MINNEAPOLIS -- Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George. And now Dan Marino?
The NFL's career passing leader is being asked to follow his fellow quarterbacks who made stops in Minnesota to resuscitate their waning careers and get a shot at that elusive Super Bowl title.
Marino was offered Minnesota's starting quarterback job last week in talks with Vikings coach Dennis Green, two sources close to Marino confirmed today. They did not want to be identified.
The offer was first reported Sunday night by ESPN and Fox Sports Net, citing unidentified sources. They said Green assured the former Miami Dolphins star that he would be the starter.
Marino, who has not attracted much interest from other teams, also is considering retirement. The Vikings wanted a decision by Sunday night, but Marino sought more time to make up his mind.
He'll likely make a decision by the end of the week, said one of the sources.
The 38-year-old quarterback became a free agent last month after voiding his contract with Miami. The Dolphins then signed free-agent quarterback Jay Fiedler.
ESPN said Marino's agent, Marvin Demoff, has had discussions with the Vikings on a contract that would fit within the club's salary-cap structure.
Because Marino had an off year in 1999, he could sign a deal with easily reachable incentives that would not squeeze the Vikings too much against the salary cap.
The Vikings, who have shaken up their roster and coaching staff this offseason, are hoping Marino won't pass up a shot at playing with Cris Carter and Randy Moss, who thrived last year with the equally strong-armed George.
Attempts to reach Vikings officials were unsuccessful other than one assistant saying Green issued a directive last week directing his staff not to discuss the quarterback situation.
Green's home telephone number was recently changed and is unlisted. He said recently he'd like a veteran to sign a one-year, incentive-laded deal, but that if he couldn't get the right quarterback, Daunte Culpepper, the team's top draft pick last year, would go into camp as the projected starter.
Green has come under increased criticism for his handling of personnel since winning a front office power struggle last year with Jeff Diamond, who then joined the Tennessee Titans.
Green bypassed Jevon Kearse, who helped the Titans reach the Super Bowl, so he could pick Culpepper. He also picked Dimitrius Underwood in the first round.
The team's neglected defense slipped to 30th in the league last year, and the Vikings fell from Super Bowl favorites to NFC also-rans. Players who recently signed elsewhere have blamed the team's spoiled chemistry on Green's juggling of coaching and management responsibilities.
Cunningham, rewarded for his magnificent 1998 season with a new contract, was benched just 5 1/2 games into his $28 million deal and was replaced by George, who went 9-3 as the starter.
But Green decided not to bring back George, a decision that hasn't gone over well with players and fans alike.
Cunningham refused to renegotiate his contract, and he'll probably be released after June 1 so the Viking can free more room under the salary cap.
Cunningham recently received a $1 million roster bonus and would count $1,833,000 against the cap this year and $2.5 million against the 2001 cap if he's jettisoned after June 1.
Dolphins president Eddie Jones was surprised by the reports about Marino considering Minnesota.
''I'm just flabbergasted,'' Jones said. ''I have no idea about Dan Marino and any report about him going anyplace. I know nothing about where Dan's head is at or what he plans to do.''
When the Dolphins signed Fiedler to a three-year, $3.8 million contract, it was clear Marino had played his last game in Miami.
Marino is the most prolific passer in NFL history. In 17 seasons, he has completed 4,967 passes for 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns, all NFL records.
Injuries have taken a toll in recent seasons, and Marino's play declined sharply in 1999. He threw 12 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions, by far the worst ratio of his career, and his quarterback rating of 67.4 ranked 30th in the league.
Fox reported that Green promised Marino he could do all of his offseason conditioning in Miami, and that Vikings coaches would go to Miami to teach the quarterback the offense.
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