CHARLOTTE — “(Cam Newton) is the real deal,” Dan Marino said to a capacity crowd at the Westin Hotel ballroom Tuesday.
Invited to be a part of the Charlotte Touchdown Club’s Luncheon Speaker Series, Marino went on to say the Carolina Panthers need to surround Newton with more playmakers, particularly at wide receiver.
Yet when asked which quarterback Marino would choose to start a franchise, the Hall of Famer mentioned Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, not Newton.
Marino answered questions for nearly an hour. He was asked about everything from Pittsburgh accents and Miami restaurants to concussion awareness and the potential for NFL expansion.
Asked about the hardest hitter from his playing days, Marino evoked the name of undrafted linebacker Rufus Porter.
“Most of you probably don’t remember Rufus, but I certainly do,” Marino said. “He knocked me out.”
Porter delivered that hit Sept. 27, 1992, while playing for the Seahawks. Though Marino was still woozy after the game, he only missed one play before coming back in and finishing the drive with a touchdown in a 19-17 Dolphins victory.
That game was just one of many that made Marino an all-time great. The Pittsburgh native was drafted 27th overall in the 1983 draft by the Miami Dolphins. He spent all 17 years of his career in Miami, where he became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 40 touchdowns and 5,000 yards in a single season.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and the 1984 NFL MVP. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
But Marino never won a Super Bowl. He made the big game just once, losing 36-18 to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX.
Marino said he would have gotten more chances to get a Super Bowl ring had it not been for rival Buffalo, which made four straight appearances during his prime.
Marino also discussed his current rivals, the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show, which is more prevalent in the Carolinas because Fox broadcasts most Panthers game. Marino said his NFL Today crew on CBS is better than its Fox counterparts.
As for Fox analyst and former Steelers great Terry Bradshaw, who Marino watched growing up – he’s OK, Marino said.
Speaking about his NFL Today co-analyst Bill Cowher, Marino said he thinks Cowher might still have an itch to coach, but he doesn’t see the former Pittsburgh coach returning to the sideline in the near future.