Saturday, August 29, 2009
Ghosts of the Orange Bowl: Marino and Kosar 1984
Miami was the quarterback capital of the world in 1984. The Orange Bowl was the home field for pro and college football's best passers Dan Marino and Bernie Kosar. It was aerial excellence the sport had never seen before. Going into the 1984 season, Sports Illustrated placed Marino and Kosar on the cover its pro and college football preview issue. Both were tall, curley-haired righties from blue collard towns along the Ohio/Pennsylvania border, coming off great debut seasons in 1983 with the Dolphins and Hurricanes. It's been said the Sports Illustrated cover can be a jinx. But both quarterbacks would more than live up to the hype.
If you were a fan of the passing game, the Orange Bowl was your one-stop destination every fall weekend. Both quarterbacks were coming off spectacular debut seasons in 1983. Marino was the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year and Kosar led the University of Miami to its first national championship as a redshirt freshman. But statistically the 1984 Miami quarterbacks set the standard of excellence at their respective levels. Marino completely re-wrote the NFL's passing records. He finished the season completing 362 or 564 passes for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns. The Dolphins won the AFC title and reached Super Bowl XIX.
Kosar's 1984 season was a year of extremes. He would shatter all the UM passing records completed 262 of 416 passes for 3,642 yards and 25 touchdowns. But despite Kosar's amazing numbers, the Canes could not overcome a young defense that struggled under first-year coach Jimmy Johnson that included devastating consecutive losses to Maryland (42-40), Boston College (47-45) and UCLA in the Fiesta Bowl (39-37) to finish the season. Kosar would finish 4th in the Heisman Trophy balloting and was named Academic All American in his final season as a Cane. He would graduate academically and leave school to enter the NFL supplemental draft.
Neither the Dolphins nor the Hurricanes won championships in the 1984 season. But it may have been the most entertaining year to watch football at the Orange Bowl. The two quarterbacks would become close friends and rivals when Kosar joined the Cleveland Browns. They later became neighbors in Weston and teammates when Kosar joined the Dolphins in 1994 and backed up Marino for his final three seasons. It's doubtful South Florida football fans will ever see a better pair of quarterbacks come along at the same time again.