Marino’s blessing key in luring Manning

MIAMI – The growing ball of energy known as Peyton-mania kept surging through South Florida on Thursday, getting a mid-day boost from legendary Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino.

It sounded as though Marino would give free agent quarterback Peyton Manning a positive recommendation to the Miami Dolphins, if asked. That’s reading between the lines, but that’s the way it sounded.

Here’s what’s known: Marino was welcoming and accepting as he spoke about Manning in glowing terms on Thursday, saying, “Peyton’s been great to me over the years” and called him a “very good friend” and a “true pro” and a “class act.”

It was almost a man-crush.

Marino said he wouldn’t intervene in Miami’s pursuit of Manning, the 36-year-old former Indianapolis Colts superstar, but he offered his consulting services.

“If Peyton called and asked me some questions,” Marino said at the Reid & Fiorentino Celebrity Golf Classic at Turnberry Isle in Miami, “I would definitely answer them for him the best I could.”

And then Marino spoke confidently about the Dolphins making a return to glory.

“We had a couple of off years,” Marino said. “But believe me, they’ll be back. It’s a great franchise and they’ll get it turned around.”

That’s good stuff. You wonder if that’s what he’d tell Manning. This is Peyton-mania. Nothing can be left to chance. Nothing can be overlooked.

Approval from Marino is pretty much the only missing link for this quarterback-starved organization. And it’s definitely the full-steam ahead signal for owner Steve Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland.

The Manning-to-Miami thing seems like a great fit, both on and off the field. Dolphins management badly needs a franchise quarterback. Peyton Manning needs a new team.

The Dolphins, who finished 6-10 last year after that horrific 0-7 start, could be an exciting offense with the addition of Manning, a right tackle and a dynamic tight end or speedy wide receiver to play opposite Brandon Marshall. They’re not close right now, but with Manning they’re not far away.

The defense? It has holes, but they can be fixed and the unit can be made to be playoff-ready.

Hey, you can convince yourself of anything under the influence of Peyton-mania.

Of course, it hit ridiculous proportions Wednesday. It was only a few hours after Manning had a parting news conference with his former team, the Indianapolis Colts. He returned to Miami, where he has a residence and has been working out with wide receiver Reggie Wayne.

During the 20-minute ride between the airport and Manning’s South Beach condominium, the media chase was so intense – both on the ground and in the air – Manning decided it was safest to pull off the road and have an impromptu news conference. So that’s what he did. True story. That’s Peyton-mania.

And it seemingly has Marino’s approval.

Now the Dolphins just have to find out what they can do to make Manning happy.

Here’s a starting point for Ross and Ireland – call Marino and make sure you’re on his good side. Then have Manning call Marino. That’ll get things rolling.

Marino never gave his outright blessing to Manning joining the Miami Dolphins. He said Peyton would be a good fit. Of course, he said that with a qualifier.

“I think he fits with anybody,” Marino said. “He’s one of the best that ever played the game at that position.”

But Marino never came close to saying it’s a bad idea, a bad fit or bad timing.

Other teams make more sense for Manning because they’re immediately playoff-ready. San Francisco comes to mind. So does Houston. But both have indicated they like their quarterbacks – Alex Smith and Matt Schaub, respectively. The New York Jets? Washington? Seattle? Kansas City? Lots of teams are rumored to be in the Manning Sweepstakes.

But only one team can offer an endorsement from Dan Marino.

Miami has to harness that force and put it to work. The stakes are high in this race for Manning. He’s expected to work a miracle next season. Just ask Marino.

“Wherever he plays,” he said, “he’ll be a huge impact for that team.”