The lesson of Super Bowl XIX for the Miami Dolphins is that if they intend to win the NFL championship in the near future, they'll need a stronger supporting cast for their quarterback, Dan Marino.
Some of the evidence:
--With their journeyman running backs, they got a net 25 yards rushing Sunday.
--Their pass rush couldn't keep San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana from passing.
--Their linebackers couldn't keep him from running.
In the wake of the 38-16 defeat, Coach Don Shula will have to make repairs in the off-season, although not terribly many. Marino is a great passer and doesn't need a lot of help. But to win the Super Bowl someday, he will have to have a better team around him than he had this season.
One difference between the coaches, Bill Walsh of San Francisco and Don Shula of Miami, is that Walsh has proved to be a better judge of talent.
Since starting almost from scratch only five years ago, Walsh has put together one of the finest teams in NFL history. It lacks only great speed at wide receiver and stronger linebacking to be perhaps the finest.
Walsh has used trades and free agents as well as the draft to build wisely.
Some of the evidence:
--When teams such as the Rams and San Diego Chargers balked at paying modern salaries for such defensive stars as Jack Reynolds, Fred Dean and Gary Johnson, Walsh made a home for them.
--When hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah became available for pro football as a wide receiver, Walsh submitted the high bid.
--Walsh acquired three-fourths of his secondary in one draft--meaning that all 27 other NFL coaches passed on one or all of them.
Explaining Sunday's victory Monday he said: "A lot of talented men played inspired football."
That tells a lot of it.
The 49er payroll is the highest in the league, but club owner Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. doesn't stop Walsh from seeking out, and paying, quality.
"The difference between our payroll and other teams' isn't that much," the 49er owner said. "It amounts to a couple of players."
With that philosophy, DeBartolo has won two Super Bowls in four years.
The 49er running backs provided the most conspicuous difference between the Super Bowl teams.
Halfback Wendell Tyler and fullback Roger Craig were surely among the 49ers Walsh had in mind when he spoke of his club's inspired talent.
Craig was tearing around, even making a one-handed catch, and Tyler was pounding along for a 5-yard average.
Comparing the accomplishments of the passers, Paul Hackett, San Francisco's quarterback coach, thought for a moment and said: "Montana had help from his running game."
The 49ers became a complete team the day they got Tyler from the Rams for a second-round draft choice.
The Rams and Dolphins both possibly erred that day--the Rams by trading Tyler within their division and the Dolphins by not getting him. With Tyler, the Dolphins would have had at least one running back this season.
Sunday's game was won and lost in the second quarter when the score changed from 10-7, Miami, to 28-10, San Francisco, on six straight series, three by each team.
In their three possessions, the Dolphins failed to make a first down and turned over the ball each time. The 49ers got three touchdowns.
Was Miami frustrated in that quarter by its quarterback or by the 49er rush?
Game films show that all three Dolphin series ended when Marino under threw open receivers on third-down plays before the rush could bother him.
In other words, on this day Marino beat himself.
At 23, only two years out of college, Marino probably was a victim of Super Bowl pressure.
"The first time you're in this game, the pressure is so thick you can hardly breathe," former coach Dick Vermeil said.
When Marino's running backs couldn't make a yard and the Dolphin defense couldn't stop Montana in the second quarter, the tension apparently got to the young quarterback.
First Marino lost confidence in himself, then the Dolphins lost confidence in Marino, and, finally, the 49er defense poured through the gates.