In this blog we a celebrate a consistent franchise and as we delve into its greatness we discover how amazing one man’s coaching career was and the lasting effects.
1966 was a great year! My all-time favorite car was produced and lucky for me that Impala, Caprice, Bel air & Biscayne set of variations sport one of the most high volume production numbers of any single model made in one year. If you look that car up I think you will agree it was and is the best looking car ever to roll off an assembly line! I hope to have another one someday. On the football front the south gained a pair of pro sports franchises when the Atlanta Falcons joined the National Football League & The Miami Dolphins joined the American Football League. The Cincinnati Bengals joined the Dolphins in the AFL in ’68 and the New Orleans Saints joined the NFL in ’67 to round out the 26 teams that formed the merged league in 1970.
Yesterday I ran into a great guy named Terry and saw his Falcon hat then I noticed his falcon arm warmer and then he rolled that down to show me his Falcon tattoo. He was lucky enough to be able to see a copy of NFL Since 1970 and now I am making him an ATL version to reduce the frustration of my easily stumping him on Falcon history trivia. Terry has a ways to wait for the Atlanta blog as I am only on team #5 since 1970 and they are #24. Great to meet a fan of a less popular team although I would prefer he was pulling for his hometown Buffalo Bills. So on to the team fans of those Bills & the Jets fans love to hate but have been replaced by the Pats since 2000 on the top of the no-love totem pole.
Actor Danny Thomas was a brief partner with Joe Robbie in the formation of the Miami Dolphins in 1965. He sold soon after and Robbie, a Minnesota Viking season ticket holder in 1965, went on to be sole owner until his death in 1990. Some oddities about that 1st season:
- Joe Auer starts his pro career in Buffalo in 1964, wins the ’64 & ’65 AFL titles with the Bills, moves on to the expansion Dolphins(maybe in the expansion draft) and takes the team’s first ever game kick-off back 95 yards for a TD! Joe plays ’66 & ’67 in MIA, then ’68 in ATL and ends up passing away in the days just prior to the pandemic in March. The guy had a super interesting life and included a run in my other favorite sport of NASCAR as a car builder. (He is a really interesting topic to research!)
- First ever Dolphin Head Coach, George Wilson, was a rookie head coach 9 seasons earlier when he guided the Detroit Lions to the 1957 NFL Championship. It was one of 5 winning seasons in his 12 as a head coach (none with Miami) and his 2 playoff games that earned him that ’57 title were never added to. But wait there is more…. In all of sports can you beat a scenario where a Dad is the head coach and the son the key player on a pro-sports team? That is exactly what George Wilson and George Wilson Jr. experienced that first Dolphin season when Jr. was the quarterback for the first 7 games. Lucky for me my Denver Broncos were not the only victim of this father-son duo as they beat the Houston Oilers the week after beating Denver. That Oiler game ended their run together with a 2-5 record as Jr. played a small role at running back the rest of 1966 and then called it a career. I love that stuff…what a fun fact.
Brilliant Move To Start NFL Team History In Miami…
The Dolphins under the elder Wilson won 3 that first year and added one win each of the next two seasons but when 1969 ended (AFL ends also) with another 3 in the win column Joe Robbie went big with his young & horrible franchise. The Baltimore Colts had hired its former player Don Shula off that staff Wilson build in Detroit and the Lion defensive coordinator in 1961 & ’62 took the reins of the Colts for the ’63 season. So starts a career as a pro-football head coach that lasts until the end of 1995. A just-barely winning rookie season is followed up by a loss to the Cleveland Browns in the 1964 NFL title game. (Shula was spotted by Cleveland’s Paul Brown when he went to scout Syracuse U. against Don’s small school in Ohio & drafted him in 1951.) In ’65 Don & the Colts again make the playoffs but run into a dynasty as the Green Bay Packers harness the Colts 13-10 on the way to its first of 3 straight NFL tittles by ’67. In 1968 the Packers relent and the Colts win the NFL title over the Browns in a season that only that same Cleveland organization, traveled to Baltimore (sound familiar?), and kept them from a perfect regular season. Unfortunately for Colts fans, unlike in1964, the NFL title game didn’t mean the season was over… It was on to Super Bowl III for Shula and the Colts when a guy named Joe Namath and his AFL New York Jets Show up in Miami. The rest is history and only a rare guy like Shula would warrant a digression like this from the team I am blogging about. All this to leads up to the fact a team like Miami could ill afford to give up a first-round pick for a guy not hitting the field like they did in 1970 when they convinced the Colts to let Shula come south. Interestingly the Colts win Super Bowl V in 1970 with the team Shula built but 1971 sees his Dolphins win the 2nd ever AFC championship (lost Super Bowl VI To the Dallas Cowboys) and then the next two Super Bowls see the Washington Redskins & Minnesota Vikings fall to a Dolphin club with a combined 26-2 regular season record. Of course that includes the only undefeated season in NFL history when Don leads two QB’s to run the table in 1972. (Shula’s 1985 team made a shoestring tackle on the Chicago Bear organization when they beat them on a Monday night game to be the only blemish on a 15-1 Bear team that went on to beat a Tom Brady-less (then age 8 in No. Cal.) New England Patriots team in Super Bowl XX. Amazingly, the Dolphins had gotten lucky the year before when the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to trip up the San Francisco 49ers in their own 15-1 run that year. Had the Steelers not beaten the 49ers …that year’s Super Bowl would have had extra meaning since they faced & beat Dan Marino’s Dolphins in his only shot at a title in year 2 of a career that ended in 1999… the league is a tangled web no doubt about it.
Dolphins History Since Last Super Bowl Appearance in Jan. 1985
NFL Since 1970 is a reference book in which I show how each NFL team progressively ranks in winning percentage during the 50 seasons since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970 and when I first sat down to create this compilation I had a name picked out. Chasing Dolphins was what I though was a really compelling title since, despite losing that Super Bowl XIX to the 49ers, Miami regained the #1 team in regular seasons winning percentage since the merger . They Never relinquished that top spot earned… thru the final 60% of the 1980’s and 100% of both the 90’s & 00’s just an amazing domination of that stat. A stat that, after Super Bowl wins, holds huge bragging rights for fans in having the ability to say my club has the top winning percentage of all regular season games. As I was putting the final touches on it and unaware of the final standings of ’70 to ’09 to end the 40th season in 2009 the Steelers head to Miami in early Jan. 2010. Unbelievably, the result of the Steelers 30-24 win resulted in both teams having a 372 – 242 – 2 record in all games since both played their first games as members of the American Football Conference in ’70. Astronomical odds in that happening caused me to have to go 4 decimal places to determine who held that top spot heading into the 5th decade of the combined leagues. Miami completed the 26th year at #1 by winning the computation .6056 to .6055 (both team had won 60.5% of all regular season games at that point). From the “I couldn’t make this stuff up” department my Denver Broncos played a roll in this outcome as the Dolphins opened their 1st AFC Championship season of 1971 in Denver and the Broncos coach, Lou Saban, pretty much didn’t want to start off season 11 in Bronco history with a loss so he made sure a tie was assured. Denver was 0 for 11 in posting a winning season but he made fans really upset with the lame attempt to beat this younger organization that had its first winning season the year before. If you are a big fan you may know the odd stat that up until kickoff 1972 any ties games in the NFL were not factored into the winning percentage. After ’72 a team was basically given credit for half a win with a tie. The AFC West was won by KC in ’71 with a 10-3-1 record and a .769 PCT and in ’72 the same record was credited with a .750 PCT when the Raiders won it. All that to say the Denver tie meant the Dolphins played one less game than the Steelers and gave them the top spot heading into 2010 in NFL Since 1970.
Post Shula & Since The End Of Ranking #1 In Wins in 2009
Shula retired after the 1995 season and his Dolphin record can be found on my page from that year since his stellar 257-133-2 accomplishment was started in ’70 when the merger started. He won 66% of all his games in Miami and that momentum has carried this franchise through many lean seasons and unfortunately for young fans of the team success has been fleeting with one AFC East title & 2 wildcard game loses since realignment in 2002. Shula had just 2 losing seasons… one coming with a brutal injury situation in 1976 as the roster was decimated and the other was his only 10 loss season in 1988. For the longest time they were the leader in that stat showing crazy consistency and are now tied with the Minnesota Vikings for 3rd with eight 10+ loss seasons having had 7 of them since 2004. I’ll leave this around franchises blog on a positive not as best I can in saying that if you are a fan you have to be around of doing the Cowboys and Vikings as the only organization that have never been outside the top 7 in winning ing percentage in these 52 seasons. In fact, Miami’s current 5th postion is the lowest it has ever placed and even with the lack of playoff appearances to be able to say that while so many organizations never get to the wining side of my complication or even have years and years of quality football a head of them to even think about being a .500 organization since the merger. The Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titan, SD/LA Chargers & NY Jets are fellow former AFL clubs have never won more games than they lost when you watch their progression from ’70 to ’19 and they are joined by 3 NFC teams that also kicked off in 1970 not been “winners” in cumulative seasons. (Surprisingly current bottom feeders… Lions and Cardinals… were winners in the 1970’s). This club may hold the distinction of a best ever season in 1972 and that may not be beat by a team going 21-0 or 20-0 but as I say when I give football history talks the Dolphins are a bookend team in that they also posted what may be the worst season in sports history. They finished 15 games out of first in a 16 game season (2007). Miami won 1 game while the Patriots lost zero.
I begrudgingly tell Dolphin fans to keep their chins up. It has been so long since the team has been a threat to anyone but 3 straight winning seasons going into 2023 is the longest string of winning since ’97-’03.