Posted by: sking29 on Jun 23, 2010
Sking29 is an admin @ Pile of Wit and a contributing member of Phinzmania
Now I don’t claim to be a professional writer or journalist but what I do claim to be is a professional Miami Dolphins fan (but without the getting paid part which professional usually means). Furthermore since it is the off sesason new Fins information is hard to come by so what do I do? Create my own. That’s what.
With that said I want to welcome everyone to my, “Top 10 Moments that Changed Miami Dolphins History…with a few honorable mentions and in no particular order other than chronologically.” Also I want to welcome everyone to extremely long titles. :)
So let’s begin:
1960: Ralph Wilson Fails to Place A Team in Miami
Many Fin fans know that in 1960 the eventual owner of the Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson, requested to have his AFL franchise be placed in Miami. However in a major stroke of luck for millions of future Fins fans the city of Miami turned away his bid sending Ralph to Buffalo and leaving Miami a barren wasteland for professional football (like a 1960s Los Angeles). Apparently Miami who had a taste for professional football before with the Miami Seahawks wasn’t quite ready to give it another go after that colossal failure. It was this decision to reject Ralph Wilson that would five years later give birth to our glorious Miami Dolphins.
1965-66: Joe Robbie and Danny Thomas Establish the Miami Dolphins
Where Ralph Wilson had failed five years earlier, Joe Robbie and Danny Thomas succeeded in 1965 and in 1966 the Miami Dolphins were born. Now if we were ranking the events in Miami Dolphins history this would certainly be number one because without this there would be no Miami Dolphins. Additionally as a quick note before moving on, I bet you didn’t know that the name “Dolphins” was the top name choice among fans in a contest to name the team or then yet again maybe you did, regardless you know now. :)
1970: Don Shula Hired As Head Coach
Arguably the most influential single person in Miami Dolphins history is Don Shula and to think the Dolphins survived four whole years before he was hired in 1970. Shula who was previously the coach of the Baltimore Colts came into Miami and immediately changed the atmosphere. He transformed a team that had struggled in 1969 to a team that went 10-4 in his first year. From here we all know the story as Shula went on to win two Super Bowls, recording a perfect season in the 1972 championship year, and would be the Head Coach of the Fins through 1995. The hiring of Don Shula is what took a struggling ex-AFL team in South Florida to one of the most feared teams in the NFL during the 1970s and 1980s. Even today us fans still consider him an all-time Fin even though he hasn’t coached a single game in the NFL in almost two decades.
1972: The Year of Perfection
Outside of Fins Nation the most well known fact about the Dolphins is the perfect 17-0 season in 1972, the only NFL team to ever do so. Even casual NFL fans know our team for this reason and every time a team threatens the Dolphins’ perfect season the memories of 1972 are brought up again. It is the Perfect Season that sets the Dolphins apart from every franchise in NFL history and will keep the Dolphins in the spotlight until the record is eventually broken. This is the moment that is perhaps our sweetest and what makes us all so proud to call ourselves Fins fans.
1983: Dan Marino is Drafted
By the Los Angeles Express of the USFL. Now I bet you didn’t see that coming but it is in fact true, Dan Marino was drafted by the USFL. However Marino would turn that opportunity down and sign with the Fins instead as we all know. Remember earlier I mentioned Don Shula being the most important person in Dolphins’ history, well, if he has a challenger to that title it comes from the QB he himself drafted. We all know and love Marino as our all-time Dolphins QB only challenged by Bob Griese in our hearts. For many young Fins fans, like myself, Dan was the reason we became Fins fans as we grew up watching him sling the ball all over the field. To many Dan is the greatest pure passer the NFL has ever seen and he’s synonymous with the Miami Dolphins. Ask any person, not a Fins fan, to name the greatest Dolphins player ever and I bet 95% will say Dan Marino. Along with Shula, Marino made the Dolphins an NFL powerhouse during the 1980s and into the 1990s until his eventual retirement after the 1999 season. However Marino would continue to be a presence after his retirement in that all QBs since his retirment have been, and forever will be, judged against his accomplishments. I can safely say that Dan Marino was the best and most important player to ever suit up for the Miami Dolphins.
1985: The Fins Stop the Bears Pursuit of Perfection
In Week 13 of the 1985 NFL season on the cold winter day of December 2nd the Miami Dolphins beat the Chicago Bears 38-24 and ended the first real threat to the 1972 perfect season held by the Dolphins. Many thought the Bears couldn’t be beaten but a strong offensive performance by the Fins shocked the stingy Bears defense as they sliced and diced them throughout the game. The Bears would eventually go on to win the Super Bowl that season and didn’t lose another game. Without this one shocking performance the legend of the 1972 perfect season would have died that night and never grown to the legendary status it has today.
January 15, 2000: The Jacksonville Massacre
On this day in Dolphins history the Fins suffered their worst playoff loss ever (62-7) and it was also the last game of Dan Marino’s career. Additionally, one day later Jimmy Johnson would retire as head coach and the Dave Wannstedt era of futility would begin shortly thereafter. Although Y2K was avoided about two weeks earlier for the rest of the world, for Fins fans it just decided to wait a couple weeks. Ever since this day the Miami Dolphins have yet to find a definitive head coach and QB for the future. It was the death of an era and a new life beginning for a franchise moving into the 21st century.
2004: Ricky Williams Retires Before Training Camp
Perhaps the most shocking moment on this list came when start running back Ricky Williams quit the teams shortly before training camp in what was expected to be a Super Bowl caliber year for the Fins. Widespread outrage spread throughout the Fins fan base and left the team scrambling for answers as they were built around the running game. The team would go on to finish 4-12 with Head Coach Dave Wannstedt being fired halfway through the season (perhaps a bright spot to the season depending on who you ask). With Ricky’s retirement the Fins went from a team on the rise to a punching bag for opponents and opposing fans. Although Ricky’s retirement didn’t have the lasting effects as other moments on this list the effect it had on fans and the team itself in what could have been a Super Bowl season is why it is so important. In what arguably would have been the Fins best chance for a Super Bowl in the previous 20 years was thrown away the day Ricky retired.
2007: Nick Saban Leaves the Fins Hanging
If the 2000 Jacksonville playoff game and then the surprise retirement by Ricky Williams wasn’t enough bad luck to send Fins fans over the edge the departure of Nick Saban to Alabama after the 2006 season was. After denying several reports linking him to the Alabama job and flat out saying that he wasn’t going to accept the position on January 3, 2007 Saban was on a plane to Tuscaloosa. Much like the Ricky Williams retirement less than three years earlier this also sent the Dolphins into scramble mode but this time for a head coach. Eventually San Diego Chargers Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron would be hired and the Fins would finish the 2007 season with a franchise worst 1-15 record. Saban’s departure was another nail in the coffin of what many Fins fans considered the worst in Dolphins history up to that point.
2008: 1972’s Perfection Preserved
On February 3, 2008 the New England Patriots entered Super Bowl XLII trying to become the first team to finish a season a perfect 19-0 and tie the 1972 Dolphins for the only perfect season in NFL history. For Fins fans there was only one team that could prevent this but unlike 1985 it wasn’t the Dolphins but instead the New York Giants. In what would become an instant classic filled with miraculous plays, like David Tyree’s miracle head catch, the Giants would win the game 17-14 preventing the Patriots perfect season bid. Although the Dolphins weren’t involved in this game I know it has a special place in many Fins fans’ hearts because if there was ever a team many of us didn’t want to see tie our beloved 1972 Fins perfect record it was the Patriots led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Luckily for us the Giants stepped to the plate and protected our most cherished record and because of that Super Bowl XLII has to go down as a moment that changed Fins history.
1. The Buffalo Bills hire Marv Levy as Head Coach in 1986 and the New England Patriots hire Bill Belichick in 2000. With both of these hires both Buffalo and New England became teams that constantly finished ahead of Miami during the season for around a decade each preventing Miami’s advancement towards another Super Bowl.
2. Don Shula retires after the 1995 season (1996). The reason his retirement changed Fins history isn’t just because it was a legend retiring but also the fact that the Dolphins have yet to pin down a coach to get them past the divisional round of the playoffs.
3. Bill Parcells joins the Dolphins as Vice President of Football Operations after picking the Dolphins over the Atlanta Falcons on December 19, 2007. This proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Dolphins in the first decade of the 21st century and it immediately showed as Parcells’s first year in Miami saw Miami go from 1-15 to 11-5 to capture the AFC East. The Parcells effect is still being felt and one can only guess what the future may hold.