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No Danny, No Championship

Updated on February 26, 2014

It is well known that Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl with the Miami Dolphins. This despite the fact that he made it to the Super Bowl in only his second year in the pros. The Dolphins had great chances to win the Super Bowl in many different years including 1983, 1984(already mentioned), 1985, 1990, and 1992. But it was back at the University Of Pittsburgh in 1982 when Dan Marino missed perhaps his best opportunity to win a title. This was also Jackie Sherrill's best opportunity. Jackie Sherrill was the coach at Pitt from 1977 to 1981. He was also the defensive coordinator under Johnny Majors from 1973-1976 and was the man assigned the task of recruiting the blue chip tailback Tony Dorsett. Sherrill was successful in this recruitment and Pittsburgh did indeed win a national championship in Dorsett's senior season. Jackie Sherrill was not a part of that team, however. He had left Pitt to take the head coaching job at Washington State. Yes that's right. He left what became a championship team for a job he held for only one year only to return to Pittsburgh immediately AFTER the championship. Everybody has those "What was I thinking?" moments like Sherrill must have had in 1976. I'm sure if he had to do it again he would not have made the trip up to Pullman, Washington and watched helplessly from the sidelines as his team could only muster a 3-8 record. We all chalk up such indiscretions to inexperience and we press on knowing that we won't make those same mistakes again.

Fast forward just two years and there is Jackie Sherrill again recruiting a five star football player from the state of Pennslyvania. This one's name was Dan Marino. The Panthers posted an 11-1 record each of Marino's first three years on campus. The freshman campaign included impressive wins versus ranked opponents Washington, Navy, and Penn State and a final ranking of #7 in the AP Poll. 1980 featured Pitt's fifth straight win versus border rival West Virginia as well as knocking off fifth ranked in state rival Penn State. Only national champion Georgia finished ahead of Pittsburgh in the final rankings. After another brilliant season by Marino in which they had avenged their only loss of 1980 to Florida State, the Panthers found themselves squared off against none other than Georgia in the 1981 Sugar Bowl. With 42 seconds to play Pittsburgh was trailing 20-17 and facing a fourth and 5 at the Georgia 33 yard line. The decision to go for the first down was not that shocking. What was shocking was the decision by Dan Marino to heave the ball to the goal line for all the marbles. The ball was caught by John Brown and Pitt had again finished 11-1 and this time number 4 in the AP poll. With Dan Marino returning for his senior season you would think Jackie Sherrill would have ordered his championship ring immediately following this game. He certainly wouldn't leave again as he had done 6 years earlier?

That was when Texas A&M came calling. Despite having 4 years left on his Pittsburgh contract and what was obviously a great gig, Sherrill could not pass up the Aggies' $1.7 million dollar offer. Jackie quickly found out that the Aggie roster was not stacked nearly as deep as the one he left behind in Pittsburgh. His quarterback in 1982 was Gary Kubiak. That's right, the former coach of the Houston Steamrollers(Texans). Kubiak was a run of the mill quarterback much as he was a run of the mill coach and Texas A&M finished 5-6 while getting thumped by all three of its ranked opponents. Dan Marino, on the other hand, was managing just fine until the first week in November when unranked Notre Dame came to Pitt Stadium and beat the #1 Panthers 31-16. Pittsburgh lost twice more that season in what could best be described as a step backwards. Meanwhile, as Texas A&M compiled two more unimpressive years, Jackie Sherrill was assembling a cast of recruits capable of taking over the Southwest Conference. 1985 was the breakout year for the Aggies under quarterback Kevin Murray. They won 10 games for the first time since 1976 and played in the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 1967. But knowing that Murray had only one more year on campus kept Sherrill hot on the recruiting trail. He landed both Lance Pavlas from Tomball and Bucky Richardson from Louisiana. In their sophomore years both quarterbacks lost the starting job to Chris Osgood. Osgood and the rest of the Aggies were victims of overly ambitious scheduling by Jackie Sherrill. Their non-conference schedule started with games against Nebraska, LSU, Alabama, and Oklahoma State. None of the three quarterbacks could complete more than 54 balls all season and Texas A&M finished 7-5. Jackie Sherrill was gone and for the rest of his career was unable to duplicate the success of 1985-1987. Its too bad for Jackie that he never was able to find a National Championship caliber quarterback. Wait a minute...........


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