Dan Marino is, without question, one of the biggest dogs to ever suit up in NFL history. He was blessed with an absolute canon of an arm and a smile that could melt your heart. He also played opposite a young Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: PEt Detective. Dan Marino is a legend.
However, if you had to find a chink in the guy’s armor it is that he NEVER won a Super Bowl. During his prolific 17 year NFL career, the great Marino appeared in only ONE Super Bowl and that was when he was 23 years old and in his second NFL season. Some think he just didn’t have the heart, others blamed it on bad luck. It’s hard to prove any of those theories, so I’m going to highlight something we can prove: Marino played with an abundance of mediocre running backs. Peep this:
- Tony Nathan (1983-1987): Nathan was one of Marino’s first backs in Miami, and was actually with the club before Marino arrived for the 1983 season. He averaged over 4.5 yards a carry while playing with Dan, but never racked up more than 700 yards in a season. He topped out at 685 yards during Marino’s rookie season. Nathan had a good college career at Alabama and has bounced around the college ranks and NFL as a running backs coach.
- Lorenzo Hampton (1985-1989): Hampton was a first round pick of the Dolphins following their Super Bowl appearance. The club recognized the need for a running game and thought Hampton would be the answer. They were wrong and it would not be the last time. Hampton peaked with 830 yards in 1986 but was done by 1989 with a yards per carry rate below four.
- Sammie Smith (1989-1991): Another first round pick (ninth overall) to go poorly for Marino and the Dolphins. Smith was very talented and put together a great college career at Florida State. However, he was at FSU in the late 1980s (presumably on cocaine the entire time). He ran for 831 yards in 1990, but that was about all he ever contributed as he was out of Miami after the following season. In 1996 he was busted with cocaine (FSU, man) and spent seven years in prison and it’s hard to succeed in the NFL when you’re in prison.
- Mark Higgs (1990-1994): Higgs was not drafted by the Dolphins, but signed as a free agent prior to the 1990 season. He topped the 900 yard mark twice while in Miami and was of the better backs to be paired with Marino. He wasn’t much on average though, never once averaging four yards per carry. Sadly, Higgs was a total dud out of the backfield as a receiver, never once catching more than 16 balls in a single season. He has since started his own business and coaches HS football.
- Terry Kirby (1993-1995): Kirby is one of my favorite Marino backs. Kirby actually had a pretty decent career, spending his first three years in Miami. He rushed for only 1,035 yards in those three seasons, but was a terrific weapon as a receiver. In fact, he caught 75 balls during his rookie season and 66 in his final season. He is the brother of mediocre baseball player, Wayne Kirby. What a family.
- Bernie Parmalee (1992-1998): The longest tenured Marino back, Parmalee was only a starter for two years. He topped the 800 yard mark twice as he made a decent duo with Terr Kirby in 1994 and 1995. He would stay in Miami for a few more seasons, primarily as a back up and totaled just under 2,000 yards in his seven seasons with the Dolphins. This past February he was hired as the tight ends coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Karim Abdul-Jabbar (1996-1999): Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the only 1,000 yard rusher to ever team with Dan Marino. This should tell you just how anemic the running game was during Marino’s career. The hilariously named Abdul-Jabbar was drafted by the Dolphins in the third round out of UCLA (not be confused with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). He ran for 1,116 yards in his rookie season, but got those yards averaging just 3.6 a carry. In 1997, his second season, Abdul-Jabbar led the NFL with 15 rushing touchdowns (BIG). However, his career was over two years later. He has had at least three different names in his lifetime, recently changing it because he was sued by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I’m not making that up.
- Lawrence Phillips (1997): Phillips played only a half season with Marino in 1997. He is notable on this list though because it’s when Marino’s career was coming to a close and the Dolphins were desperate. Phillips had a shady history legally before joining the Dolphins but they needed some pop. He provided only 44 yards and was in the news constantly for being a son of a bitch. During his career and after, the talented Phillips has been arrested numerous times for violent offenses. In 2009 he was sentenced to 31 years in prison.
- Cecil Collins (1999): Lawrence Phillips Jr. Collins had a TON of problems while in college, so much so that he was kicked out of LSU. Still, the poor Dolphins needed a running game, so they took the talented Collins in the fifth round of the NFL draft. He ran for over 400 yards as a rookie during Marino’s final season. It ended up being Collins’ final season as well. The winter of his rookie season, he broke into a woman’s house to “watch her sleep”. This stunt, coupled with previous charges landed him in prison for 15 years (he’s due out in 2014).