The Dolphins are responsible for bringing excitement and glory to Miami football fans for over four decades. Every season, Florida football fans flock to watch their team play at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. The team, part of the Eastern Division of the American Football Conference, has had a history marked by several notable successes, many of which happened within a few short years of the team’s founding.
By 1966, the American Football Conference–then called the American Football League–was still a relatively new organization. The owners of the AFL wanted to expand and were eager to embrace the newly formed Florida-based team. Joe Robbie and Danny Thomas, an attorney and television star, were the team’s first owners. The Dolphins’ early years would get off to a rocky start, though. Year one ended in a record of three wins and 11 losses, and year two had a similar record of four wins and 10 losses.
However, things began looking up soon after. In 1970, the Dolphins had a 10-4 record, earning them their first spot in the playoffs. Things got even better the following year when the franchise made it all the way to Super Bowl VI. Miami lost their first Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys, but they would not have to wait long for another chance. In 1972, the Miami Dolphins became the only team in the entire National Football League to play a perfect season, including their win in Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins. The team earned another NFL record in 1973, becoming the first team to appear in three back-to-back Super Bowls. Moreover, Super Bowl VIII was another Dolphins victory.
The team’s early success coincided with a change in coaching. George Wilson, the Dolphins’ first head coach, was fired in 1969 and replaced by Don Shula in the next season. Shula remained coach for the Dolphins from 1970 through 1995, leading the team through more wins than losses. During Shula’s era, the team’s record totaled 274-147-2. After 1973, the team never again reached the same heights of success, but they remained a formidable opponent during the entire Shula coaching era.
Aside from the head coach, many others were responsible for the Dolphins’ two-decade span of greatness. Larry Csonka and Bob Griese, a running back and quarterback, respectively, were two players who played a large role in the team’s earliest victories. Like the Dolphins, both players had their share of difficulties during the first few years. Csonka got several injuries, including two separate concussions, during the 1968 season. Griese led the team in one of its earliest wins during the 1967 season, but he was forced to sit out part of the 1968 season due to a knee injury. Both Csonka and Griese were among the players who led the team to the Super Bowl in 1971, though, and they continued being valuable assets to the team even after. Csonka left in 1974, but Griese remained until 1980.
Other notable players appeared later in the team’s history. Of particular importance is Dan Marino, a quarterback first drafted by the Dolphins in 1983. Marino played for the Miami franchise from 1983 through 1999. During the course of these seventeen seasons, he led the team to ten playoffs and one Super Bowl. Super Bowl XIX, which took place after the 1984 season, ultimately resulted in a loss for the Dolphins against the San Francisco 49ers. Nonetheless, Marino’s contribution to the team during his stint goes unrefuted. By 1993, he became the fourth quarterback in the League to pass for over 40,000 yards in his career. Similarly, by 1994, he became the second quarterback to throw over 300 touchdown passes in his career. When he retired in 2000, the Dolphins honored his contributions by retiring his number, inducting him into the Dolphins honor roll, and constructing a statue of him outside the stadium.
The decade following Marino’s retirement were filled with ups and downs. Miami finished at the top of the AFC East in 2000 with an 11-5 record and placed second in the AFC East in 2001 with another 11-5 record. The team had difficulty keeping its place toward the top, though, having just as many disappointing seasons as good seasons and frequently changing out its coaches. Dave Wannstedt resigned after four seasons, Nick Saban left after three, Cam Cameron left after one, and Tony Sparano was fired after four, leaving his coaching position in 2011.
As of 2012, the Miami Dolphins‘ head coach is Joe Philbin and its quarterbacks are Pat Devlin, Matt Moore, and Ryan Tannehill. Whether the team will continue along a rocky path or come to reclaim the glory it had beginning in the 1970s and extending through the following two decades is yet to be seen. Given the team’s history of great triumphs after rocky starts, however, many Miami fans have not lost hope for the latter.
- Miami Dolphins: The team’s official website.
- CBS Sports, Miami Dolphins: The CBS Sports fact sheet for the Miami Dolphins.
- Miami Dolphins’ 50 Greatest Players of All Time: The Sun Sentinel’s list of the Dolphin’s most important players.
- History of NFL Uniforms, Dolphins: A brief history of the changes made to the team’s uniform throughout the years.
- Phin Fever: A fan site for the Miami Dolphins.
- The Phinsider: Another fan site for the Miami Dolphins.
- Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders: A history of the team’s cheerleaders.