Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

IIt’s been 50 years since the 1972 Miami Dolphins became the first (and so far the only) team in NFL history to win every game in a season. For many who played Dolphins that year, it’s hard to reconcile the passage of time with the immediacy of memories. “Fifty years is a long time ago,” laughs Dick Anderson, the Dolphins’ Pro Bowl safety in 1972, but “like it was yesterday.”

It’s helpful to quickly clarify one aspect of the ’72 Dolphins’ success – the phrase “perfect season” is often used (rather than “undefeated season”) to describe the campaign, for rigorous reason. While ties are rare in today’s game, they were once relatively common. In the 1920s, four teams finished their seasons technically ‘undefeated’, although each finished in at least one draw. Therefore, Dolphins’ lossless and no tie The 1972 season remains unique in NFL history. The league itself has acknowledged the team’s unique performance – the ’72 Dolphins were rated as the greatest team in NFL history during the league’s centennial celebrations in 2019.

Despite this much recognition, it’s become fashionable to downplay the ’72 Dolphins’ achievements. Critics claim that the Dolphins faced a weak regular season schedule that year. While true, the idea that their schedule is the main factor in the team’s success doesn’t hold much scrutiny. In addition to the obvious counterpoint (for example, the ’72 Dolphins are far from the only team in NFL history to face a poor schedule, but they has The only team with an excellent track record), football’s passion for data makes it possible to sum up the greatness of the team with statistics, be it poor program or not.

Not only did the Dolphins win every game in 1972, they have historically won it all-around. The Miami offense scored more points and gained more yards than any other team that year. Meanwhile, their defenses limited their opponents to both the fewest points and the fewest yards in the league. No other team in NFL history has led the league by points and yards on either side of the ball and won a championship in the same year.

Members of the '72 Dolphins meet Barack Obama at a White House ceremony in 2013.
Members of the ’72 Dolphins meet Barack Obama at a White House ceremony in 2013. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

However, focusing on numbers means overlooking the anecdotes and memories that are the building blocks of any legendary endeavor. For example, an enduring urban legend imposed on the ’72 Dolphins is that the surviving members of the team gather for a champagne glass each season when the last undefeated team lost. While not true, like many legends, the story has its roots in reality.

“It started because Bob Griese, Nick Buoniconti and I live on the same street,” Anderson says, citing two of his Hall of Fame teammates. “When the last team was beaten, we would go and get a bottle of champagne. Anderson explains that the celebrations calmed down as Griese and Buoniconti moved away from the street, but still “put a big smile on your face when the last celebration was held.” [undefeated] team loses one game.”

The team-wide champagne glass may be a long story, but there are enough true stories surrounding the team’s excellent season to justify the team’s status in NFL history. Take Dolphins bettor Larry Seiple’s famous 37-yard fake tackle run against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game.

“Playing Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh was not an easy deal,” Seiple says. “A week before we went to Pittsburgh, we looked at it and realized… We have a chance to run for a first loss because of the road if necessary.” [the Steelers defended] gambling returns. There was one caveat, however – head coach Don Shula (another Hall of Fame) instructed Seiple to only fake gamble if instructed to do so from the sidelines.

“Well, I got a little impatient and set off on my own,” says Seiple. “In the heat of the action it was just one of those things – [the gap in the defence] it was so obvious that my grandma could have walked through it… I couldn’t help myself. All I thought about was downloading the first one. If I hadn’t made it, I’d probably still be walking home from Pittsburgh – Shula wouldn’t have let me get on the plane.”

Conversations with Seiple and other members of the team also reveal just how different life in the NFL was 50 years ago. Many talk about feeling an intense friendship with other players in the 1970s; it’s a feeling they think has waned or even disappeared in the modern game, where big money changes the way teammates interact. For example, offensive lineman Doug Crusan lived with multiple teammates in an oceanfront house just north of Miami during the 1972 season. He and his teammates even shared their cars to train together.

“You really got to know each other, you shared things,” Crusan says. “We always had a place we had to stop by on our way home a few times a week. You’re sitting there drinking beer – there was a lot of togetherness.”

But living with teammates was not a team building exercise. It was a financial decision – salaries were also very different 50 years ago.

“[The money I earned from] Those two games were more than my AFC championship and Super Bowl salary,” says Crusan, who received $8,500 and $15,000 per game, respectively. Lower salaries at the time meant that many players in the ’72 Dolphins had second jobs. Crusan was out of season. while working at an NGO, Seiple was in a PR role for the Dolphins. Anderson sold insurance not only in the off-season, but on the Mondays after games throughout the season (“My coaches didn’t like it,” he recalls).

The differences are not only off the field, but the way the game is played has also changed. Describing the changes in his position on the court over the past half century, Crusan said, “The obvious difference is what we’re allowed to do with the way they pass blocks. They’re now allowed to extend their arms straight, almost as if they were doing a bench press. Our arms couldn’t be greater than a 45° angle… you really had to get close to another player.We had a lot more – I’ll call it “pugil contact” – that everyone could hit each other.

Larry Little, Crusan’s Hall of Fame counterpart on the offensive line (yes, not yet) another Hall of Famer) has similar sentiments. “Now they keep every game… every game every game they can call it a hold game [nowadays] if they want,” he says.

Quarterback Bob Griese and head coach Don Shula were instrumental in Miami's success
Quarterback Bob Griese and head coach Don Shula were instrumental in Miami’s success. Photo: Toby Massey/AP

Andthere’s a lot of fat guys out there now,” he adds with a laugh. “There’s a lot of ‘belly bumps’ out there. I was… large then, but I wasn’t fat.

Little thanks his coach for encouraging him to stay in shape. “Shula made me lose weight when she came to Miami,” she says. “It helped me a lot… In this sweltering heat in Miami, I could play an entire game without getting tired.”

Little isn’t the only member of the team to speak fondly about his former coach (Shula died at the age of 90 in 2020. Many members of the ’72 Dolphins helped surprise him.pearl birthday party a few months before his death). Indeed, reverence for Shula is common among the ’72 Dolphins.

“I didn’t learn anything about football until my first year in Miami,” says Charlie Babb. “I’m studying football next to Don Shula. I mean the lights and the bells go out along the way [Shula and his staff] handled and studied the game.

Babb, a 22-year-old rookie safety, was the youngest player on the 72 team. He took what he learned from filming sessions with Shula and, like Seiple, produced his own momentum-changing game to help maintain the Dolphins’ excellent track record.

He successfully blocked a punt against the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the playoffs and returned it as the only goal of his career, an exciting game for any player but especially a rookie. “My mom and dad were at that game and when I blocked that goal and scored that goal, my mom claimed he peed in his pants.” It was the timely games of Babb, Seiple, and others that were crucial in creating a legacy that still exists today, even in a team with multiple Halls of Fame.

“The liveliest team I’ve ever been to – I think so anyone’s “Everyone was hooked because they were still competitive,” explains Larry Csonka, the team’s Hall of Fame guard. “Every year we come back to life. against us [the undefeated team of the current season]”

Csonka is probably the most famous member of the ’72 squad. To many young fans, he is known as the only player in NFL history to be punished for possibly unnecessary harshness. transport ball (Csonka laughs as she remembers the game, “Shula wasn’t too happy about that… she grabbed my shirt and started shaking me.”) But despite her star power, Csonka refuses to dominate the limelight surrounding the Dolphins’ perfection. season.

“There is an ongoing association with the 72 team,” he says. “We were all. Charlie Babb stepped forward, Larry Seiple stepped forward … they made a difference in one, two or three games, [and those plays] made a difference this season. That’s how finite it is. how is this competitive that is, to be able to say that you are the number one team in league history, the only team to go from the first game to the championship and win them all. It’s something you’re more proud of reflecting. team worknot just a few stars.”

Even 50 years later, the ’72 Dolphins’ friendship is alive and well.