It is a painful fact of life in Miami, but Dan Marino had to go before the Dolphins could play the way they do now. Had Marino stuck around for another year, Wannstedt would have felt a need to put the ball in the hands of the most prolific passer in NFL history. In Marino's 17 years the team had only one 1,000-yard rusher: Karim Abdul-Jabbar, who had 1,116 in 1997, when the club went 9-7. This season free-agent pickup Lamar Smith is on pace for a club-record 1,341-yard year. With Jay Fiedler at quarterback, Miami is 7-2, sixth in the league in rushing and 29 th in passing. Aside from one horrific defensive performance (the 30-point fourth quarter by the Jets on Oct. 23), the Dolphins have been one of the league's five best defenses.
On Sunday in Detroit they followed the script to near perfection. Smith had 125 of Miami's 189 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns, Fiedler passed for only 112 yards, and the defense gave up just 253 yards in a 23-8 win.
"We're trying to bore everyone to death," Wannstedt says jokingly. "Without the security blanket Marino provided for our offense, we knew we'd have to run and play defense to win. I've told the players that we're going to be a Giants type of team from 10,15 years ago—three or four yards a carry, back 'em up with good punting, play great defense and field-position football."