DAVIE, Fla. - Dan Marino returned to the Miami Dolphins as senior vice president of football operations Monday, a surprising move that gives the team a popular if inexperienced boss.
Marino was a record-setting quarterback and the last to lead the Dolphins to a Super Bowl. But there had been no indication of his interest in the job while owner Wayne Huizenga and team president Eddie Jones interviewed seven candidates in 10 days.
One of those candidates, Rick Spielman, was promoted from vice president to general manager Monday.
Huizenga said getting Marino the Super Bowl ring he never won as a player was his "side agenda" in making the decision to woo the quarterback back to the franchise.
"My love for this organization, my love for football, I think that's unquestioned," Marino said. "There are some people in this organization that have won Super Bowl rings. Let me tell you, I've thought about that a lot. Maybe this is the way I can get that opportunity."
Marino will report directly to team president Eddie Jones. Spielman and coach Dave Wannstedt will both report to Marino.
"It's a team game on the field and a team game in the office as well," Huizenga said. "We need two good teams to win. The name of the game for us is to win. Nothing else really matters."
Marino, who has been working as an NFL television analyst for CBS and HBO, will fill a job created when Wannstedt was stripped of control over personnel decisions. The Dolphins went 10-6 to miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1988-89.
Marino said he enjoyed television work, but never stopped being "a football guy."
"I loved the competition when I was a player. I love everything about this place," Marino said. "To me, I'm back home again. ... I want to do whatever I can and whatever is necessary to help this team get back to where we need to be, to win a championship that I never won."
Marino played for the Dolphins from 1983-99, taking them to the 1985 Super Bowl, where they lost to San Francisco. The most prolific passer in NFL history, he holds league records with 61,361 yards passing and 420 touchdown passes.
"It's great for the franchise for him to return - the most popular player we ever had," former teammate Jimmy Cefalo said. "Dan knows how to fire up a huddle, and I think he'll fire up the franchise. The fat will be cut away."
The hiring will test Marino's relationship with Wannstedt, which has been strained in the past. Marino retired reluctantly two months after Wannstedt became Miami's coach in January 2000.
Marino's return to the Dolphins was a stunner in part because the deal came together so quickly.
"I didn't know how to react," Dolphins defensive tackle Larry Chester said. "I was like, 'Dan Marino? He's a player. Wow!' ... Having him here is a major plus. Dan Marino is Miami. With him pulling the reins, I see nothing but good things. I just wish he was coming back to play."
The hiring of Marino is the latest surprising twist in the Dolphins' offseason. Huizenga resolved the embattled Wannstedt's status two weeks ago by giving him a two-year contract extension but also a demotion, relieving him of responsibility for player moves.
The Dolphins have won just one playoff game in the four years since Marino retired, in part because of lackluster results in the draft.
Marino's mission will be to help change that. He also faces a decision about the future of his successor at quarterback, Jay Fiedler, who has been unpopular with fans while directing a sputtering offense.
Fiedler is due a $2 million option in April and a projected base salary of $3.7 million for 2004 if he returns.