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Dan Marino’s Shrinking Legacy

With Drew Brees breaking Dan Marino’s long standing record for passing yardage in a single season, one thing has become painfully clear to me.  Dan Marino is quickly becoming an irrelevant member of football history.

Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

Admittedly, irrelevant may be a little strong.  A little. You can’t call yourself an educated sports fan – Which I, very humbly, do – and say that the best pocket passing talent in NFL history is irrelevant to the league’s past.  He’s not irrelevant.  But sadly, I think we are marching toward a time and place in which Dan Marino’s legacy is close to non existent.  When the prolific Dolphin quarterback retired, he held every significant passing record.  There was no debate.  In terms of throwing the football, Marino was king.  He may not have collected a Super Bowl, but his reign over the record book always kept him in the conversation as one of the top quarterbacks of all time.  Lately, however, Marino’s name has entered the conversation less and less, and that’s because his impact is becoming less and less prevalent.

One by one, Marino’s most prized records are falling to the arms of younger quarterbacks.  His record for the highest passer rating as a rookie fell to Ben Roethlisberger.  The record for fastest quarterback to 40,000 career passing yards fell to Drew Brees, fastest to 50,000 yards fell to Peyton Manning.  Most passing touchdowns in a single season also fell to Peyton Manning.  His records for most career completions, attempts, passing yards, and touchdowns each fell to Brett Favre, and most recently – Monday – his record for most yards passing in a single season fell to Drew Brees.  With Marino’s name steadily retreating from the record book, it’s only a matter of time before his relevance retreats from the game’s history.

Sadly, it’s the truth.  The fact of the matter is that we are not far away from a debate over the greatest quarterbacks of all time that does not include the name Dan Marino.  With no Super Bowl ring to tout, and no career defining play that sticks in the memory of fans – a la Joe Montana to Dwight Clark – Marino’s record book dominance was the only thing keeping him relevant.  For decades now, each SportsCenter graphic analyzing how great of a season quarterback X is having, compared him to Dan Marino.  They’d show Peyton Manning’s passing yards, then show that he’s on pace to fall 500 yards short of Marino’s single season record.  Regrettably, these sorts of graphics, these records, have been the only reminders that Marino’s name deserves a spot in a conversation that puts such an emphasis on Super Bowl wins.  The harsh truth is that there exists an ever growing generation of football fans that only know Marino as a CBS analyst, and a face on those SportsCenter graphics – not the dynamic talent he was.

With each record that falls, Dan Marino’s historical prominence and legacy moves farther away from that of Joe Montana and closer to Dan Fouts – another great pocket passer who’s inability to win a Super Bowl ring has relegated him to “Oh that’s that CBS Analyst, right?” status.  It’s a damn shame, and we as a sports nation are doing a disservice to a man who was a truly brilliant talent, but I fear that in short order, Dan Marino’s lasting legacy will not be along side Don Shula, but along side Jim Carrey.

That’s probably a stretch too, but I’ll always take an opportunity to slip in some Ace Ventura.

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