Best of the Firsts, No. 27: Dan Marino
Dan Marino was the first of the NFL's super prolific quarterbacks, 20 years before the league become pass-happy. (Getty Images)
As part of our offseason coverage, we're taking a look back at some of the best first-round draft picks since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. We'll work our way up the draft board, starting with the best selection made with the No. 32 pick and ending with the top No. 1 pick. Track all the choices here.
The No. 27 Pick: Dan Marino, 1983, Miami Dolphins
His Credentials: Nine-time Pro Bowl selection; eight-time All-Pro; NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 1984; Comeback Player of the Year in 1994; 61,361 passing yards, 420 touchdowns in career; Held single-season passing record (5,084) until 2011; Held records for most career yards and touchdowns until 2007; Holds records for most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime (51); Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2005
No offense to any other player drafted No. 27 in the first round, but to say that anyone else was "in consideration" up against Marino is not completely accurate. Not only is Marino the only Hall of Famer in the group, he's generally recognized as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
That is true in spite of the one glaring red flag on Marino's resume: No Super Bowl title. Marino had his chances -- the Dolphins made the playoffs 10 times during his run from 1983-99, though their lone title shot in that timeframe came in Marino's second year and ended with a 38-16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Marino's Dolphins never got back, twice losing in the AFC championship game (1985, 1992).
Some may use that limited playoff success as a knock on Marino, but it is impossible to overshadow the impact he made on the field and for the Dolphins organization, with which he played his entire NFL career.
"My father was always committed to his team and his teammates," Marino's son, Daniel, said at the QB's Hall of Fame induction. "Even if my father scored four touchdowns and failed to win, it was always to him, a lost game. The Miami Dolphins were and still are my dad’s team. .. My father’s 17 years was spent with one franchise, the franchise he loved. And that seems to be so rare in professional sports today, I thought it was worth mentioning."
Marino still holds several passing records, including the most games with more than 400 yards passing (13), the most comeback wins and the most seasons leading the league in completions (6).
Had it not been for the quarterback explosion of 2011 -- Brees and Tom Brady both topped Marino's single-season passing mark -- and for Brett Favre, who swiped more than a few records from Marino, then the ex-Dolphins superstar would still be atop even more leaderboards. He has lost, in fact, no fewer than 22 passing records to guys like Favre, Brees and Peyton Manning since hanging up his cleats.
Part of the reason Marino wound up rewriting the record books lies in the longevity of his career. Marino took over as Miami's starting QB in Week 6 of his rookie season. He started 239 more games after that and made his way onto the field for every single Dolphins game in 11 seasons. The 1983 draft, of course, was the year of the quarterback. John Elway and Jim Kelly were among the five QBs taken before Marino. Even though Marino never got to the top of the NFL mountain, it would be hard to believe that the Dolphins would trade him for any other player taken that year.