Examining a totally different angle to the Dan Marino draft day slide

Drug rumours caused his draft stock to plummet. To this day the source of these rumours remain somewhat hidden.

Pitt Panthers Dan Marino
Pitt Panthers Dan Marino / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

Yes we all the know the story - in 1983 Marino comes out of college expecting to be drafted early. Rumours about his apparent drug use causes his draft stock to plummet. To the benefit of the Dolphins, the savvy Shula snatches him up with the 27th overall pick. 

The rumours certainly caused damage. Teams like the Raiders, Steelers essentially wiped him off their draft boards not wanting to deal with the risk. The Steelers pivoted HARD off of him and focused on the defensive line. Marino reminded Coach Chuck Noll too much of former QB Joe Gilliam - his backup who competed with Terry Bradshaw but eventually flamed out of the league due substance abuse issues. 

To this day the source of these rumours remain somewhat hidden. The standard line has always been that a team - perhaps the Dolphins - circulated the rumour in order for his draft stock to plummet.

In an interview a year after the incident, Marino’s college coach Foze Fazio, would offer up a completely different perspective. He blamed the gambling community, not any NFL team, for the spread of misinformation. 

“A lot of it was disappointment we didn’t beat the point spread. That’s where the viciousness came out. It’s only a college game. But there was an NFL Strike and no pro games, and a lot of people focused their attention on the colleges.” 

Fazio points out something that often gets overlooked. In 1982, the NFL went into a lockout and Marino was the most watched passer nationwide. Logically, all the sportsbooks were laser focused on his senior season. Any large swing in performance would catch the ire of the line setters. 

Marino played pretty poorly and before the season could end, the rumours became so pervasive that the college started drug testing. Perhaps NFL front offices were so tuned in to the college game and had nothing better to do than drum up some controversy. Or maybe the books lashed out at Marino for not beating the spread. 

Around that same time, Marino revealed that during his senior season, his mother was actually very ill with a blood-clot conditions. Suffice to say that anyone in that circumstance would find it hard to focus, let alone perform at an optimal level.