Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Jul 2005

What if Marino had Played One More Year?

After the 1999 season, Jimmy Johnson made it clear to Dan Marino that it was time to move on, and the Dolphins would have their first new quarterback since Marino himself was a rookie. Marino was coming off his worst season but wasn't entirely ready to leave, and he considered a public offer from Dennis Green to join the Vikings.

That much is old news. What's interesting is to learn today that the Steelers wanted the Pittsburgh native to play one more year with them. Bill Cowher called, but Marino declined the offer.

For the Vikings, it turns out that they were better off having Marino turn them down -- Daunte Culpepper was ready to go. But for the Steelers, missing out on Marino might have cost them a run at the Super Bowl. They had talent all over the place in 2000 except at quarterback, where Kent Graham and Kordell Stewart shared duties.

Anyway, it's fun to speculate. So you tell me: What would have happened if Marino had joined the Steelers?

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 22 Jul 2005

27 comments, Last at 25 Jul 2005, 7:53am by Trogdor


by B (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 12:10pm

That's easy. Marino plus Cowher equals AFC championship loss at home.

by Dayne Boki (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 12:18pm

I think Any Quarterback plus Cowher equals AFC Championship loss at home.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 12:37pm

Maybe with Clark Kent at quarterback....

by Parker (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 12:51pm

Well, he may have been able to erase the memory one of the worst playoff loses in history (Miami vs Jacksonville) by replacing it with THE WORST game ever played by a team in a conference championship (Giants 41, Minnesota 0).

by johonny (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:05pm

I alway thought the real question is what if the Dolphins hadn't forced Shula out? Johnson came in and built an offense that was suppose to extend Marino's career. Instead it burried it with a horrible set of recievers, a terrible running game and no outlet recievers. In Shula's last 4 years the Dolphins ranked 7, 2, 4, 5 in YPA. In Johnson's 4 years the Dolphins were 2, 11, 22, 22. The funny part is the running game was far worse under Johnson than it was under Shula.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:23pm

Boy, was there ever a worse conference championship participant than the '99 Vikings? Certainly that was the worst defense to ever get that far. When a defense makes Kerry Collins look like Otto Graham, well, that is a testament to futility.

I know people who,based upon the Giants' lop-sided win, bet against the Ravens in the Super Bowl. I tried to convince them that any evaluation of the Giants' offensive chances against the Ravens, based upon what they did against the Vikings, was certifiably insane, but they marched to their doom anyways.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:32pm

The 1990 Los Angeles Raiders and the 1991 Detroit Lions did pretty good jobs of embarassing themselves in Conference Championship games.

by S (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 1:59pm

Just looked up the 2000 Steelers (see link). Don't know how much of a difference Marino would have made. Yeah, their passing game was obviously a weak link. But they played in the same division with the Titans and the Ravens, the eventual AFC championship participants and arguably the best two teams in the NFL that year. Plus, their receiving corps wasn't exactly great. Hines Ward was the leading receiver, but that was before he really broke out. #2 was Bobby Shaw. Plax was in his rookie season and he performed as a rookie. Nobody else had more than 20 catches. And then came Kordell's freak year in 2001 (people forget that he was seriously considered for the MVP that year).

I think, at most, Marino might have been good for 1 or 2 extra wins, a wild card, and maybe speedier development for Ward and Plax. But I can't see that team with Marino getting past Baltimore or Tennessee.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 2:06pm

#1,2 (and anybody else who feels this way): "I think Any Quarterback plus Cowher equals AFC Championship loss at home."

You also have to consider the quarterbacks that Pittsburgh had in their AFC Championship appearances under Cowher: O'Donnell (x2), Kordell (x2), and Roethlisberger.

I think we can all agree that 1997 aside, Kordell was a lousy QB overall, and Roethlisberger was a rookie last year. O'Donnell was probably the best QB to play in Pittsburgh since Bradshaw, but that doesn't really say much considering his competition (cf: Bubby Brister, Mark Malone).

The two constants in Pittsburgh's recent playoff futility have been Cowher and lousy QB play. Roethlisberger seems to have a high ceiling, so maybe we'll see if a potential franchise QB playing well is what it takes to wake Cowher out of his usual postseason funk.

#6: Boy, was there ever a worse conference championship participant than the ‘99 Vikings?"

You might consider putting the '94 Chargers alongside them.

by Dan Marino (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 2:38pm

There's no way I would've been able to do anything against the Titans or Ravens in 2000. Would another year of not quite making it have been worth the added pounding to my body and hearing retards talk about how I ruined my legacy? Not likely.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 2:55pm

The Steelers went 9-7 that year, missing the playoffs on a tie-breaker IIRC. They split with the Ravens (winning a 9-6 game, arguably the ugliest football game ever played) and lost two games to the Titans by a total of 5 points. IMO, if the QB play in those four games would have been average, they probably go 3-1 instead of 1-3. I don't know if Marino would have gotten them into the SB, but I don't think the Titans and Ravens were that much better. Anything can happen in the playoffs, and they would have had to go on the road for most of the playoffs to do it.

Now, whether or not the Steelers that year could have kept Marino in one piece is another story.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 4:26pm

Yeah, #7, but the '90 Bills and '91 Redskins were good offensive teams, or at least I remember them that way, in comparison to the '99 Giants. What was astounding about the Vikings' humiliation is that it came at the hands of a pretty mediocre team.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 4:37pm

I'm not sure Marino had that much left in his tank at that point, and the fact that he wanted to retire in the first place says a lot about his mentality about the game...Marino would have been better than what the Steelers had, but I think Marino by that point was not the Marino he had been most of his career.

by Glenn (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 5:41pm

Marino leaves Fins, no Ace Ventura for him.

by karl (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 5:45pm

This is the most idiotic string of posts I've seen in a while. Only thing worse would be a string about game announcers - wait... But I will add to the idiocy because its the summer: what else is there to do? Marino didn't want to retire, he still won a playoff game (albeit against the Seahawks who weren't great) with a piss-poor offense and showed that he still had something left by engineering a two-minute drill to win the game. With a real running game, and better receivers than miami had at the time (I think Martin and McDuffie were our guys then) he had what it took to get to the big game. Then again I worship the ground the guy walks on and still think he'd beat the crap out of Vin Diesel in a street fight...while reciting the first 200 digits of pi.

by senser81 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 5:57pm

Marino was at the end of his rope and I don't think he would have changed much in Pittsburgh, although I would have paid good money to see anyone other than Krydell quarterback the Steelers in 2000. Its like asking "If the Rams had kept John Hadl in 1974, would they have won the Super Bowl?"...to which the answer is "See 1977 Rams/Joe Namath".

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 6:59pm

"arguably the ugliest football game ever played"

Might I enter a game for this competition?

Tampa Bay Bucs vs. Seattle Seahawks, Oct. 17, 1976, the "Expansion Bowl."

Thirty-five penalties were called (310 yards). Late in the third quarter, the tale of the towel stood at 20-2 against the Bucs.

Two horrible, horrible, horrible teams. The pitiful Seahawks outlasted the even more pitiful Bucs 13-10.

It was the first win for Seattle. They would win one more game that year.

The Bucs would go on to compile an 0-26 record. They were considered so horrible, the Bengals (Bengals!) didn't even hand out game balls after blanking them 21-0 the week before the "Expansion Bowl."

Pat Toomay (click on name) has written a very funny narrative on the entire sorry lot.

The game remains in the NFL record book as the second more penalized contest in the league's history.

Neither team should have been in the NFL. The game was ugly early, and never got better.

by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 7:27pm

I'm waiting for Senser to propose the 0-0 game between the Giants and Lions, Nov. 7, 1943.

Or the 2-0 games (Green Bay vs. Bears, Oct. 16, 1932; Bears vs. Green Bay, Sept. 18, 1938).

by senser81 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 8:43pm

The game I would propose would be the last game of the 1984 regular season, where the Bucs intentionally let the Jets score so they could get the ball back and attempt to give James Wilder the single-season rushing attempts record. I could understand intentionally giving up a TD for a single-season record that means something...but rushing attempts?! What a disgrace.

by one for the thumb (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 8:55pm

It would've been very difficult for the Steelers to lose the 2000 championship at home with Marino because the Titans and Ravens and Raiders were so good that year and one of them probably would've hosted. PGH probably would've been able to lose in the wild card or divisional round. Anyways, I thought the Steelers really started rallying behind Kordell in the second half of the Raiders game in 2000 (not a hard choice when Kent Graham is your other option), and that helped lead to the strong finish in 2000 and the subsequent surge in 2001. It would've been a completely different QB situation had Marino been there, a short term gain but probably a long term loss.

by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 9:15pm

Wasn't 2000 the year the Steelers went something like 5 straight games without allowing a TD? I think it was.

And then the week they finally did allow a TD was the game against Philly when they blew the 10 point lead with like 2 minutes left.

To this day the ONLY game the Steelers have lost under Bill Cowher in which they had a 10 point lead at any point in the game.

Interesting fact.

by calig23 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/22/2005 - 11:36pm

Incorrect. You forget the day they made Jon frickin' Kitna look like John frickin' Elway and blew a 23-10 lead against the Bungles.

And of course, there was "The Tie," which while it doesn't go into the books as a loss, it sure as hell felt like one...

by Rocco (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 12:32am

The Ravens/Steelers game I mentioned was smack in the middle of two streaks- the Steelers going five games without giving up a TD and the Ravens going five games without scoring a TD on offense. The Steelers' offense wasn't exactly good, and we all remember how good the Ravens were that year. There were 4 turnovers in this game, 2 of which were by the Ravens in the red zone. There was even a missed extra point.

And I apologize for hijacking the thread into a mini-discussion of ugly football games.

by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 1:58am

The reason Marino didn't play for the Steelers was that they wanted him to play for, shall we say, a serious hometown discount. He was looking for big money if he was going to play another year, didn't find it from the Steelers or Vikings, so he retired.

And no, the Steelers wouldn't have gotten any further with him. Post #9 details it quite perfectly. And no, the Steelers are never going to win anything while Bill Cowher coaches them.

by roger stoutmire (not verified) :: Sat, 07/23/2005 - 10:35am

Just for clarification, it was the 00 Vikings and 00 Giants. In 99 the Vikes lost at St Louis in the divisional round and the G-men failed to qualify for the playoffs.

by James G (not verified) :: Sun, 07/24/2005 - 5:26pm

I don't understand all the hostility towards Cowher. No, he hasn't won the Super Bowl, but he got there once and to the AFC championship game several times. Based on pythagorean projection, New England last year and Denver in '97 were both superior to Pittsburgh in those years. And he helped guide that team to a 15-1 regular season record last year.

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 7:53am

I don't care about Marino or the Steelers. I'm just excited because I got the email from Amazon that my Prospectus just shipped. Awwwwww yeah....