"What do I do?" asks Strock mildly. "Well, I stay ready, and try to help as much as I can."
Help? When New York Giants general manager George Young called Strock "a playing coach," he was close. "He has responsibility in the outcome of the game," says Griese. "If Shula takes too long to call a play, Don might suggest something. And Don Shula and Don Strock think a lot alike. They'd probably call the same play anyway."
Marino, the alltime top-ranked passer, with a 96.3 career rating according to the NFL's statistical formula, freely credits Strock with helping him develop into, well, the best pro quarterback in history. "I didn't know that much about Don, because I wasn't a big Dolphin fan when I was in high school or junior high school in Pittsburgh," says Marino, who went on to become an All-America at Pitt. "But when I got here, I kept asking questions. And he kept talking to me."
Although Marino's talent has meant less and less playing time for Strock, the older quarterback seems more content with the situation now than he did when he was part of the "Woodstrock" entity of the early '80s. That was a time when the Dolphins used two different offenses, starting off with a run-oriented game quarterbacked by Woodley, who, if he faltered, would be replaced by Strock and an all-out passing attack.
"He didn't say much about it during that time," says Debby. "But you could see the look in his eye. It was a frustrating time. There were some chances for him to go to other teams, but the thought of having to leave.... I would get really depressed about it. Besides, Don put a lot of effort into this team, and it means a lot to him."
The arrival of Marino as the Dolphin's No. 1 draft pick in 1983 changed the picture: Now Miami had two drop-back passers and Woodley was the odd man out. After that season, Woodley was traded to Pittsburgh. Strock, meanwhile, became Marino's best friend, despite the 11-year difference in their ages. Strock and Debby are godparents to Dan and Claire Marino's son Daniel Charles, born Sept. 4, 1986.
"With us both being quarterbacks and both being from Pennsylvania [Strock is from Pottstown], it was just kind of a natural thing," says Strock. "We're the same kind of people."
"Goofy," says Debby. "The two of them together are like a couple of kids."
The only real source of friction between the two quarterbacks occurs when one or the other is driving a car. Marino, says Strock, plays the radio buttons like a video game.
"After about 10 minutes, I'll turn to him and say, 'Do you realize we haven't heard a complete song yet?' " says Strock.