50 years later, the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ undefeated season remains undefeated.

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

It’s useful to quickly clarify one aspect of the ’72 Dolphins’ accomplishments – for a subtle reason, the term “perfect season” (rather than “undefeated season”) is often used to describe the campaign. Although ties are uncommon in today’s game, they were once relatively common. In the 1920s, four teams technically finished their season ‘undefeated’, although each of them finished with at least one draw. For example, dolphins are harmless and tiles The 1972 season is unique in NFL history. The league itself acknowledged the team’s peerless performance – the ’72 Dolphins were considered the greatest team in NFL history during the league’s centennial celebration in 2019.

Despite such recognition, it has become fashionable to downplay the achievements of the ’72 Dolphins. Critics argue that the Dolphins faced a weak regular season schedule that year. While true, the idea that their schedule was the main reason for the team’s success does not stand up well to scrutiny. Aside from the obvious counterpoint (ie, the ’72 Dolphins are far from the only team in NFL history to face a poor schedule, but they is (the only team with a perfect record), football’s infatuation with data makes it possible to outline team greatness through statistics, poor schedules or not.

The Dolphins didn’t just win every game in 1972 — they did it in a historically consistent fashion. The Miami offense scored more points and gained more yards than any other team that year. Meanwhile, their defense limits opponents to both the fewest points and fewest yards in the league. No other team in NFL history has ever led the league in points and yards on both sides of the ball and won the championship in the same year.

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

Focusing on the numbers, however, ignores the anecdotes and memories that are the building blocks of any legendary endeavor. For example, a persistent urban legend on the ’72 Dolphins is that surviving members of the team gather for a champagne toast each season when the last remaining undefeated team loses. Although this is not true, the story, like many myths, has its roots in reality.

“It started because Bob Grice, Nick Buoniconti and I all lived on the same street,” Anderson said, referring to his two Hall of Fame teammates, “and every time the last team lost, we’d go with a bottle of champagne to celebrate.” Anderson clarified that the celebrations quieted down when Gris and Buoniconti got off the road, but it still “puts a big smile on your face when the end [undefeated] The team loses a game.”

The team-wide champagne toast may be a tall tale, but there are enough true stories surrounding the team’s perfect season to justify its place in NFL history. Take Dolphins punter Larry Seiple’s famous 37-yard run on a fake punt in the AFC Championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Playing Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh was not an easy deal,” Seiple said. “The week before we even went to Pittsburgh, we looked at it and realized … there’s an opportunity to be able to run if needed for a first down because of the route. [the Steelers defended] Their punt returns.” There was, however, one caveat – head coach Don Shula (another Hall of Famer) instructed Seiple to go for the fake punt only when instructed to do so from the sideline.

“Well, I got a little bored and started on my own,” Sepple says. “It was one of those things, in the heat of action— [the gap in the defence] It was so open, my grandmother could have walked through it… I couldn’t help myself. The only thing I was thinking about was making it down first. If I hadn’t done that, 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 how different life was in the NFL 50 years ago. Many noted that the 1970s felt a strong sense of camaraderie with other players, a feeling they felt diminished or even absent from the modern game where big money changed the way teammates interacted. Offensive lineman Doug Krusan, for example, lived with several teammates in a beach house north of Miami throughout the 1972 season. He and his teammates even carpool to practice together.

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

Living with teammates, however, was not an exercise in team building. It was a financial decision – salaries were also very different 50 years ago.

“[The money I earned from] Those two games, the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, were more than I was paid,” said Cruzan, who received $8,500 and $15,000 for each game, respectively. Small salaries then meant many players on the ’72 Dolphins had second jobs. Krusan worked at an NGO during the offseason Sepple was in a public relations role for the Dolphins. Anderson sold insurance not only in the offseason, but on Mondays after regular season games (“My coaches didn’t like it,” he recalled).

The differences aren’t just off the field – the way the game is played has also transformed. Describing the changes on the field over the past half-century, Krusan said, “The clear difference is the way they pass blocks versus what we were allowed to do. They are now allowed to extend their arms straight out, almost like doing a bench press. Our arms couldn’t be more than a 45° angle … you had to be really close to the other player. We had a lot more — I’ll call it “pugil contact” — where everybody could hurt each other.”

Larry Little, Crusan’s Hall of Fame colleague on the offensive line (yes, still other Hall of Famer), have similar sentiments. “They hold every play now … they can call every play of every game a holding play [nowadays] If they want,” he said.

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

And, there are a lot of fat people out there now,” he adds with a laugh. “There’s a lot of ‘belly bumping’. i was huge Then, but I wasn’t fat.”

Little credit goes to his coach for encouraging him to stay fit. “Shula made me lose weight when I came to Miami,” she says. “It’s helped me a lot … in this hot heat here in Miami, I can play the whole game without getting tired.”

Little isn’t the only member of the team who speaks fondly of his former coach (Shula died in 2020 at age 90. Many members of the ’72 Dolphins helped make him a surprising 90m birthday party a few months before his death). Indeed, respect for Shula is widespread among the ’72 Dolphins.

“I didn’t learn anything about football until that first year at Miami,” Charlie Babb said. Studied football under Don Shula. I mean, lights and bells go off along the way [Shula and his staff] Conducted and studied the game.”

A 22-year-old rookie safety, Babb was the youngest player on the ’72 team. He took what he learned in film sessions with Shula and created a momentum-changing play of his own to help preserve the Dolphins’ perfect record, as did Sepple.

He successfully blocked a punt against the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the playoffs, returning it for the only touchdown 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 punt and scored that touchdown, my mom claimed she peed her pants.” Even on a team with multiple Hall of Famers, it was timely plays from Babb, Seiple and others that proved crucial in building a legacy that still exists today.

“It’s the liveliest team I’ve ever been involved with – I think someone Everybody’s affiliated with — because it’s still competing,” explained Larry Sonka, the team’s Hall of Fame fullback. “Every year we come back to life. It is against us [the undefeated team of the current season]”

Csonka is perhaps the most famous member of the ’72 team. To many younger fans, he is perhaps best known as the only player in NFL history to be penalized for unnecessary roughness. carrying Ball (“Shula wasn’t real happy about it … she started yanking me by the shirt.”) Despite her star power, Chasanka refused to dominate the Dolphins’ perfect all-around limelight this season, Chasanka laughs, recalling the play.

“There is a unity going on with the 72 teams,” he says. “It was all of us. Charlie Babb stepped up, Larry Seiple stepped up … they made the difference on one or two or three plays, [and those plays] Made the difference in the season. That’s how finite it gets. This is how Competitive That is, you’ll be able to say you’re the number one team in league history, the only one to go from the first game to the championship and win it all. It’s something you’re more proud of because it reflects Group workNot just a few stars.”

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

50 years later, the 1972 Miami Dolphins’ undefeated season remains undefeated.

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