Miami Dolphins Football
The Miami Dolphins are an NFL team based in the state of Florida. Their home games are played at Dolphin Stadium, in the suburb of Miami Gardens. Located in the AFC East, the Fins (they are also nicknamed The Fish) are the oldest major-league sports franchise in the state.
Dolphins Team Logo
The NFL Miami Dolphins logo has remained fairly consistent through the years. It depicts a helmet-wearing dolphin with a sun shining behind him. While the dolphin’s head was originally positioned near the center of the sun, it was altered slightly in 1974 so that the dolphin’s body was centered there.
Beginning of the Franchise
In 1965, an American Football League expansion franchise was awarded to actor Danny Thomas and lawyer Joseph Robbie for $7.5 million. Thomas would later sell his interest in the team to Robbie.
A contest was held to determine the name of the team. The name “Dolphins” was submitted by 622 entrants. Other names which received consideration were: Mustangs, Missiles, Sharks, Suns, Moons, Marauders and Mariners.
During the late 60s, the team struggled and never had more than five wins in a season. Their combined record during the first four seasons was 15-39-2.
Enter Don Shula
In 1970, the AFL and NFL merged. This was also the year that Don Shula was hired to coach the team. Shula preached hard work, and his training camps were grueling affairs. But it paid off, as Miami went 10-4 in their first season under Shula and made the playoffs for the first time in team history.
With players such as running backs Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, quarterback Bob Griese and wide receiver Paul Warfield, the Dolphins made it to the Super Bowl the next three seasons. While they lost Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3, they rebounded to win back-to-back world championships (14 – 7 over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII and 24 – 7 over the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII).
Shula, meanwhile, would go on to coach the team for 26 years. During that span, his teams would only have a losing record twice. He finished his career with the Dolphins, posting a combined record of 257-133-2. According to these statistics, Don Shula is the most successful coach in the history of the NFL.
The Perfect Season
In 1972, the Dolphins became the first (and only) team to win every game in an NFL season. They went 14-0 in the regular season, won two playoff games, and then defeated the Redskins in the Super Bowl. Their defensive unit during this impressive run was known as the No-Name Defense. To this day, the members of the 1972 squad gather and open a bottle of champagne whenever the final undefeated team loses during an NFL season.
The Sea of Hands
In 1974, the Dolphins once again reached the playoffs, ending the year with an 11-3 record. But they were upset by the Oakland Raiders in what is now commonly called the “Sea of Hands” game. It was so dubbed because Raiders’ receiver Clarence Davis caught a last-minute touchdown pass while three Miami defenders covered him. With a final score of 28-26, this is considered by many to be one of the greatest games in the history of professional football.
After the 1974 season, three Miami Dolphins stars left the team to sign with the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League. The team’s 1-2 running attack, Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick, and their star wide receiver, Paul Warfield, each left the team for the rival league. Though the WFL went bankrupt and dissolved after the 1975 season, the major legacy of the short-lived NFL rival was that it effectively ended the Miami Dolphins dynasty of the early 1970’s, allowing the oncoming Pittsburgh Steelers to take its place.
The Epic in Miami
Throughout the rest of the 70s, the Dolphins continued to achieve success on the field. In 1980, quarterback Bob Griese would suffer a severe shoulder injury and retire at the end of the season. David Woodley of LSU was brought in to be his replacement, but back-up Don Strock also received significant playing time. This led the media to refer to the duo as “Woodstrock.”
In 1981, the team played another game which has since entered into legend. Known as the Epic in Miami, this one took place in the divisional playoffs against the San Diego Chargers. Down 24-0 at the end of the first quarter, Don Strock entered the game and tried to engineer a comeback.
After pulling off the famous “Hook and Lateral” play to cut the Chargers’ lead to seven, the Dolphins managed to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Chargers tied the game with a minute to play, and Kellen Winslow blocked a Miami field goal on the last play of the game. In overtime, another Miami field goal was blocked, and the Chargers finally made a field goal of their own to advance in the playoffs.
Dan Marino and the 80’s
Miami Dolphins Football was greatly aided in the early 80s by the Killer B’s defense (so named because each member’s last name started with the letter B). They were so dominant, in fact, that the Dolphins made their fourth Super Bowl appearance in 1982. In Super Bowl XVII, they lost to the Redskins by a score of 27-17.
In the third game of the 1983 season, Shula made the decision to replace quarterback David Woodley with rookie Dan Marino. Throwing to receivers such as Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, Marino went on to win the AFC passing title and capture NFL Rookie of the Year honors.
The following year, Marino set a number of records in his first full season. He completed 362 passes for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns. He was later voted league MVP for the season. The Dolphins advanced all the way to Super Bowl XIX, but ultimately fell 38-16 to the San Francisco 49ers. This would be the only Super Bowl in which Dan Marino ever played.
The team struggled over the course of the next five seasons, although they did make the playoffs in 1985. That same year, they managed to give the Chicago Bears their only loss of the season.
In 1986, the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 1977. They would not return until 1990.
The Dolphins of the 1990s
The Dolphins rebounded in the 1990s, making playoff appearances in seven seasons during the decade. However, the defense was not as dominant as in years past, and the team only advanced to the conference championship on one occasion, losing to the Bills by a score of 29-10.
Don Shula retired after the 1995 season, and Jimmy Johnson (who had won two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys) took over the team. At the time, there was much speculation that Shula had been forced out by owner Wayne Huizenga.
During this period, the team added players such as running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar, linebacker Zach Thomas and defensive tackle Daryl Gardener. While they did make several playoff appearances, they never achieved the same level of glory as previous incarnations of the team.
In 1999, they suffered the worst playoff loss in NFL history, getting blown out 62-7 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. At the conclusion of the season, both Jimmy Johnson and Dan Marino retired from the NFL.
Falling into a Slump
Dave Wannstedt came aboard as head coach and led the team to two straight playoff appearances. The team turned in strong defensive play from men like Jason Taylor, Sam Madison, Zach Thomas, Brock Marion and Trace Armstrong. The Dolphins also struggled to find a replacement for Marino, relying on quarterbacks ranging from Jay Fiedler to Ray Lucas.
In 2002, the team traded with the New Orleans Saints and acquired the services of running back Ricky Williams. While he rushed for 1,853 yards and 16 touchdowns, the team failed to make the playoffs.
Williams would later surprisingly retire in the 2004 offseason, then return to the team a few years later. Along the way, he would serve a one-year league suspension for substance abuse violations.
While players like Chris Chambers and Randy McMichael made a name for themselves, the Dolphins could never seem to get on track. After starting 1-8 in the 2004 season, Wannstedt resigned and was temporarily replaced by defensive coordinator Jim Bates.
College hotshot Nick Saban was hired as head coach the following season, but he failed to lead the team to the playoffs. After going 9-7 and 6-10, Saban left to once again join the college ranks.
Offensive guru Cam Cameron was brought in as coach, and many expected him to work miracles with the likes of running back Ronnie Brown, quarterback Trent Green and wide receiver Chris Chambers. But the magic just wasn’t there, and The Fins finished the season with an embarrassing 1-15 record.
Before the end of the 2007 season, Bill Parcells was hired as head of football operations. Parcells wasted no time in cleaning house; he fired general manager Randy Mueller, Cameron and the majority of the coaching staff.
The only bright spot to their 1-15 season was that Parcells, himself a Super Bowl winner, would be awarded the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Dolphins – Retired Numbers
The following players have had their numbers retired by the Dolphins: Bob Griese (12), Dan Marino (13) and Larry Csonka (39).
Dolphins Hall of Fame Players
The following players (and coach) have been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio: Paul Warfield (1983), Larry Csonka (1987), Jim Langer (1987), Bob Griese (1990), Larry Little (1993), Don Shula (1997), Dwight Stephenson (1998), Nick Buoniconti (2001) and Dan Marino (2005).