NFL - AFC EAST
2022-2023 TEAM LEADERS
Miami Football Team
Miami Team Overview
If Bills’ founder Ralph Wilson had his way, the Miami Dolphins might never have existed. At least not in their current form.
When Wilson was joining the upstart AFL and plotting the location of his franchise, Miami was his first choice. But it was ultimately rejected by the rest of the AFL because of the failure of the Miami Seahawks, an All-American Football Conference team that lasted just one season.
Wilson went to Buffalo and created the Bills, and by the mid-1960s the AFL had softened on its stance against Miami, directing new league owners Joe Robbie and Danny Thomas to put their team in Miami, instead of Philadelphia as they preferred.
As was the case with all expansion franchises, the early days were rough. From 1966 through 1969 the Dolphins averaged less than four wins a season. But during those four years the Dolphins drafted a young quarterback named Bob Griese. And in 1970, after head coach George Wilson was relieved of his duties, the Dolphins signed 40-year-old Don Shula from the Colts, forfeiting a 1971 draft pick to do so.
The Colts used that extra pick on running back Don McCauley, who finished his career with 2,627 yards. Don Shula ended up finishing his career with an NFL-record 347 career wins.
Championships by the Miami Dolphins
Super Bowl VII – The Perfect Season
The difference Shula made was immediate. His first year as the Miami head coach he made the playoffs. The very next season the Dolphins were in the Super Bowl, and lost to the Cowboys. But the next season, 1972, it all came together like it never has before or since.
The Dolphins ran through their regular season without a single blemish. In fact, of their 14-0 regular season record, only three wins came by less than two scores. Miami’s average margin of victory was 15 points and the Dolphins rolled into the postseason as the prohibitive favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Wins over Cleveland and Pittsburgh put the Dolphins in Super Bowl VII against Washington. A suffocating defense that kept Washington scoreless until 2:07 was left in the game (and even then, that was because of Garo Yepremian’s infamous pass off a blocked field goal), finished the job, 14-7, and the Dolphins finished the year a perfect 17-0.
Super Bowl VIII
Miami followed up its perfect season with a third straight trip to the Super Bowl, and a second straight Super Bowl win. The back-to-back Super Bowl victories matched the Packers in Super Bowl I and II. The three straight Super Bowl visits was the first in league history, and wouldn’t be equaled until the Buffalo Bills did it 20 years later.
The Dolphins beat Minnesota, 24-7, and Larry Csonka ran for 145 yards and became the first running back to win the Super Bowl MVP.
Key Stats by the Miami Dolphins
Along with its two Super Bowl victories and perfect season, the Dolphins have played in a total of five Super Bowls – VI, VII, VIII, XVII, and XIX.
Miami has won the AFC East 13 times, which is the second most in history behind the Patriots. Miami’s 23 total playoff appearances is the second most of anyone that got its start in the AFL. Only the Patriots have more.
Along with having Don Shula as the winningest coach in NFL history, the Dolphins were also the franchise to first have a 5,000-yard passer. Dan Marino completed the feat in 1984, and 5,000 yards through the air wouldn’t be equaled for another 24 years when Drew Brees finally did it.
Top Players in Miami Dolphins History
The aforementioned Dan Marino is the greatest quarterback in Miami Dolphins history and one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Along with his 5,000-yard season in 1984, Marino retired with 61,361 career yards. That mark has since been passed, but at the time of his retirement he ranked first in NFL history.
Marino also retired with 420 career touchdowns passes, which was also first all-time at the of his retirement, but has since been passed. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Very few teams have been blessed with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, but the Dolphins also have Bob Griese. The two-time Super Bowl champion was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990. Other members of the perfect 1972 Dolphins to make the Hall of Fame are Paul Warfield (WR), Larry Csonka (FB), Jim Langer (C), Larry Little, (G), and Nick Buoniconti (LB).
Other Dolphins in the HOF are center Dwight Stepehenson and defensive end Jason Taylor.
Top Coaches in Miami Dolphins History
Don Shula is the king, but the Dolphins have had a number of other top head coaches.
Jimmy Johnson won his Super Bowls in Dallas, and it was because of those years that he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But in the four seasons he coached in Miami, the Dolphins made the postseason three times. Very few people could follow the retirement of Shula, but Johnson had the resume and the Miami ties to make it work.
Jimmy Johnson was the first head coach to ever win both a National Championship (Miami, 1987) and Super Bowl (XXVII and XXVIII).
Nick Saban, another National Championship winning college football coach, also coached for the Dolphins. He wasn’t terribly successful in the NFL, winning just 15 games in two seasons in Miami. But he left the Dolphins for Alabama, where he has won six of his seven career National Championships.
The history of Miami Dolphins head coaches really is all about Don Shula. Innovative, he won both running the ball in the early 1970s and going pass heavy in the 1980s. He was an NFL champion as the head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1968 and won a pair of Super Bowls with the Dolphins.
Shula was the NFL Coach of the Year four times (1964, 1967, 1968, 1972) and was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.