Senior VP Marino's first move is to quit

Posted: Wednesday, February 04, 2004

MIAMI Dan Marino's visit was a surprise to Wayne Huizenga. The purpose of it was even more stunning. Five weeks removed from asking for an executive position with the Miami Dolphins and only three weeks after accepting the senior vice president job created solely for him, Marino resigned Tuesday and left the team he quarterbacked for 17 seasons.

As recently as Sunday, Marino denied reports saying he was having second thoughts about assuming control of the Dolphins' football operations. But at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, he made an unannounced visit to Huizenga's office and quit, spurning attempts the owner made to change his mind.

''I heard about it on the television a couple of days ago, but I didn't believe it,'' Huizenga said. ''Needless to say, we're disappointed. Dan is a great guy and we like him a lot. He would have been good for this organization.''

A telephone message left at Marino's home was not returned. A woman who answered the phone and refused to give her name said he could not be reached. It was believed Marino was traveling to New York to tape a Super Bowl wrapup show for HBO's ''Inside the NFL.''

''I have decided that it would not be in the best interests of either my family or the Dolphins to assume the role as the team's senior vice president of football operations,'' Marino said in a released statement.

Marino played for the Dolphins from 1983-99 and took them to the 1985 Super Bowl, which they lost. He holds NFL records with 61,361 yards passing and 420 touchdown passes. He planned to leave his analyst jobs at CBS Sports and HBO to come back to the Dolphins, beginning a full-time role next week. Marino had been part of at least one team personnel meeting and was at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., for one day, but never took control of the football operations.

Don Strock, Marino's close friend and former backup at quarterback, said the timing of rejoining the Dolphins might have been wrong for Marino.

''He's his own man,'' Strock said. ''I'm sure his family became involved, and they decided what was best for them. He has to do what is right. But I know one day I don't know when he's going to be back in football.''

Huizenga also acknowledged that Marino's sudden departure might present a public relations problem for the franchise, which has missed the playoffs the last two seasons and has many fans pleading for drastic change.

''I can't worry about perception at this stage of the game,'' Huizenga said. ''All we can do is put our best foot forward and see what happens.''

Huizenga said the Dolphins will begin searching for ''a senior executive who has an extensive football background'' to join Miami's management team and oversee football operations. It has not been determined if that person would have the same title Marino was given in his short stint as an executive.

The organizational reshuffling came after Huizenga stripped head coach Dave Wannstedt of final say in personnel matters.

After a lengthy search for a general manager, during which seven candidates were interviewed, the team chose to promote Rick Spielman from senior vice president to GM. Spielman, in turn, would report to Marino, who was placed behind only Huizenga and team president Eddie Jones in the Dolphins' executive hierarchy.

''If next year he wanted to talk about something, we'd certainly listen,'' Huizenga said.

Through the team's media relations office, Spielman and Wannstedt declined requests for comment.

Marino said at the Jan. 12 news conference announcing his hiring that returning to the Dolphins was ''a dream.'' Somewhere along the way, his view changed considerably.

''I knew it would involve a significant lifestyle change,'' Marino said in the statement. ''But after further reflection, it became clear that those adjustments were ones that my family and I are not prepared to make at this time.''

None of the spurned GM candidates will be interviewed to replace Marino in the front office, Huizenga said. Neither will Ron Wolf, the former Green Bay GM who was unsuccessfully wooed by the Dolphins and eventually hired last month as a personnel specialist by the Cleveland Browns.

''I wish he hadn't made this decision, but he did and so we have to move on,'' Huizenga said. ''Who knows? Maybe the next person that comes in is going to be 10 times better.''

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