NFL? Who would fill in at quarterback? Here’s what we know:
Rookie Jake Fromm is the Bills’ emergency plan at quarterback. Buffalo has been a trendsetter on several occasions with COVID-19 precautionary measures, including Fromm’s practice routine. Fromm practices separately from the rest of the team and remains socially distant within the facility from quarterbacks Josh Allen, Matt Barkley and Davis Webb. With no preseason experience, it’s difficult to say how effective Fromm would be should the the situation present itself, but Buffalo does have a plan in place. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
The Dolphins have two solid options — rookie wide receivers Malcolm Perry and Lynn Bowden Jr. Both players started at quarterback for at least one collegiate season, at Navy and Kentucky, respectively. The Dolphins have already had Perry handle some Wildcat snaps, and he would be likely be the favorite to run some sort of offense if disaster struck. Even though he ran a triple-option offense at Navy, Perry might get the nod because he completed 56% of his passes for over 1,000 passing yards, with seven touchdowns to three interceptions, coupled with over 2,000 rushing yards, last season. — Cameron Wolfe
If Julian Edelman is healthy, he has shown that he’s capable of slinging it — just like during his days at Kent State. He has a perfect passer rating in his NFL career — 158.3. But if Edelman isn’t available, the Patriots can also turn to second-year receiver Jakobi Meyers, who was recruited as a quarterback at NC State before switching to wide receiver as a redshirt freshman in 2016. Meyers already has a TD pass this season, on his first career attempt. — Mike Reiss
First-year wide receiver Jeff Smith is the emergency QB. The Jets have three signal-callers on the active roster (Sam Darnold, Joe Flacco and James Morgan) and another on the practice squad (Mike White), so it would take a lot to get to Smith. He started his career at Boston College as a quarterback. As a freshman, he played nine games and completed 27 of 82 passes for 253 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. He switched to wide receiver as a sophomore. — Rich Cimini
Punter Sam Koch. He’s a master of fake punts and field goals (he serves as Justin Tucker‘s holder as well). In his 15-year career, Koch is 7-for-7 for 82 yards for a passer rating of 115.5. He’s such a good passer he regularly throws to wide receivers during pregame warm-ups. “His ability to throw the ball is quite extraordinary,” former Ravens special-teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said of Koch three years ago. “Hopefully, he’ll never have to be an emergency quarterback, but I think he showed everybody how well he can throw the ball.” — Jamison Hensley
Quarterback Kevin Hogan is the emergency backup. Yes, he’s technically a QB. But the Bengals have structured their roster so Hogan, who is third on the depth chart and officially on the practice squad, will never be a close contact with the other quarterbacks. So if he contracts the virus or contact tracing knocks out the other two signal-callers, Hogan is expected to be unaffected. However, if the precautions are still not enough, wide receiver Alex Erickson could be a viable option. Erickson played quarterback in high school and threw for 37 touchdowns at Wisconsin’s Darlington High. — Ben Baby
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry would likely get the call for the Browns in such an event. Landry has two completions this season, including a 37-touchdown strike to Odell Beckham Jr. on a reverse pass. Landry joked he was sore the following week from throwing just that one pass. But the lefty has four completions off trick plays in his NFL career, not including a 2-point conversion pass to QB Baker Mayfield two years ago. — Jake Trotter
With three healthy quarterbacks rostered and another one on the practice squad, the Steelers’ priority hasn’t been finding an emergency quarterback among its position skill players. Wide receiver Ryan Switzer held that role last season and wasn’t too far removed from playing when both Ben Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph sustained injuries early in the season. But Switzer was cut after training camp. Tight end Zach Gentry was a highly touted quarterback recruit out of high school before switching positions at Michigan and is a likely candidate to fill the role. He’s currently on injured reserve after sustaining a knee injury against the Jaguars and will be out for at least three weeks. — Brooke Pryor
Wide receiver Randall Cobb would be the most likely candidate. The Texans signed quarterback Josh McCown, who is not in the building every day, but if it got to the point that all three quarterbacks (Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron and McCown) are out, Cobb started four games at quarterback during his freshman season at Kentucky. Cobb under center would look a little bit different than the Texans’ trio of quarterbacks: He’s a left-handed passer. — Sarah Barshop
Colts coach Frank Reich is staying hush-hush on the emergency quarterback, saying it’s “something that I probably won’t share here.” It was punter Pat McAfee in the past, but if there was a guess, it would be wide receiver Zach Pascal. “We obviously have a depth chart of emergency quarterbacks,” Reich said. “That’s lined up. I will tell you this, we have an emergency quarterback wristband that’s already made. We take it to every game — we have it ready, so it’s at every game and we’ve talked through that stuff. I’ll just leave it at that.” — Mike Wells
Wide receiver Laviska Shenault is the emergency quarterback. The Jaguars’ plan for the rookie was to use him in the backfield in addition to lining up outside. The emergence of fellow rookie James Robinson at running back altered the plan a bit, and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden hasn’t used Shenault as much in the backfield. Still, Shenault has gotten some snaps at Wildcat QB. He hasn’t thrown a pass yet but does have 33 catches for 354 yards and one TD and 12 carries for 60 yards. — Mike DiRocco
The Titans have taken the designated-survivor route by having practice-squad quarterback DeShone Kizer isolated from the team but taking part in video meetings. Kizer also practices separately to ensure the Titans would have a QB available. The Titans have used Cameron Batson and Derrick Henry as QBs in the Wildcat formation as well. Henry had a touchdown pass to Corey Davis in Tennessee’s postseason victory over the Ravens last season. Another option would be safety Kevin Byard, who was a high school quarterback. Byard also completed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Dane Cruikshank on a fake punt in 2018. — Turron Davenport
The Broncos had to play a game Sunday, 24 hours after all of their quarterbacks were pulled off the practice field amid COVOD-19 contact-tracing concerns. They opened the game with running back Phillip Lindsay taking a direct snap and used running back Royce Freeman with Lindsay in that role throughout the game. And for just over half of their offensive snaps they used practice-squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who played quarterback in three of his seasons at Wake Forest. But with a hastily assembled game plan, combined with the fact Hinton hadn’t thrown a pass since a 2018 game against Clemson — or taken a single snap at quarterback in training camp or in any practice with the Broncos — Hinton was 1-of-9 for 13 yards with two interceptions as the Broncos gained 112 yards overall. It was the team’s lowest output since a 1992 loss at Washington. — Jeff Legwold
An option beyond practice-squad quarterback Matt Moore is tight end Travis Kelce, who played some at quarterback in college at Cincinnati. Kelce was mostly a runner when he played QB and threw just one pass, though it went for 39 yards and a touchdown. He is 1-of-3 passing with the Chiefs with an interception and almost had a TD pass to Patrick Mahomes in a Week 12 game against the Bucs. — Adam Teicher
The Raiders would likely turn to their Man of a Thousand Faces, practice-squad receiver Rico Gafford. When he’s not on the active roster, Gafford transforms himself into the Raiders’ opponents’ top skill-position player. For example, he has played the parts of Lamar Jackson, Antonio Brown and Tyreek Hill in recent years for the Raiders’ “show” offense. Why not translate that into a running quarterback in an emergency? Gafford is a converted defensive back but he’s fast. Really fast. He clocked an unofficial time of 4.19 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his pro day in Wyoming in 2018. And if he had to replace Derek Carr, Nathan Peterman and Marcus Mariota, Gafford would no doubt be on the run for the Raiders. — Paul Gutierrez
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn won’t discuss the emergency quarterback position for competitive reasons, but running back Austin Ekeler might be an option in the Wildcat. Practice-squad running back Darius Bradwell, who played college ball at Tulane, was a high school quarterback. In his final two seasons at Godby High School in Tallahassee, Florida, he had 2,427 passing yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 2,108 yards and 35 touchdowns. Safety Rayshawn Jenkins played QB in high school, but most teams prefer to have an offensive player because they know some of the terminology. — Shelley Smith
Ryan Clark, Dan Graziano and Domonique Foxworth can’t stop laughing over Jerry Jones’ comments comparing the Cowboys starting QB Ben DiNucci to the Broncos starting practice squad WR Kendall Hinton.
The Cowboys have options. Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson has thrown a touchdown pass to Dak Prescott this season. Running back Ezekiel Elliott has lined up in the Wildcat formation when the Cowboys went with rookie Ben DiNucci. CeeDee Lamb was called on to throw a pass but ended up getting sacked. Tight end Blake Bell played quarterback at Oklahoma. The Belldozer might not have the arm, but he did have 12 touchdown passes for the Sooners. The Cowboys might be able to go to a committee approach at the position. — Todd Archer
The Giants — like most teams — had the quarantine QB conversation last week after seeing what happened to the Broncos. Their new plan is to make Alex Tanney their remote/emergency quarterback, either this week or next, assuming all goes well through the COVID-19 protocol. Tanney makes sense for this role. He’s a coach in the making and spent the spring and summer with the team, so he already knows the offense and has worked with most of the players. He can jump in at a moment’s notice and at least have a chance. — Jordan Raanan
The plan was to turn to Josh McCown, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad and had been working remotely from Texas, but he has since been signed by the Texans. The most likely candidate to get the call now would be wide receiver Greg Ward, who played quarterback at the University of Houston. — Tim McManus
The nation saw Washington’s emergency quarterback throw — and complete — a pass on Thanksgiving Day: tight end Logan Thomas. Of course it helps that Thomas played quarterback at Virginia Tech and started his NFL career at that position before switching to tight end. Thomas joked earlier this season that no team ever tells him that he’s the emergency quarterback, it’s just a given. As a pro, he’s completed 3 of 11 passes for 124 yards. He’s lined up under center twice this season to run a sneak. Thomas has a career-best 34 receptions and four touchdowns this season. — John Keim
The Bears have two emergency quarterback options in the event Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles and Tyler Bray are all unavailable: Cordarrelle Patterson and David Montgomery. Patterson has taken plenty of direct snaps in the Wildcat formation — primarily in Minnesota when he played for the Vikings — and Montgomery is a former high school dual-threat quarterback, passing for for 726 yards and seven touchdowns for Mount Healthy in Cincinnati. Another emergency-quarterback candidate would have been running back Tarik Cohen, but Cohen is done for the season with a knee injury. — Jeff Dickerson
Matthew Stafford — the team’s actual starting quarterback — said the Lions have a “sneaky talented group of throwers.” He pointed to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu‘s perfect passer rating (7-of-8 with four touchdowns and no interceptions), receiver Danny Amendola‘s throwing ability (he also has a perfect passer rating) and receiver/returner Jamal Agnew‘s throw to Stafford last Thursday against Houston — a pass Stafford called “a dime to me on Thanksgiving, that I dropped.” “There’s endless possibilities,” Stafford said. “We’ll keep defenses guessing with that one but hopefully don’t have to find out.” — Michael Rothstein
Tight end Robert Tonyan actually began his college career as a quarterback at Indiana State, where he started three games as a freshman before he moved to receiver as a sophomore, so he might be the logical choice. It probably would have been FB/TE John Lovett, a two-time All-American QB at Princeton, where he threw 31 TDs and five INTs, but he’s on injured reserve with a torn ACL. But here’s a wild card: Davante Adams. The Pro Bowl wide receiver actually took part in a few quarterback drills as recently as this past summer in training camp. It seemed like just joking around at the time, but … “Those are discussions that we’ll continue to have, certainly guys that have past quarterbacking experience usually go to the top of the list,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “To say it would be Bobby, I think that’s a little soon to say, but we will have a plan for that.” — Rob Demovsky
Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings don’t have plans to quarantine any of their three current backup QBs (Sean Mannion, Jake Browning, Nate Stanley) to ensure they have one for the final five weeks of the season in the event COVID-19 hits the quarterbacks room. If Minnesota were to face a situation like the one Denver went through in Week 12, wide receiver Adam Thielen would be first in line to play quarterback, followed by tight end Kyle Rudolph. “Usually we take a day in training camp and kind of work on what we would do if a certain situation arose, if the third quarterback [was out],” Zimmer said. “Then we repeat it, typically on Saturdays.” — Courtney Cronin
The Falcons would likely use wide receiver Russell Gage as the first option. Gage was a dual-threat quarterback in high school, throwing for more than 700 yards and rushing for more than 1,000. But they could also turn to their tight ends. Hayden Hurst was a coveted prep baseball prospect with a 95 mph fastball who was selected in the 17th round of the MLB draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Second-year tight end Jaeden Graham was a multisport letter-winner at Cherry Creek High School in Colorado and played safety, tight end and backup quarterback before moving to tight end full time at Yale. — Jeff Legwold
The Panthers have four quarterbacks on their roster, including rookie Tommy Stevens on the practice squad, so they’re not that concerned about losing all of them. If they do, running back Christian McCaffrey or wide receiver DJ Moore would step in. McCaffrey actually has attempted three NFL passes, completing one for a 50-yard touchdown in 2018. He never played quarterback in high school, but he did punt. Moore likely would line up in the Wildcat and run or hand off. He did throw five passes at Maryland, completing three for 36 yards. — David Newton
The Saints have kept their emergency plans close to the vest. But one obvious candidate is running back Alvin Kamara, who has already been used in some Wildcat packages this season and has flashed his arm on a couple of occasions. He completed a forward pass of 13 yards last season and threw a pretty tossback pass to Drew Brees on a trick play earlier this season. The Saints also recently signed veteran backup Trevor Siemian, but they declined to say whether they have any plans to keep any QBs quarantined away from the others. — Mike Triplett
In the offseason, Bucs coach Bruce Arians flirted with the idea of having a quarantine quarterback who would be separate from the others. He opted not to. “I don’t think we need to just because of the protocols that we’re following really closely, so I don’t think we would have that problem,” Arians said. The Bucs’ coronavirus numbers have been among the lowest in the league. Since the season began, Tampa Bay has had two players on the 53-man roster (Jaydon Mickens and Will Gholston), two practice-squad members (Cyril Grayson and Benning Potoa’e) and two players on injured reserve (T.J. Logan and Vita Vea) placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Arians said, “We’ve been able to — knock on wood — be really, really good with the virus, especially in the quarterback room.” — Jenna Laine
Coach Kliff Kingsbury declined to go into specifics about the emergency QB, saying: “There’s a number of contingency plans. We would cross that bridge when we got there and have as good an answer as you can have.” The Cardinals have a couple of options on the roster: cornerback Patrick Peterson, who’s been the emergency option for a few years, and tight end Maxx Williams, who was a quarterback in high school. Only three players have thrown a pass under Kingsbury: Kyler Murray, former backup quarterback Brett Hundley and punter Andy Lee. Current backup quarterback Chris Streveler has lined up under center but hasn’t thrown a pass. — Josh Weinfuss
The options are plentiful for the Rams at emergency quarterback. “We’ve got a lot of guys that I think would probably say they should be first in line,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp — who filled in as a QB briefly in high school — has previously served as the emergency QB, said McVay, who added that rookie running back Cam Akers “would deserve some consideration” because of his background as a high school quarterback. Akers led Clinton High School to a Mississippi state championship and in four seasons passed for 8,140 yards and 78 touchdowns and rushed for 5,103 yards and 71 scores. “Those would be the first two guys that probably come to mind,” McVay said. “And I’m sure I’m missing some guys that would say, ‘Coach, don’t sleep on my QB skills.'” Punter Johnny Hekker also played quarterback in high school and has utilized his arm in several fake-punt situations over his nine-season career, completing 13 of 22 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. — Lindsey Thiry
There are two, probably in this order: running back Jerick McKinnon and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said McKinnon and Juszczyk “fight over it” and Juszczyk takes a lot of pride in it, but he gives the edge to McKinnon because he played quarterback at Georgia Southern and had a lot of success. Regardless, Shanahan hopes it never comes to that, noting that if you ever get to a position where you’re playing someone who isn’t actually a quarterback by trade that “no answer is very good.” — Nick Wagoner
Tight end Jacob Hollister and running back DeeJay Dallas are among the Seahawks’ emergency options. “And we have some surprises as well, but those are guys that would jump in for us if we needed it,” coach Pete Carroll said. Both played quarterback in high school. Hollister began his college career at that position and was Oregon’s Class 5A Player of the Year in 2011 after completing 62% of his passes for 37 touchdowns and three interceptions as a senior while leading Mountain View High to a state title. In an effort to avoid the kind of emergency situation Denver experienced, Carroll said the Seahawks have started to keep practice-squad quarterback Danny Etling away from Russell Wilson and Geno Smith. — Brady Henderson
WR Jamison Crowder agrees to pay cut to remain with New York Jets, source says
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder, the team’s leading receiver the last two seasons, avoided the possibility of being released by agreeing to a pay cut, a source confirmed Monday.
Crowder was due to make a non-guaranteed $10 million in base pay for 2021, the final year of a three-year, $28.5 million contract. Details of the renegotiated contract weren’t immediately available, but the new deal is expected to significantly lower his $11.4 million cap charge.
The Jets are among the league leaders in cap space (about $27 million), but they approached Crowder recently about a reduction. Crowder, who turns 28 on Thursday, skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason as the two sides haggled over the contract. NFL Network first reported the agreement.
The Jets’ mandatory minicamp starts Tuesday, and Crowder is expected to attend.
Coach Robert Saleh was optimistic that a deal would get done, saying 10 days ago that “Jamison’s definitely got a role here and we’re excited to have him.”
After signing receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole in free agency, and drafting Elijah Moore in the second round, the Jets had the leverage in talks with Crowder. He led the team with 59 catches and 699 yards in 2020, but his production was down because he missed four games due to leg injuries. The Jets also finished 32nd in total offense for the second straight year.
Even though Crowder is back, it will be interesting to see if his role diminishes in the regular season. Moore, selected 34th overall, has impressed the coaches in offseason practices. Like Crowder, he’s a slot receiver.
In another contract-relation development, safety Marcus Maye reported to the facility Monday ahead of the minicamp. Maye, who signed his franchise-tag tender ($10.6 million) earlier in the offseason, skipped the voluntary practices as the two sides attempt to negotiate a long-term deal. The deadline is July 15. If they can’t agree to a deal, Maye will play the 2021 season for the amount of the tender.
Cam Newton expected to practice at New England Patriots minicamp after hand injury during OTAs
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Ten days after sustaining a minor injury on his right throwing hand, New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton is expected to take part in the team’s mandatory minicamp beginning Monday, according to coach Bill Belichick.
Newton had not been present at last Thursday’s practice when reporters were present, but returned the following day. The hand apparently responded well.
“He practiced last week. I’d expect him this week too,” Belichick said Monday.
Newton has been taking top repetitions in spring practices, with Belichick having previously declared him the team’s quarterback. Belichick previously left open the possibility that Newton could face a challenge for the starting job when the team shifts from a spring teaching mode to more of an evaluation mode at the start of training camp in late July.
Jones was complimentary of Newton, noting that he gave him the nickname “Mac and Cheese” while calling him a “good mentor.”
Another notable storyline at Patriots mandatory minicamp surrounds cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Gilmore is scheduled to earn a base salary of $7 million in 2021, which is below market value for a player of his caliber, and Belichick deflected a question when asked if he’s seen Gilmore at camp.
Gilmore is not present, according to the Boston Globe.
Dan Marino on Tua Tagovailoa leading Miami Dolphins to a Super Bowl
MIAMI — Seeing Miami Dolphins fans wearing his jersey take over Hard Rock Stadium never gets old for Dan Marino. Even 21 years after retirement, the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback is still the man in Miami.
“I was able to play here so long and to see the fans still care after all this time. It’s special and I love it,” Marino told ESPN. “It’s important to me. I’m happy they still do it.”
But Marino also knows the pressure of replacing him has magnified as the Dolphins have failed time and time again during the past two decades to find their franchise quarterback. Miami has had 22 starting QBs since Marino retired in 2000, and the current one — Tua Tagovailoa — has the potential to finally be the answer.
Tagovailoa has the star power — finishing in the top five of all players in jersey sales as a rookie. He’s already a folk hero in Hawaii and Alabama, where he was born and played college football, respectively. But after an up-and-down rookie season (14 touchdowns to 5 interceptions with 6-3 record, but an average of 181.4 passing yards per game and hesitancy throwing the deep ball), questions remain about whether he will be the right guy to lead the Dolphins to an elite level.
The Dolphins are counting on a big Year 2 jump. If Tagovailoa shows he can lead this team to championship contention, fans might be as all-in on the Tagovailoa-led future as they are on the Marino-led past.
“I hope he does,” Marino said. “It would be awesome for everybody, wouldn’t it? The most important thing is to be yourself, be who you are and work your butt off. It’ll work out.”
The focus around Tagovailoa this offseason has been about his confidence. He admitted recently that last season he “wasn’t comfortable calling plays, checking plays, alerting plays” and he “didn’t know the playbook really, really good.”
Both comments led to widespread criticism from multiple media outlets, but Dolphins coach Brian Flores said it was overblown: “Honestly, I just think he’s comparing last year to where he is right now, and I get it. I understand that. I remember being a first-year position coach and coming out of that year, going into the spring, going into the next season and saying, ‘I could’ve been better last year. I should have been better. I’m better now.'”
Early Tagovailoa reviews are positive as the Dolphins head into mandatory minicamp this week. Wide receiver DeVante Parker said Tagovailoa’s “mechanics and footwork look different,” plus the “ball comes out faster.” Tagovailoa, listed as 6 feet, 217 pounds as a rookie, also looks stronger and bigger. He says he’s more comfortable with this playbook and scheme under co-offensive coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville. Tagovailoa also says his hip feels “10 times better” than it did this time last year coming off his career-threatening dislocation and wall fracture at Alabama in November 2019.
During a wide-ranging conversation with ESPN, Marino discussed what he has seen from Tagovailoa, his view of how being an NFL quarterback has changed since his playing days (1983-1999) and his roller-coaster health journey, which includes two recent knee surgeries and a return to a diet plan to help him lose weight.
Tagovailoa ‘has all the talent in the world’
Marino, who has worked for the Dolphins as a special adviser since 2014, knows a lot about Year 2 jumps given his second season — 1984 — is considered one of the best QB seasons of all time. He also gets an up-close view of Tagovailoa and the offense by attending practices and meetings throughout the year.
“He’s been great. He’s been awesome. He has all the talent in the world. Now it’s just about him developing the relationship with the other players,” Marino said of Tagovailoa. “It’s been tough because he didn’t have OTAs last year, a lot of the summer camp or the chance to play in exhibition games. All those things delay you somewhat. I’ll tell you, he works his butt off. I’m really excited about him, his future and our future as a team.”
The quarterback made clear he’s not “Coach Marino,” just “someone who can help at times with my view of certain things.”
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) June 2, 2021
Over the past year, Tagovailoa said he valued Marino’s occasional insight added during quarterback meetings. Count Marino among those who believe Tagovailoa will be much improved.
“As time goes on you, you get a better handle [of things]. You know your people. That’s what OTAs is about, getting your timing down,” Marino said. “He played a lot last year and when he played, we won games. We almost got in the playoffs. All that is a positive. You try to build from the positives.
“He wants to be really good. And in time, he’s going to get there because that’s what type of kid he is.”
‘I would guarantee you 6,000 [yards]’
Marino smiles when you mention 1984.
He doesn’t say it directly, but it’s an easy guess it was his favorite season as a pro — winning MVP, reaching Super Bowl XIX, breaking the passing-touchdown record (48) and becoming the first NFL QB to eclipse 5,000 passing yards (he finished the 1984 season with 5,084). Peyton Manning eventually broke both records and remains the record holder after his historic 2013 season (55 touchdowns, 5,477 yards) with the Denver Broncos.
“I look back at it sometimes and I feel like we were doing something very special back then as a group, as a team, as an offense, as individuals that no one did for 30 years [afterward],” Marino said. “Now guys are throwing for 5,000 yards all the time, so it’s going to happen on a more consistent basis. But to me, it’s still a special deal from 37 years ago.”
With the NFL shifting to 17 games, records will be broken. There have been 12 5,000-yard seasons, with 10 of them coming within the past decade, and Marino believes a 6,000-yard season will happen. Then he pauses and his competitive QB spirit comes out.
“If I was still younger with [Mark] Duper and [Mark] Clayton, I would guarantee you 6,000,” Marino said. “But I don’t have to do it now. I don’t have to prove it.”
Marino says the game has evolved quite a bit since his playing days. He lists the advanced access to doctors, health information, training techniques and food options, all of which have created the widespread perception of bigger, stronger faster players. But in terms of quarterback play, he sees only one significant difference.
“How to deal with protections at the line of scrimmage — defenses have changed some with multiple blitzes and different personnel — we did some of that stuff, but it’s a lot more complicated now than it was in the early ’80s,” Marino said. “As far as throwing it and reading the coverage, that hasn’t changed. It’s still 11 guys on 11 guys.”
Marino then turns it back to these current Dolphins. Coming off a 10-6 season in which they narrowly missed the playoffs, there’s another reason for Marino’s Dolphins optimism: Flores. Marino played for arguably the greatest coach of all time in Don Shula, so his perspective on Flores is valuable.
“Coach Flores has been incredible,” Marino said.
“As far as discipline and guys playing hard for him, that’s all there. I don’t think that’s going to change. He’s been a great addition for us. Guys, they want to follow him.”
Chris Canty explains how Tua Tagovailoa can improve in his second year as the Dolphins’ QB.
‘Trying to impact the game any way I can’
Marino walks a lot better these days with two new knees. He had spent more than a decade fighting it off but finally gave in, getting knee replacement surgery last November and again in March when the pain worsened.
“It was from playing football since a little kid. All the operations, plus playing on the real turf that was like concrete. I did all the scopes, there was no cartilage left. It was getting pretty bad,” Marino said.
“But I feel better now. Maybe I’ll play again. I’m 59 years old. I can still throw a fade route.”
Today, Marino says he’s in a better place. His Achilles, which he tore in October 1993 against the Cleveland Browns, wasn’t repaired properly and still bothers him. But he got his knees done so that he could move around well with his grandkids. He’s 20 to 25 pounds heavier than his playing weight and the Nutrisystem spokesman has a summer goal of eating better to lose some pounds.
Transitioning away from football can be a challenge, Marino admits. He was able to have a smooth lane to a broadcast career for CBS and HBO, and then landed the adviser role with the Dolphins, but he believes the most difficult part for players is maintaining their physical and mental health outside of a team structure.
“It’s about enjoying your life every day,” Marino said. “We all have family situations. I’m going through stuff with my one sister now where it’s not easy and it’s not going to be good. You just have to do the best you can, be as open as you can, the whole talking about life is so important.”
Marino admits former players all talk about those scary three letters — CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. He says it certainly “hits your mind,” but he is blessed it “hasn’t impacted me at all, but it does impact players. It’s part of our life — we choose to play the game of football.”
In the nearly 45-minute chat, Marino’s competitive nature pokes through a few times. When his 1983 QB draft class that included Broncos great John Elway and Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly is brought up, Marino notes they don’t compete anymore at their ages (Kelly is 61 and Elway is 60). Then he pauses, tries to resist the zinger, but decides to let it loose.
“When we’re together, we always have a good time,” Marino says. “John is still a pretty good golfer. I’m not sure I can beat him in golf. But I know I can beat up on Jim Kelly for sure.”
As far as football, he gets his joy watching Tagovailoa and these Dolphins. His adviser role doesn’t put too much stress on him, but it also makes him a part of an ascending Dolphins team that seems poised for a playoff appearance in the near future.
“Sitting in a meeting here or there, being around the coaches, being around practice, trying to impact the game any way I can. I love football. I’m blessed at my age to still be a part of the whole thing,” Marino said. “Try to see our Dolphins be better, make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl someday. If I can be a small part of that, it would mean the world to me.”
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