DAVIE, Fla. — When the Miami Dolphins took the field for practice Wednesday, one of the team’s all-time greats was looking on.
Dan Marino, the franchise’s all-time leader in passing yards (61,361) and touchdowns (420), has once again become a prominent fixture within the Dolphins organization since being hired as a special adviser to the front office in August.
One of only three players to have their number retired by the Dolphins, Marino has not only been advising members of the front office since his hiring but also, in recent weeks, quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
In the midst of his third, and possibly make-or-break, year with the Dolphins, Tannehill has already thrown for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns in seven games this season. On pace to set career marks in both passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating, the 26-year-old quarterback says that Marino’s presence and insight have been a great asset to his development.
"Dan’s been great," said Tannehill, who convenes with Marino on a weekly basis. "He’s been around a lot, as of recent. I’ve watched tape with him. He’s been in the TV room, he’s a great resource to have around with his knowledge of the game and, obviously, with the success he’s had in his career."
Success, in the years following the Marino era, is something Dolphins fans have grown unfamiliar with.
Since Marino’s retirement in 1999, the Dolphins have had 17 different quarterbacks start at least one game. Once perennial playoff contenders, the organization has reached the playoffs just three times in the 14 seasons since Marino hung up his jersey.
Yet, even though Marino’s once treasured arm can no longer help the recently floundering Dolphins, the Hall of Famer’s acumen in the film room hasn’t aged a day.
Sitting down to watch game tape with Marino on a week-by-week basis, Tannehill says that the former NFL MVP’s knowledge of the position and knack for picking up on minute details are still top notch.
"It’s cool," Tannehill said of watching film with Marino. "I appreciate, like I said, the knowledge he has of the game and the little insights that he can point out. Just him being around and showing that he cares, it’s nice.
"He’s always just pointing out little things on tape. Whether it’s receiver’s routes or something I’m doing, he’s good at picking up little things and passing them along."
One area of the game that Marino may defer to Tannehill while watching film is in the running department.
With his 30-yard rush against Jacksonville in Week 9, Tannehill became just the second quarterback since 2004, joining Michael Vick, to post runs of 30-or-more yards in three consecutive games. Additionally, his 7.3 yards per run place him second among quarterbacks with at least 15 rushing attempts.
Marino, not known for his running ability, boasted just 87 career rushing yards.
Playing a major role in elevating the Dolphins to the sixth-best rushing team in the NFL, Tannehill says that his recent prosperity on the ground is less about the plays being called and more about his decision-making on the fly.
"You just play with what shows up," said Tannehill, who has already accumulated 198 yards on the ground this season. "I’ve had a few opportunities to run and make big plays for us, but you never know when those opportunities are going to show up. You’ve just got to take advantage when they do."
Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, meanwhile, believes that Tannehill’s mobility in the pocket and willingness to run up field have brought a whole new element to the offense in recent weeks.
"Ryan is a good athlete," Philbin said. "You guys have seen him in the first seven games use his feet sometimes to either get out of trouble or in the running game. I think that’s given our offense a boost."
Off to their first 4-3 start since the 2012 and coming off back-to-back victories for the first time since December 2013, it’s clear that while Marino may no longer be helping the Dolphins on the stat sheet, his presence and tutelage of Tannehill may be just what the team needs to get back to the playoffs.