Where EAST meets the Northwest
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (#1) looks to pass during the
second half of a National Football League game against the New York Jets, on
October 18, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Jets,
24-0. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Asian Reporter web extra, October 25, 2020
Tua’s promotion stirs memories of Marino’s first start in 1983
By Steven Wine
The Associated Press
October 25, 2020
MIAMI -- It was 1:00pm on an October Sunday in 1983, and Miami Dolphins
rookie Dan Marino was about to take the field for his first National Football
League (NFL) start when veteran teammate Lyle Blackwood approached him on the
"I was always joking around too much," Blackwood says in his Texas drawl.
"Dan was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and I said, ‘Dan,
this whole season is riding on your shoulders.’"
That’s the case now with Tua Tagovailoa, even if his teammates are too
tactful to tell him so. The Dolphins are again promoting a first-round draft
pick at quarterback, and following a bye this week, Tagovailoa will replace Ryan
Fitzpatrick and make his first start November 1 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Tua has thrown only two NFL passes, but he’s the Dolphins’ most heavily hyped
draft pick since Dan became the Man. Hopes are high the former Alabama star will
be the best of the 22 quarterbacks to start for Miami since Marino retired
following the 1999 season.
There are more differences than similarities regarding the situation,
however, and not just because Tagovailoa is left-handed.
In 1983, Marino joined a team that had reached the Super Bowl the previous
season. Tagovailoa is taking the reins with Miami in Year 2 of a rebuilding
project under coach Brian Flores.
The Dolphins are 3-3, second in the American Football Conference Eastern
Division (AFC East) and basking in consecutive wins over the 49ers and Jets by a
combined score of 67-17. But they’ve used three rookie draft picks in the
offensive line, which raises questions about how well they can protect
Tagovailoa’s surgically repaired right hip as he returns from the injury that
prematurely ended his college career nearly a year ago.
Marino worked behind a veteran line anchored by future Pro Football Hall of
Famer Dwight Stephenson. Unlike Tagovailoa, Marino played in preseason games as
a rookie, and threw three touchdown passes subbing for David Woodley in the
regular season before coach Don Shula made him the No. 1 QB.
Even so, there were glitches in Marino’s first start. He threw for 322 yards
and three scores, but the Dolphins lost in overtime to the Buffalo Bills, and
play calling was sometimes a problem.
"Shula forgot he had Dan on the field at one point," says Nat Moore, a
receiver on the 1983 team. "Shula was going after an official about a bad call
and failed to send in the play. It was third-and-13, and he realized the play
clock was running out, so he started waving at Dan, and Dan said, ‘What is
"I said, ‘That means call your own play.’"
"Dan called a play-action pass, but the bad part was we didn’t have a running
back in the game. We didn’t want to waste a timeout, so I lined up at running
back. Dan also called a left formation, and we never ran that play from a left
formation. But he throws a quick slant to Mark Duper for a first down anyway.
"Shula goes, ‘What the hell was that? We don’t have that play.’"
"I said, ‘We do now.’"
These days Marino is a Dolphins special adviser who prefers to stay in the
background. An interview request was submitted to him this week, and — wait for
it — he passed.
Joe Rose, who caught the first of Marino’s 420 touchdown passes, remembers
the improvised completion to Duper and other frantic ad-libs in 1983. Simply
calling the play is a big challenge for any rookie quarterback, Rose says.
"You might say the color wrong, or the number," he says. "You say it wrong,
and everybody in the huddle is going, ‘This ought to be interesting.’ Because
you’ve only got a few seconds to call the play, and you’ve Aaron Donald on the
Next week Tagovailoa will get to meet Donald, the Rams’ two-time NFL
Defensive Player of the Year. Later come matchups against the other first-round
picks starting at quarterback this year, Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles
Chargers (November 15 ) and Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals (December 6).
Thanks to Tagovailoa, the Dolphins will go into those games with star power
they’ve lacked for most of the past two decades.
"My goals are to do whatever I can do to help this team become successful,"
That’s another way of saying the whole season is riding on his shoulders.
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