Published March 08, 2012
AVENTURA, Fla. – If Peyton Manning wants to talk about playing quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, Dan Marino would be thrilled to take his call.
And just in case, Marino has his sales pitch ready.
"There's great tradition there. We've had a couple off years but believe me, they'll be back," Marino said. "It's a great franchise and they'll get it turned around."
Adding Manning would almost certainly help in that quest, which largely started when Marino retired more than a decade ago.
From the moment the four-time MVP's parting from the Indianapolis Colts became complete Wednesday, buzz about Manning has been growing in Miami — much of it fueled by the quarterback's arrival in South Florida only a few minutes after he technically became an NFL free agent for the first time. Manning insists he does not know what his next move will be or even how this chapter of his life will work, and Marino believes him.
"I think he fits with anybody," Marino said Thursday at a charity golf tournament. "He's one of the best to ever play the game at that position. So wherever he ends up playing, if he's healthy, which is going to be important to Peyton, I'm sure he wants to go out there and play at a high level. Wherever he plays, he'll be a huge impact for that team."
The Dolphins are believed to be one of the teams interested in adding Manning.
Manning's arrival in Miami doesn't seem to be a sign that the Dolphins are a frontrunner in the sweepstakes to become the new Peyton's place. He owns a condo in Miami Beach, where television crews were staked out Thursday. His arrival at a small airport was captured by news helicopters, and in an effort to get some media to stop following him Wednesday evening, Manning pulled over and spoke with reporters for a few moments.
Other than his father Archie and Super Bowl-winning brother Eli, "Dan Marino is my all-time favorite quarterback," Manning said Wednesday.
Marino said he was moved hearing that.
"It means a lot because Peyton's been great to me over the years and he's been such a true pro and a very good friend," Marino said. "It's tough to see him not being able to continue his career (in Indianapolis). ... He's a class act."
After the Colts decided not to pick up Manning's $28 million bonus, team owner Jim Irsay ended months of speculation by releasing the 14-year veteran and longtime face of the franchise. Indianapolis is likely to find Manning's replacement in April's draft, presumably Stanford's Andrew Luck; the Colts have the first overall pick.
Manning missed the entire 2011 season because of a damaged nerve that caused weakness in his right arm. He had the most recent of his multiple neck surgeries Sept. 8.
The Manning watch is consuming Miami, even with the NBA's Heat having one of the league's best records so far, the newly renamed Miami Marlins set to begin play in a $515 million downtown ballpark with an upgraded roster next month, Tiger Woods and the world's best golfers playing at Doral this week, even the NHL's Florida Panthers in the mix for a playoff spot for the first time in years.
Everyone is watching, or so it seems. Dwyane Wade reached out to Manning on Twitter, and LeBron James took time in a postgame television interview to briefly sell Manning on the merits of South Florida.
Will Marino call him?
"I probably wouldn't do that unless he asks for some advice," Marino said. "And he has plenty of people that he's working with to help him make the right decisions."
Manning's health is going to be a major concern for any team. Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter said if Manning says he's healthy enough to play, then that's good enough for him.
"He's a great football player," Carpenter said. "I definitely think having Peyton Manning won't hurt your chances. ... Obviously, I don't know how hard we're pursuing him. It's hard to say what Peyton Manning's thinking. I'm sure he's going to talk to his family, think about himself and think about where he wants to be and make that decision."
Carpenter said he didn't watch the coverage of Manning's news conference in Indianapolis and his arrival in Miami, only highlights afterward.
"Kind of hard to miss, actually," Carpenter said.
It might not be going away anytime soon, either.