If you live in Miami, one thing is virtually a given: you are a fan of the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League. The Dolphins are a way of life in Miami and their success over the years has kept the team in the headlines.
The Miami Dolphins didn’t start off as an NFL, rather they were an American Football League expansion team in 1965. Owner Joseph Robbie reportedly paid more than $7 million in expansion fees to bring the franchise to life.
In their first four years of existence, the Miami Dolphins struggled. In each season, they finished with more losses than wins. But after the NFL-AFL merger prior to the 1970 season, the Dolphins began a historic stretch of dominance.
Three main people would lead the Dolphins into the ’70s: head coach Don Shula, quarterback Bob Griese and running back Larry Csonka. In 1970, they finished 10-4 and advanced to the playoffs for the first time — where they ended up losing to the Oakland Raiders. The next season, Miami was 10-3-1 and were in the playoffs again. This time they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Colts to make it to the Super Bowl. Though the Miami Dolphins lost to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl, the team established itself as a legit contender.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins football season is perhaps the most famous season in the history of the NFL. After going 14-0 in the regular season, they beat the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers to make it to the Super Bowl. This time, the Miami Dolphins became Super Bowl champions with a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins. That Miami Dolphins football team remains the only team in the history of the NFL to go undefeated on their way to a Super Bowl victory.
The winning days weren’t over for the team. They went 12-2 in 1973 and with wins over the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, they won back-to-back Super Bowls. The Miami Dolphins became the second team in NFL history to win consecutive Super Bowls and the first team to reach the super Bowl in three straight seasons.
Miami was again a good team in 1974, finishing the regular season 11-3. However, they lost in the first round to the Oakland Raiders to end their Super Bowl streak. Following the 1974 season, the Miami Dolphins lost running backs Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick along with wide receiver Paul Warfield to the new World Football League. The loss of those three players are thought to be the main reason why the Miami Dolphins never won another playoff game in the Bob Griese era.
With Shula still the head coach, a new star quarterback came to town in 1983: future Hall of Famer Dan Marino. By Marino’s second season, he had Miami Dolphins football flying high again. The Dolphins went 14-2 in 1984 as Marino set NFL records in pass completions (362), passing yards (5,084) and touchdown passes (48). In the playoffs, the Miami stormed through the first two rounds by beating the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers by a combined score of 76-38. But, unfortunately, the Super Bowl didn’t go as smoothly. The San Francisco 49ers defeated Marino and the Miami Dolphins 38-16.
Shula would coach Miami Dolphins football until 1995. When he retired, he had the most wins in NFL history (347). Amazingly, he finished with more losses than wins only twice in his 32 years of coaching.
Until 1999, Marino was the quarterback for the Dolphins. He finished his career with NFL career records in pass completions (4,967), passing yards (61,361) and passing touchdowns (420). Marino’s number 13 was retired by the Dolphins, along with number 12 for Bob Griese and number 39 for Larry Csonka.
All told, the Dolphins made the NFL playoffs in 22 of their first 38 years in the NFL and are one of the most successful teams in league history. To this day, Sundays during football season are when Miami residents put aside differences to watch their Dolphins battle on the gridiron at Sun Life Stadium.
Photo credit: Ed Yourdon