The Dolphins and Jaguars will tee it up tonight for the 10th time in the series' history. Miami can even the battle for Florida supremacy in the AFC with a win; Jacksonville's 1999 AFC Divisional round playoff route of the Dolphins gives the team from North Florida the 5-4 head-to-head advantage.
That playoff game is one that Dolphins fans remember for all the wrong reasons. The 62-7 result came six days after Miami scored the final 10 points in a Wild Card round comeback in Seattle. Unfortunately, it would be the last victory in the brilliant career of Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Marino.
Marino collected every accolade an individual can obtain in the NFL. Winner of the 1984 NFL MVP Award, first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and the owner of most league passing records on the day of his retirement.
Earning praise from a player with that trophy case is the highest honor. Marino referred to another Dolphins lifer as the toughest player with which he ever shared a huddle. Wide receiver O.J. McDuffie caught 415 passes – most of them from Marino – and scored 30 total touchdowns for the aqua and orange.
McDuffie caught five passes for 82 yards in that '99 Wildcard win at Seattle and was the intended target on the final pass Marino would ever throw the following week in Jacksonville. On today's episode of the Drive Time Podcast with Travis Wingfield, McDuffie talked about that defeat that ended both the Marino and Jimmy Johnson era in Miami.
"We played Seattle the week before all the way on the other coast," McDuffie said. "We were already a banged up team. I had to ice my foot the entire six-hour flight back. Jacksonville was better than us, no excuses; but I thought we got the short end of the stick with the schedule. We had the late game Sunday then the early game (the following) Saturday. We weren't even a step behind Jacksonville that day. We were steps – multiple steps behind."
You can hear McDuffie on his own show on the Miami Dolphins podcast network. He and co-host Seth Levit – who worked in PR for the Dolphins from 1996-2004 – detail the never-before-told stories of Dolphins lore with some of the most recognizable names in the franchise's illustrious history. On the crossover edition of Drive Time, Levit recalled the speech that Jimmy Johnson delivered on Friday before that notorious trip to up I-95 to Jacksonville.
"After Friday practices, Jimmy would do the 'everybody up' and in those days, even as PR guys, we'd be able to get on the field," Levit said. "I remember Coach saying, 'you guys have seen what we've seen, you've watched the film. We know exactly who they are! We're gonna go out there and kick their ass!' So I was ready to go down and be a wedge buster myself.
"I wasn't in there watching film but if coach says it, and everybody's all hyped up that we were gonna to go in there in beat the heck out of these guys, I was too," Levit said. "Apparently he was watching a different film. It was a rough way to go out."
The 62-7 playoff loss was the second game between the new in-state foes. Jacksonville, whose inaugural season was in 1996, took the first two matchups over Miami, starting with a Monday Night prime time showdown in 1998. Jaguars running back Fred Taylor scored a pair of touchdowns including a long run to open the game.
"For some reason I was down on the sideline at kickoff," Levit said. "On the first play of the game he came around the end. He ran by and it sounded like I was standing on the side of I-95 with trucks going by."
Those games in '98 and '99 were the only times McDuffie played against Jacksonville; a game that he didn't consider a rivalry despite the close geographical proximity of the two teams.
"I think (a rivalry) has to be developed over time," McDuffie said. "We didn't think about what they were doing because they were in a different division. We were so consumed with the Jets, the Bills, the Patriots and Indianapolis at that point."
Let's get to a victory for the good guys in this in-state clash. The 2003 season featured the franchise's first win against Jacksonville. In that game, it was the running back of the Dolphins who made the splash play of the day.
Ricky Williams took a handoff working left, but the Jacksonville defense beat him to the spot. The 2002 NFL rushing champion reversed field and wound the play back to the right where he received a key block from quarterback Jay Fiedler.
"Seth talked about hearing Fred Taylor run by; listen to Ricky Williams run by you," McDuffie said. "What a beast of a runner he was."
That touchdown opened the scoring. Cornerback Sam Madison put the final stamp on the game with a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Miami a 24-10 lead and a 4-1 record at that point of the 2003 season.
The Dolphins will look to repeat the performance from that day nearly 17 years ago tonight in Jacksonville. The Dolphins can even the all-time series at five games apiece.
You can listen to Ricky Williams, Jay Fiedler, Jason Taylor and a host of other Dolphins alumni on the Fish Tank podcast with O.J. McDuffie and Seth Levit.