Perfection is hard.
In fact, it’s so difficult to achieve that only once in NFL history has a team finished an entire season completely undefeated, without a loss or a tie. The only team to finish a season with a perfect record is the 1972 Miami Dolphins.
The ’72 Dolphins are one of the most heralded teams in the annals of professional football. While their perfect record is the stuff of legends there are a few things about that season that aren’t well known.
Dolphins starting quarterback Bob Griese broke his ankle in Week 5. He was replaced by professional back up Earl Morrall for the rest of the regular season. Griese would return under center in the AFC Championship game.
Despite being 14-0 in the reason season and having just won a playoff game against the Cleveland Browns, the Dolphins had to go on the road to the play the AFC Championship Game.
In that game, the Dolphins defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-17. That was the same Steelers team that just a week prior beat the Oakland Raiders on the most famous play in NFL history, the “Immaculate Reception.”
The Dolphins capped their perfect season by defeating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. The game featured a famous play known as “Garo’s Gaffe.”
After his field goal attempt had been blocked, kicker Garo Yepremian picked up the ball and tried to pass to a teammate. His form was so awful that he fumbled the ball into the hands of Redskins cornerback Mike Bass who easily returned the miscue for a touchdown.
Now here is the lesser-known part of “Garo’s Gaffe,” the touchdown came with 2:07 left in the game. Not only had the underdog Redskins played fairly well against the undefeated Dolphins, but they actually had opportunities, late in the game, to send it into overtime.
The Redskins almost blocked a punt with 1:14 left and they had plenty of time to mount one final drive to score a game-tying touchdown. While the Dolphins obviously won the game they weren’t as dominate as one might think a 17-0 team would be in the grand finale of their undefeated season.
The Dolphins victory in Super Bowl VII avenged their loss in Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys. The following year, the Dolphins, in what many consider to be a better team than the ’72 version, returned to the big game to handily defeat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII.
The next year, 1974, the Dolphins were bounced out of the playoffs by the Oakland Raiders in the infamous “Sea of Hands” game—Raiders’ running back Clarence Davis made a miraculous catch amongst three Dolphins defenders. This was to be the end of the Dolphins dynasty.
Star players like running backs Larry Csonka, Jim Kick and wide receiver Paul Warfield left the NFL for the upstart World Football League. The Dolphins offense also featured running back Mercury Morris, guard Bob Kuechenberg, and future hall of fame linemen Jim Langer and Larry Little.
The defense on the Dolphins Super Bowl teams was dubbed “No-Name” due to the lack of publicity they received. The squad was led by linebacker Nick Buoniconti, tackle Manny Fernandez, and safety Dick Anderson.
The Dolphins made the playoffs a few times in late 1970’s but would not return to the Super Bowl until the early 1980’s. During this period, the Dolphins were involved in two famous NFL games.
January 2nd, 1982, the Dolphins lost to the San Diego Chargers 41-38 in “The Epic in Miami.” The playoff game featured great performances from both teams as numerous records were set throughout the course of the contest. The closely fought game was eventually decided in favor of the Chargers, via a field goal, nearly 14 minutes into overtime.
The other game of note occurred on December 12th, 1982 in New England. It’s known in NFL lore as “The Snow Plow Game.” Patriots head coach Ron Meyer ordered Mark Henderson, a convict on work release, to plough a swath of field for his kicker, John Smith. The field goal was good and it would be all the points the Pats needed to defeat the Dolphins, 3-0.
The Dolphins would once again return to the Super Bowl after the 1982 season. This team featured the “Killer B’s” defense starring Bob Baumhower, Bill Barnett, Doug Betters, Glenn Blackwood, Lyle Blackwood, Kim Bokamper, and Bob Brudzinski. However, they weren’t good enough to stop the Redskins from defeating the Dolphins 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII.
In the offseason, the Dolphins changed the face of their franchise by drafting Dan Marino. Despite being the last quarterback taken in the first round of the 1983 draft, he would go on to become the greatest passer to ever take a snap in the NFL.
Selected to nine Pro Bowls, and awarded the 1984 NFL MVP, Marino rewrote the record books for quarterbacks. When he retired in 1999, after spending his entire career with the Dolphins, Marino held the records for the most passing yards, touchdowns, attempts, and completions (all have since been broken by Brett Favre). His record of 5,084 passing yards in one season, set in 1984, still stands as 2008.
In 1985, Marino led the Dolphins to arguably one of the greatest regular season victories of all-time. The Dolphins defeated the Bears in an epic Monday Night Football game to end Chicago’s own quest for a perfect season.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins faithful and for football fans, Marino never won a Super Bowl. He would play in Super Bowl XIX against the San Francisco 49’ers but lose 38-16.
Next to Marino, the name most associated with the Miami Dolphins is coach Don Shula. The legendary coach retired from the Dolphins in 1995 with 347 wins, the most in NFL history. He won two Super Bowls, five AFC Championships and one NFL Championship. Shula walked the sidelines in six Super Bowls, the most ever for an NFL head coach. He was four time NFL Coach of The Year.
When he joined the team in 1970 he said he had no magic formula and knew that the only way to make the Dolphins successful was through hard work. That in a nutshell is hall of famer Don Shula.
The Dolphins have made the playoffs several times since Shula retired but they have not returned to the Super Bowl. They haven’t even come close to replacing Marino. The Dolphins have fielded a string of mediocre, or worse, quarterbacks since his departure.
The nadir of the franchise’s struggles occurred in 2007 when the team finished 1-15. However, late in the season their fortunes changed when they hired Bill Parcells as Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
After cleaning house, Parcells hired one of his former assistants, Tony Saprano, as head coach. With newly signed Chad Pennington under center, the Dolphins shocked the football world by winning the AFC East in 2008.
The Dolphins were an AFL expansion team in1965. Originally, the franchise was owned by Joseph Robbie and actor Danny Thomas, although Robbie quickly bought out Thomas.
A contest was held in 1965 to name the new Miami franchise. Fans submitted over a thousand names spread out in over 19,000 entries. The name “Dolphins” was eventually chosen as the winner by a seven-member committee comprised of luminaries from the Miami media.
Remarkably, 622 people suggested the name “Dolphins.” The team couldn’t give all those people lifetime passes to Dolphins games so to determine a winner the committee asked all 622 applicants to predict the winner and score of a 1965 college football game between Notre Dame and the University of Miami. Mrs. Robert Swanson of West Miami won the tie-breaker and the eternal Dolphins tickets by quickly predicting a 0-0 tie.
The Dolphins play their home games at Sun Life Stadium.