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JOHNSON GETS OFFENSIVE ABOUT MIAMI'S WOES

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said he wants quarterback Dan Marino back next year and Marino said he wants to come back. They might be the only recognizable faces on the Miami sideline and offensive huddle.

Offensive coordinator Gary Stevens was hung out to dry by Johnson after Sunday's 17-3 playoff loss to the New England Patriots. Without saying Stevens' name, Johnson left little doubt the changes he has in mind start with the coordinator he inherited two years ago (although Stevens was Johnson's offensive coordinator at the University of Miami from 1984-88).

"We've got to take a close look at a lot of different areas," Johnson said. "When you're last in the league in running (average), something's wrong."

Dolphins defensive end Trace Armstrong said Johnson apologized to the team that he and his assistant coaches hadn't better prepared the team for the Patriots, and later Johnson criticized Miami's audible system without explaining why he hasn't insisted on changing it.

"There's all kinds of built-in ways to audible, but if you have a set pattern over a long, long time . . . when we did try to change, it screwed us up more than it screwed up the opposition," Johnson said.

Stevens left the locker room in a hurry and was not immediately available for comment.

Johnson's relationship with Marino has been under question all season, but the collapse of the offense during the stretch made it obvious the Dolphins have no running game and only one reliable receiver, O.J. McDuffie, who was shut down with three catches for 6 yards Sunday.

"Dan's got a contract, Dan's a competitor and Dan can win football games," Johnson said. "Yeah, I want him back."

"I want to play as long as I can," Marino said. "I can still play at a high level. I'm disappointed right now because I thought I could make a difference."

"Dan's a great quarterback," said Patriots tight end/fullback Keith Byars, cut by Johnson last year in Miami. "In my opinion he's the greatest there is, but Dan can't do it all. He can't throw it and catch it too. The greatness of Marino is the people who have been around him.

"He's constantly preaching to his players, 'Give me some Y.A.C. Give me some Y.A.C.' Yards after the catch. That's what helps make Dan Marino great. His quick release, you're throwing the ball short and making long runs. Dan doesn't like to throw 40 or 50 yards downfield. He's not a mad bomber. Look at his record. He had great receivers around him -- (Mark) Duper and (Mark) Clayton, Nat Moore, Keith Jackson, myself out of the backfield. He doesn't have all those play makers."

Marino was under constant pressure Sunday by the Patriots. He was hurried nine times and sacked four. He had six passes knocked down, two intercepted and fumbled twice.

"You never know when it's going to be your last game," Marino said. "You want to do whatever you can do, and today we didn't have anything offensively. . . . I made two mistakes, two interceptions, and we're just not good enough right now to overcome that."

"He's such a great competitor. He tried his best to do what he could," wide receiver Lamar Thomas said. "With all that's happened, it's kind of hard to look him in the eyes."

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