The Miami Dolphins played their first game on September 2, 1966 and were the first professional sports team in the state of Florida. Those waiting for a glimpse of the greatness to come didn't have to wait long as the opening kickoff of the very first game was run back 95 yards by Joe Auer for a touchdown.
As the Dolphins continued to gain experience those first few years, a talented nucleus was being built by player personnel director, Joe Thomas. With players like Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, Dick Anderson, Manny Fernandez, Larry Little, Nick Buoniconti, Norm Evans and others coming on board by 1969 through the draft or trades, all that was needed was the right coach.
In 1970, the Dolphins gave up a first-round draft pick to the Baltimore Colts for the rights to future Hall of Fame head coach, Don Shula. Also in 1970, a trade was made to get one of the best receivers in the game, Paul Warfield, from the Cleveland Browns. With the addition of offense linemen, Bob Kuechenberg and Wayne Moore as well as defensive players Jake Scott, Tim Foley, Curtis Johnson, Mike Kolen, Doug Swift and Bill Stanfill also coming on board in 1970, the team was ready.
In Shula's first year, the Dolphins won seven more games than the previous year, going 10-4 and making the playoffs. Even though they lost in the first round, it was obvious that a change had taken place in Miami. In 1971, the Dolphins went 10-3-1, again making the playoffs, but this time winning their first-round match-up against the very tough Kansas City Chiefs. That battle became the longest game in NFL history, lasting 82 minutes and 40 seconds and saw the Dolphins prevailing 27-24. The Dolphins then faced Don Shula's former team, the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Colts, in the conference championship. Miami won 16-0, with the game being sealed by one of the best plays in Dolphin history, an interception returned for a touchdown by safety Dick Anderson, during which seven perfect blocks were made on the play. With that win, the Dolphins ascended to the Super Bowl faster than any other true expansion team in NFL history. Unfortunately, Miami lost Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys. But there was a silver lining: most if not all of the players on the team said that the loss was the motivation for the undefeated season that followed. There was a universal resolve to not just get back to the Super Bowl, but to win.
The 1972 season began well with the Dolphins winning their first four games, including a close, hard-fought battle against the Minnesota Vikings in week three. But in week five at home against the San Diego Chargers, starting quarterback Bob Griese went down with a broken ankle and was out for the season. Enter veteran quarterback Earl Morrall, who fit so perfectly into the offense that the Dolphins didn't miss a beat. They defeated the Chargers and then reeled off nine more consecutive wins to finish with the first 14-0 regular season record in the history of the NFL.
After beating the Cleveland Browns in the division championship, the 15-0 Dolphins had to go on the road to face the 12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers at Three Rivers Stadium. This was because home field advantage in 1972 rotated by division and not by record. At halftime of a close game, Shula made the decision to replace Morrall with a healthy Bob Griese. Aided by Larry Seiple's 37-yard first down run from punt formation, the Dolphins went on to beat the Steelers 21-17 to go 16-0 and win another trip to the NFL's biggest game. Super Bowl VII matched the unbeaten Miami Dolphins -- a team that led the entire NFL in offense and defense, while boasting the league's first ever pair of 1,000 yard runners in the same backfield -- against the 13-3 Washington Redskins. Surprisingly, the Redskins were favored. Miami won 14-7, in a game that was not as close as the score would suggest. In doing so, they became the first and only undefeated champions in NFL history. Safety Jake Scott was the Super Bowl VII MVP with two interceptions, but many on the team also had a great game. Manny Fernandez had a terrific game with 17 tackles, 11 of them solo, because the Redskins made the mistake of trying to block him one-on-one for most of the game.
In 1973, the Miami Dolphins were
Super Bowl champions again, going 15-2 to give them back-to-back Super Bowl
championships and a two-year record of 32-2, which is another milestone that
goes unmatched to date. While the Miami Dolphins are recognized for owning
the best one- and two-year records for at least the last 60-plus years, very
few people realize they also own the best three, four and five-year records
over that time frame too. The 1971-75 Miami Dolphins three-year record of
37-5 (45-6 including the post season), four-year record of 47-8-1 (55-10-1
including the post season) and five-year record of 57-12-1 (65-14-1
including the post season) are the best during those 60-plus years. This is
truly an amazing feat, especially when you consider all the great teams that
played during those decades, such as the 1967-71 Baltimore Colts, the
1968-72 Dallas Cowboys, the 1972-76 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1986-90 San
Francisco 49ers, the 2003-07 New England Patriots and the 2005-09
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