In 1972 the Miami Dolphins became, and remain, the only team in the Super Bowl era to achieve perfection in a season, including the playoffs, when they went 17-0. The circumstances that surrounded the team that year made the accomplishment that much more impressive. Though the Dolphins achieved perfection, when there is talk of the greatest teams of all time the 1972 Dolphins are rarely mentioned. Let’s take a look at look at their credentials.
In 1971 the Dolphins, during their 6th season of existence and the 2nd year under Coach Don Shula, finished the regular season with a 10-3-1 record and made their first appearance in the Super Bowl. They would lose Super Bowl VI, 24-3, at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. The expectations for the Dolphins the following year were higher with the Super Bowl appearance, but no one was sure how this team would bounce back. As the season began, it looked great for the Dolphins, until week 5.
In week 5 the Dolphins lost Bob Griese, their starting quarterback, to a broken leg. The Dolphins were forced to rely on journeyman 38 year old quarterback Earl Morrall, who was with Shula in Baltimore. Morrall was the perfect game manager and allowed the three headed running attack of Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris to handle most of the workload. The Dolphins also relied on their “No-Name” defense to hold opponents in check. The Dolphins coasted through the season with one close game against the Jets where they prevailed 28-24. When the season was over the Dolphins were 14-0, but still had to deal with the playoffs.
In the Playoffs they drew the Cleveland Browns in the first round and found themselves in a tough game, that they ended up winning 20-14. The next week for the AFC Championship game the Dolphins actually had to go on the road and play the Pittsburgh Steelers. The following year the NFL made a rule change that the team with the best record would earn home field advantage. In the Championship game the Dolphins were trailing and then the hero, Bob Griese, returned (his first appearance since his injury in week 5) to lead the Dolphins from behind to win 21-17.
The Dolphins faced the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl and ended up winning 14-7, despite one of the worst plays in Super Bowl history made by kicker Garo Yepremian. If you have not seen the play you can find it online or in any of the early NFL follies videos. The Dolphins finished the season 17-0 and as NFL Champions, yet this team gets overlooked as one of the greatest of all time.
The schedule that the Dolphins faced is seen as weak by many. They overall winning percentage of their opponents was .397 and they only faced 2 teams with winning records. They were led by a journeyman quarterback in Morrall and they did not have a lot of flash, which is why I believe they are bypassed. The fact remains that the 1972 Dolphins have 6 players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little and Paul Warfield. The final argument for the Dolphins should come from one of their own and I think Larry Csonka made a great argument when he said “Perfection ends a lot of arguments. There may come a time when another team goes undefeated and wins the Super Bowl…when that happens, I know their fans will take as much pride in that accomplishment as Dolphins fans take in the 1972 season.”