I don't normally come in here and post full copies of my posts but this is by far the one I enjoyed doing the most and because it is on a team that every Dolphins' fan should be proud of. I worked really hard at writing something that would do it justice, but I feel like that is something that can only be determined by a true fan which is why I wanted to share it.
I hope that's OK
Are the 1972 Dolphins truly the best team to ever play the game?
It seems as though there is no topic of greater debate when it comes to football than whether or not the 1972 Dolphins are indeed the greatest team to ever play the sport and whether or not achieving that perfect season is actually as great an accomplishment as all Dolphins’ fans claim it is. Yet, despite the controversy, oftentimes, there comes a time in the each season when a team’s performance and record prompts talk of whether or not that team will actually pursue perfection. Some teams choose not to strive for it, instead, they are happy to rest their players to decrease their chance of injury and increase their chances of success in the post-season. Others have tried, most recently, the 2007 New England Patriots, but none of them have succeeded.
The 1972 season would be Don Shula’s third season with the Dolphins, and coach Shula and his young team of players went into the season knowing they had something to prove. The previous season, Shula coached the Dolphins team into the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance only to be crushed 24-3 by the Dallas Cowboys; they ended that season with a 12-4-1 record, yet many people still didn’t see this team as something special.
In week 5, in a game against the San Diego Chargers, starting QB Bob Griese went down with a broken leg and a dislocated ankle. He wouldn’t return to play until the second half of the Division game against the Steelers, a game in which he proved he was ready to start in the Super Bowl, which is exactly what he did. The impact that backup QB Earl Morrall, made on the team can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked though, because not only was he essential in guiding the team to the playoffs, he maintained the team’s perfect record, and became the leading passer on the AFC as well, despite having missed those first few games.
This offense, however, was not lacking in talent in other departments. The top three WR, Paul Warfield, Howard Twilley and Marlin Briscoe averaged over 18 yards per carry, with Warfield leading the team with 20.9 yards, numbers which are impressive even by today’s standards, even considering that the league has turned the game into a passing game. And they were also dominant in the running game, becoming the first team in NFL history to have two players, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, rushing for over 1000 yards. The team itself averaged over 200 yards per game, another stat which again, is impressive even compared to today’s standards.
The “no name defense” as it became known after Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry couldn’t recall any of their names, was the best defense in 1972. They led the league in total yards, allowing only 3297 and scoring, allowing only 171 points or 12.2 points per game. They allowed only 18 touchdowns in the regular season, and had 26 interceptions (second only behind the Steelers with 28) and 33 sacks.
The Dolphins went into Super Bowl VII as a two point underdog despite being the undefeated team. And they finished the season with a close to perfect game. Bob Griese completed 8 out of 11 passes for a total of 88 yards and a TD, Larry Csonka rushed for 120 yards, and the defense was superb. The Dolphins led 14-0 and the single TD by the Redskins came as a result of a miscue at the end of the game, when kicker Garo Yepremian attempted to throw a blocked field goal which was then intercepted and returned for a TD.
Six members of the 1972 Dolphins have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with coach Don Shula, they include: Nick Buoniconti, linebacker and the driving force of the “no name defense”; Larry Csonka, fullback and MVP of Super Bowl VIII; Bob Griese, quarterback and six times Dolphins MVP; Jim Langer, one of the finest centers to ever play; Larry Little, guard and the embodiment of the intimidating force of the teams rushing attack; and, Paul Warfield, one of the premier wide receivers ever to have played in the NFL.
Yet despite all the stats, when the lists of the greatest teams to ever have played get put out by the media, the Dolphins fail to show up at number one more often than not. ESPN for example, ranks them at number two behind the 1985 Chicago Bears, this is their argument:
“Consider, for example, that the Dolphins played one of the easiest schedules in modern NFL history – the opposition had a combined winning percentage under .400. Unlike the 1985 Chicago Bears, the Dolphins didn’t stroll through the playoffs. They beat the Steelers in the AFC title game by only four points, 24-17 and were underdogs going into the Super Bowl against the Redskins, who they defeated 14-7. Undefeated underdogs? That means you are not beaten but beatable.”
This is basically the same argument other people make, and truthfully it is so ridiculous I don’t even know where to start, so I guess I’ll address the points in the order in which they were presented. The Dolphins didn’t choose their schedule, it was given to them, and you can only beat those teams which you play. There were many teams before and there have been many more since that have played weak schedules, yet they have failed to accomplish the same result so I don’t understand how anyone can make a valid argument out of that.
Also, while it is true that the Dolphins didn’t stroll through the playoffs, like the Bears did, it is also true that the Dolphins played most of the season with a backup QB. The one time the Bears backup QB Steve Fuller was called into action to take the place of starter Jim McMahon who was sidelined with a pinched nerve the team fell behind forcing McMahon to come into the game. Had McMahon suffered the same injury Bob Griese suffered and been out for most of the regular season it doesn’t seem likely the Bears would’ve strolled through the playoffs, honestly, it’s hard to tell if they would’ve even made it. This same argument can be made in regards to the AFC title game, while also noting that there was no such thing as home field advantage then, and the game was actually played in Pittsburgh.
But the best part of this argument is by far the last line, because not only do they point out how incoherent it is that an undefeated team was considered an underdog but they actually make an argument that the team can’t be considered as great because although not beaten they are beatable. Weren’t the 1985 Chicago Bears beat as well??? As far as I remember the 1985 Dolphins led by quarterback Dan Marino beat them 38-24 on a Monday Night Football game week 13; that’s a solid two touchdown difference!
Don Shula has also shared his thoughts on the subject saying: “I never thought the accomplishment has been treated properly in history. “The Forgotten Team” Buoniconti calls it and that sounds right to me. The Lombardi Packers, the Steel Curtain Steelers, the 49ers of the 80s – for some reason those are the teams that seem to get history’s first mention as the greatest ever. And, it’s true, they were great teams with great achievements, but were any undefeated for the season? Did any of them go 32-2 en-route to two Super Bowl titles? Isn’t that how you measure success?”I have to answer his question by saying he is right. As Bill Parcells once said, you are as good as your record says you are, and the 1972 Dolphins were perfect. In the forty four years that professional football teams have competed in pursuit of the Super Bowl, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team that has ever achieved perfection. They did what seemed impossible, pushed the limits and against all odds succeeded, but most importantly they did something that hadn’t been done before and hasn’t been done since. So get the champagne bottles ready boys, because when those undefeated teams lose, we are not celebrating their loss, but honoring our wins, and in a sport were old records seem to be broken year after year, this is the one record that has stood the test of time, and that’s something every Dolphins fan should be proud of.
And to answer the question which started this article, there is no better team in history than the 1972 Dolphins.