The Miami Dolphins compete in the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference, playing their home games at the Dolphins Stadium, having moved there from the Miami Orange Bowl in 1987. Established in 1966 by Joseph Robbie, the Dolphins (also known as ‘the fins’ and ‘the fish’) are based in the Florida Metropolitan Area of Miami. They are currently the longest serving major-league sports franchise to be based in the state of Florida.
The franchise enjoyed its most successful era in the 1970s when they appeared in three consecutive Super Bowl Championships, winning two of them in 1972 and 1973. They made history in the process, becoming the first NFL team to play in three successive Super Bowls.
Their success in 1972 included the first perfect season in NFL history as they won all 14 regular season games, followed by two playoff games and a Super Bowl. To this very day, no other NFL team has managed to achieve this feat.
The Dolphins can thank the most successful head coach in the history of American football, Don Shula, for their dominance in that era.
In the 26 years that he was at the club, his Dolphins team only had a losing record in two of them. Under his guidance, the Dolphins won a staggering 274 times, culminating in eleven Division Championships, five Conference Championships, and two Super Bowl titles.
Why the Dolphins?
The history of the Dolphins begins when lawyer Joseph Robbie and actor Danny Thomas bought the team franchise for $7.5 million in 1965. After joining the American Football League, a competition was set up in which the public had to send in ideas for names for the new Miami franchise.
Nearly 20,000 people entered the competition, with names such as the Mustangs, Missiles, Moons and Sharks being put forward. But it was the word Dolphins that caught the ears of the panel, as 622 people submitted the particular name.
The Early/Glory Years
The Dolphins enjoyed very little success under the direction of their first head coach, George Wilson, but that was all to change with the arrival of their next head coach, Don Shula. He immediately stamped his authority on the team, placing emphasis on hard work.
His training regime has gone down in folklore, as he wasn’t afraid to put the team through their paces, and often put them through four enduring workouts a day. It is an understatement to say that this hard work paid off.
The Dolphins secured their first AFC championship in 1971, after they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game – the longest game in NFL history, lasting 82 minutes and 40 seconds. However, the success for that season ended there, as they lost 24-3 against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.
The 1972 season was one to be remembered, however, as many records were broken. The Dolphins posted the first ever perfect season, culminating in their first Super Bowl victory, as they defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7.
The NFL single-season rushing record was also broken, as both Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris rushed for 1,000 yards, becoming the first pair to do so in NFL history. The Dolphins also had future Hall of Famers in their offensive line, with Jim Langer and Larry Little enjoying a great season.
The Dolphins continued their success into the next season, as they secured their second successive Super Bowl title. Unfortunately, they could not quite record another perfect season, as they finished with a 12-2 record in the AFC East division. Nevertheless, they won Super Bowl VIII at the Rice Stadium in Houston, as they overpowered the Minnesota Vikings 24-7.
The Miami franchise would go on to win their fourth consecutive Division Championship in 1974, but failed to feature in yet another Super Bowl as they were defeated by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the playoffs. This particular game is still considered today as one of the best games ever to be played in the NFL.
After 1974, the Miami Dolphins experienced a dip in form. Having lost influential players such as Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield, the Dolphins recorded a losing record in the 1976 season, courtesy of eight defeats. It would be a further three years until the Miami faithful would taste success again.
In 1979, after Csonka returned to the club, the Dolphins won the division for the first time in five seasons with a 10-6 record. However, another Super Bowl eluded them as they lost 34-14 to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who went on to win the Super Bowl, in the divisional playoff game.
After such a successful era in the 1970s, the Dolphins had a tough act to follow in the following decade. Fortunately, with with Shula still calling the shots, they continued to be a force to be reckoned with in the 1980s.
The team won the AFC East division again in 1981 after finishing with a record of 11-4-1. This winning record set up a playoff game against the San Diego Chargers, and what a game it was. Recognised as one of the greatest games in NFL history (and aptly named ‘The Epic in Miami’), the Dolphins were at one point trailing 24-0 before embarking on a great comeback to narrow the Chargers’ lead to just seven points.
Amazingly, the comeback continued and the Dolphins were in front in the fourth quarter before San Diego levelled the scores to 38-38 with a minute remaining. Even more surprisingly, the Dolphins were denied a dramatic win as Kellen Winslow blocked a field goal try from Uwe von Schamann with just seconds remaining. Miami were made to pay for this missed opportunity, as Rolf Benirscke kicked the winning point in overtime, sealing the win for the Chargers.
After another appearance at a Super Bowl in 1982 (a game they lost Washington 27-17), the Dolphins continued to dominate the AFC East division in the early 1980s, as they were crowned champions in 1983, 1984 and 1985.
In the 1983 season, rookie quarterback Dan Marino was named Rookie of the Year in the NFL after securing the AFC passing title with a ratio of twenty touchdowns against six interceptions. Much of his success was down to the exceptional offensive line in front of him. However, the team did not manage to progress any further than the divisional playoff, as they lost to the Seattle Seahawks.
Marino continued to perform consistently in the following season, and provided the best set of passing statistics in NFL history to date. This record included over 5,000 passing yards, 48 touchdown passes and 362 completed throws.
For his excellent season, the quarterback was voted MVP in the NFL. The Dolphins again made it to the Super Bowl, where they faced the San Francisco 49ers. Miami lost the game 38-16.
The Dolphins won their division again in 1985 with a 12-4 record. Many people expected them to make Super Bowl XX, but they lost in the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots. This loss would signal the start of an unsuccessful era for the Miami Dolphins, as it would be another seven years until another title was won, despite Marino’s continued heroics.
After their success in 1985, the Miami Dolphins struggled to remain a dominant force in NFL. They have been crowned AFC East division champions just three more times since that date (1992, 1994 & 2000).
Since their success in 2000, the Miami Dolphins have failed to conjure up another serious title challenge. However, one notable point in their history came in 2007, when the team played at Wembley Stadium against the New York Giants – the first NFL game to be played outside of North America – and lost 13-10.
This compounded a dreadful season, as the Dolphins finished with a bleak record of 1-15, equalling the record for most losses in an NFL season. It remains to be seen whether or not having the number one overall pick in the draft for the 2008 season will pay dividends. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure, the Miami Dolphins are no longer a force they once were.
- Super Bowl Championships– Winners (1972, 1973)
- AFC Conference Championship – Winners (1971, 1972, 1973, 1982, 1984)
- AFC East Division Championships – Winners (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1992, 1994, 2000)
- Wild Card – Winners (1978, 1990, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001)
Hall of Famers
- 42 Paul Warfield, WR, 1970-74
- 39 Larry Csonka, RB, 1968-74 & 1979
- 62 Jim Langer, C, 1970-79
- 12 Bob Griese, QB, 1968-80
- 66 Larry Little, G, 1969-80
- 347 Don Shula, Head Coach, 1970-95
- 57 Dwight Stephenson, C, 1980-87
- 85 Nick Buoniconti, LB, 1969-76
- 13 Dan Marino, QB, 1983-99
- 12 – Bob Griese, QB, 1967-80 (number retired at the Dolphins’ annual awards banquet in 1982)
- 13 – Dan Marino, QB, 1983-99 (number retired at half time against the Baltimore Ravens in 2000)
- 39 – Larry Csonka, FB, 1968-74 &1979 (number retired at half time against the Chicago Bears in 2002)
Best team of all-time
In 2007, fans of the Miami Dolphins voted for their best team of all time, and the following names were included:
- QB Dan Marino
- RB Mercury Morris
- FB Larry Csonka
- WR Paul Warfield
- WR Mark Clayton
- TE Jim Mandich
- OT Richmond Webb
- OT Norm Evans
- OG Larry Little
- OG Bob Kuechenberg
- C Dwight Stephenson
- PK Olindo Mare
- Coach Don Shula
- DE Jason Taylor
- DE Bill Stanfill
- DT Tim Bowens
- DT Manny Fernandez
- MLB Zach Thomas
- OLB Bob Brudzinski
- OLB Bryan Cox
- CB Sam Madison
- CB Patrick Surtain
- SS Dick Anderson
- FS Jake Scott
- P Reggie Roby
- ST Jim Jensen