Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Counting down the top Pitt football players of the last 40 years- No.5 Dan Marino

I will be counting down my own list of the top 50 Pitt football players since 1972.  I have spent time doing a lot of research and talking to a lot of people when formulating this list, but ultimately it is MY opinion.  The great thing about lists like this is that people will disagree, and feel free to, but just remember that there is no right answer so there's no need to go crazy if you do disagree.  I will post this same intro with all 50 bios because I know the one time I don't, people will complain about not knowing what criteria I used.  I will add at least one a day, maybe two.  

My criteria for selecting the order is as follows:

1.  Productivity.
2.  Talent.
3.  Place in program history.
4.  Only the player's careers while at Pitt are considered, not their NFL careers. 
5.  No current players.

5.  Dan Marino (1979-82)-  You know you have a great football history when you have four players better in your program.  Marino is usually not considered the greatest quarterback in NFL history, but most would call him the greatest passer of all-time.  Thanks to his cannon arm and the best, quickest release of any quarterback in history, Marino will certainly go down as one of the most legendary quarterbacks who ever played the game.

While at Pitt, Marino started for most of his four seasons and was responsible for many great moments, including maybe the most memorable play in Pitt history when he hit John Brown for a game winning touchdown in the Sugar Bowl.

So why is Marino so far down the list then?  Well, the truth is, he was a much better pro player than a college player.  Yes, as a junior he led the nation with 37 touchdowns while adding 2,876 yards, and he lead the Panthers to an 11-1 record that season.  But he also threw 23 interceptions and in the Panthers devastating 48-14 loss to Penn State he was thoroughly outplayed by Todd Blackledge, and threw four interceptions.

In his senior season, Marino failed to live up to expectations, to be blunt.  The Panthers started the season No.1 but limped to a 9-3 season, with Marino throwing 23 more inceptions, this time to 17 touchdowns.  In Marino's last game, against SMU in the Cotton Bowl, Marino failed to generate a touchdown in a 7-3 loss.  Still despite a season that Pitt fans would consider a failure, Marino somehow finished 9th in the Heisman voting, down from a 4th place finish the previous season.

But I don't want to make it sound like I'm trashing Marino.  His talent level was at a superior level and, along with Stanford's Jon Elway, he was at the forefront of the new era of high caliber passing games in college football. Plus, his 79 touchdown passes are still a Pitt record and his 8,597 yards is 2nd all-time in school history.

His poor senior season, as well as some rumored trouble, dropped Marino to the 27th overall pick of the Miami Dolphins.  It was there that Marino became an NFL legend, breaking countless passing records before eventually becoming a first ballot hall of Fame inductee.


  1. Marino and a supremely talented Pitt team limped to a poor 9-3 finish in 1982 because they were saddled with one of the worst head coaches in college football history-Foge Fazio.

    1. Not really...
      Sherril had issues with Marino....
      1. Marino would change plays in the huddle to pass plays.
      2. Marino would force passes... never goes to the 2nd receiver thinking he was so great he could thread the needle.. (ego).. therefore high interceptions.
      3. If Sherril couldn't control Marino... clearly Foge couldn't.

      Best thing that happened to Marino... he went to Miami where Shula was a no BS HC and was not going to take that bs from his qb.

      that is why Marino was the 6th QB taken in the 83 draft albeit in the 1st round.

    2. Marino had high interceptions his last year under Sherrill (23) but he also had high touchdowns (37). Under Foge his interceptions stayed at 23 but the TDs went down to 17. That caused Marino to slip to the 6th QB picked in the draft. Foge did the almost impossible taking a Pitt team that had been 33-3 in Sherrill's last three years to 9-3. 8-3-1, 3-7-1 then 5-5-1. Marino went on to be an NFL passing legend. Foge never got another head coaching gig.

  2. But Foge was a great defensive coordinator, sadly he was over his head as a head coach

  3. Paul Hackett, as head coach, is the NCAA equivalent of the Death Penalty.

    1. Lol! That is really funny but so true

  4. Fazio & Hackett were good coordinators. But totally incompetent as head coaches. If they hadn't had Gottfried between them they would have totally destroyed Pitt football.

  5. I believe Joe Naunchik was his coordinator.

  6. How can you say so that Joe Naunchik was his coordinator? I can't see any point.
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