From the Beginning
The Miami Dolphins began to play their football in the American Football League (AFL) in 1966 after their founding by Joe Robbie, who was a successful entrepreneur, politician and lawyer, and nightclub comedian, actor, singer and producer Danny Thomas. The comedian eventually sold his share on the franchise to Joe Robbie making him the majority owner.
The name ‘Dolphins’ was decided on after a contest was run for people to name the team. Out of the 19,843 entries, it was found that 622 were for the name ‘Dolphins’ which was enough to make this the winning choice.
During their early years, the Dolphins weren’t a team to be feared by any means. It wasn’t until 1970 when they managed to pry Don Shula away from the Baltimore Colts – much to their annoyance – to be their next head coach that things suddenly changed for the better and the franchise began its dynasty.
The Dolphins Most Successful Period
Through sheer hard work and long training sessions, the team went to its first postseason but went out in the early round to the Oakland Raiders. Even so, this was a massive improvement on what they had achieved up to this point.A year later they went much further after a 12-4-1 regular season record. They reached their first Super Bowl after only a couple of seasons of having the great man in charge. They actually reached the season finale by beating Shula’s previous employer the Baltimore Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship game.
A year later they went much further after a 12-4-1 regular season record. They reached their first Super Bowl after only a couple of seasons of having the great man in charge. They actually reached the season finale by beating Shula’s previous employer the Baltimore Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship game. On their first attempt at bringing home the top prize, they would ultimately fail at the last hurdle by going down 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys.
The year 1972 would go down in history, not only for the Miami Dolphins but also for the NFL as a whole. This was the year that would see the only ever undefeated season achieved. In this year the Dolphins would win all 14 of their regular season games as well as their 2 playoff games and then Super Bowl VII (7) itself when they defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7. This amazing feat has never been achieved since, although a few teams have come close. This great season also saw the first time that two Running Backs playing for the same team would rush for 1000+ yards each. Larry Csonka would rush for 1,117 yards and Mercury Morris would go for exactly 1,000 yards.
The team’s dominance would continue through the following season of 1973. They would go 12-2 during the regular season and go on to defeat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII (8) for their second title in team history and the second one in as many years.
By this stage, the team had appeared in 3 Super Bowls in as many years and come away as victors in the last 2. This is something else that isn’t really achieved in today’s NFL.
Although they’d make it back to the playoffs in 1974, they would get eliminated in the first game by the Oakland Raiders. This would signal the end of the dynasty that was the 1970’s Miami Dolphins. They would make it back to the playoffs in ’78 and ’79 but wouldn’t make it past the divisional round – this is something that most teams would kill to achieve and shows Don Shula’s continued excellence at his job, but it ain’t 3 Super Bowls in 3 years good.
During their run of Super Bowl appearances and wins the team had been led by future Hall of Fame Quarterback Bob Griese. He led them to all three of their Super Bowl appearances, which included the two wins, but would retire in 1980 due to nagging leg injuries that were hindering his throwing. He was also on the receiving end of a vicious hit in a game against the Baltimore Colts which would cause serious damage to his shoulder. Due to his achievements during his 14 season professional career, Bob Griese was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
1982 would see the season shortened to just 9 regular season games due to a player’s strike. Because the season was so drastically shortened, a special 16-team playoff format was introduced. The Dolphins would play well through this postseason and end up meeting the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VXII (17). They would, however, end up losing this, their fourth-ever Super Bowl appearance, by a score of 27-17 at the Rose Bowl stadium.
In 1983 the franchise would draft a young quarterback that would become one of the most famous names in NFL history – Dan Marino.
Marino wouldn’t have to wait long to get his chance as a starter as the team’s offense was struggling right from the beginning of the season he was drafted. He started week 4 and went on to win the AFC passing title as well as the Rookie of the Year award.
After the slow start to the season, Marino managed to lead them back to the playoffs thanks largely to the brilliant play of his offensive line and that of the ‘Mark Brothers’ – Mark Duper and Mark Clayton – at the wide receiver positions. They made it, again, to the Divisional round at which stage they were beaten by the Seattle Seahawks.
Marino and the Dolphins would improve again the following year. They would go 14-2 during the regular season with Dan setting records in the single-season passing yards, TD passes and completions categories. He was voted NFL MVP as the team powered its way to Super Bowl XIX(19) where they would face the San Francisco 49ers. They would lose this game 38-16 which would give them a record of 5 Super Bowl appearances with 2 wins. This would be their last appearance in a Super Bowl and the only one the great Dan Marino would get to play in.
The late ’80s saw the team struggle due to the defence but things got better once the next decade arrived. The legend that is head coach Don Shula would move into a role as an executive and be replaced by Jimmy Johnson at the head coaching position. Johnson, who had previously won 2 Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys during their dynasty, along with his star QB Marino would lead the team back to several postseasons but wouldn’t go far once there.
In 1995 Dan Marino broke Minnesota Vikings legend Fran Tarkenton’s career passing, TD’s and completions records as he and the team scraped into the playoffs again.
After a disastrous 62-7 hammering at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1999 Divisional playoff game, Marino would announce his retire from the game of football and head coach Jimmy Johnson would also leave the franchise.
Life After The Legends
Since Dan Marinos retirement, the team has struggled to find the next franchise quarterback. They have gone through a few during the 2000’s with none really stamping their authority on the starting job. In 2012 they drafted current QB Ryan Tannehill with the 8th overall pick. Many are pushing and praying for him to be the next big thing at the position for the team but I’m not really sure about that.
They could have ended their QB-woes and already had themselves the next great at that position back in 2005 when they showed a lot of interest in the free agent Drew Brees after he was let go by the San Diego Chargers. He’d suffered a serious shoulder injury to his throwing arm which put the Dolphins off signing him – hindsight says a big, “D’OH!”. Funnily enough, Drew Brees will, hopefully, be leading the New Orleans Saints against the Dolphins in their 2017 Wembley encounter.
Perhaps the lowest point in the club’s history came as recently as 2007 after head coach Nick Saban left to become the highly paid head coach of the Alabama University football team. He left a Dolphins team in transition and they narrowly missed becoming only the second team in history to have a winless season when they managed to beat the Baltimore Ravens 22-16 in overtime of their week 15 game.
After their disastrous 2007 season they managed to turn it around and win the AFC East division in 2008 which is the biggest turnaround by any team in NFL history. Other than that, the team has been pretty inconsistent and quiet up until the 2016 season when they once again made it to the playoffs for the first time since that 2008 season. I personally believe that they could have achieved even more during the 2016 season had they been able to achieve consistency along their offensive line. It was during the period of the season when the offensive line starters were healthy and playing together for a few weeks that Running Back Jay Ajayi and the rest of the offense thrived. Maybe adding a bit more quality at depth along that unit in the off-season could be one of the keys to them achieving great things going forward.
A Successful Franchise?
Basically, yes. All-in-all they have been a very successful franchise to date as they’ve been to the playoffs 23 times with 5 trips to the Super Bowl which have included 2 wins. Also, going to 3 Super Bowls in a row, as they did between 1971-1973, is pretty special.
They’ve also had some of the game’s most recognisable names playing and coaching them such as Dan Marino, Don Shula, Ricky Williams, Jason Taylor, Bob Griese and Larry Csonka. Be sure to have a look around the site as I’ll be doing articles about some or all of them.
The Miami Dolphins at Wembley 2017
The Dolphins games at Wembley are always well supported as was proven again this year with their ‘home’ game against the New Orleans Saints being the first one to sell out. Don’t worry if you didn’t manage to get your ticket(s) as more will go on sale when the team’s players return some of their allocation.
I think the support for the team could maybe stem from their fantastic success during the 1970’s, particularly the early part of that decade once head coach Don Shula was hired. This success carried over into the early and mid-80’s which is when the NFL first started to get noticed more over here in the UK and Europe thanks to the likes of Channel 4 and their weekly highlights/round-up show. Perhaps it’s also got something to do with the cities location as a sunny holiday destination that got Euro fans picking them as their team to support. Whatever it is, I for one am always glad when I hear that the Miami Dolphins are coming over to play one of their regular-season games in the UK.
The Dolphins only really have rivalries with the other three teams that are in their division – the AFC East. Perhaps the biggest of these rivalries is with the Buffalo Bills. This comes from the teams having met four times in the playoffs with the Bills leading the series 3-1.
They have a lesser rivalry with the New England Patriots that is based on the division thing but also because during their fantastic 2008 comeback season – after they went 1-15 in 2007 – the Dolphins were the first team other than the Patriots to win the AFC East since 2002.