The NFL’s first dynasty after Vince Lombardi’s Packers was Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins. The only dynasty we never got to see reach its conclusion on the field. After compiling a 32-2 record including two Super Bowls, RBs Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and WR Paul Warfield signed contracts with the rogue WFL. It brought the end to an era where Shula’s ground game and “No Name Defense” ruled the NFL.

super bowl viiiThe most dominant team of 1972 & 1973 would be broken up losing two Hall of Famers in Csonka and Warfield. However their WFL contracts wouldn’t take effect until 1975 meaning the team would be intact for one final season.

The heartbeat of the Dolphin dynasty was its ground game. In the perfect season of ’72, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first backfield tandem to each rush for 1,000 yards in the same season. They nearly repeated that feat in ’73 when Morris rushed for 954 to Csonka’s 1,003.

With the team being breaking up an inevitability, Miami had a threepeat in their sight in ’74. After an 11-3 record there was a feeling the Dolphins were vulnerable. Several defensive starters were out due to injury. Six of their wins were by 7 points or less. Where in ’73, all 12 wins were by more than a touchdown. The wear and tear of upholding that championship mantle had brought them back to the pack.

super-bowl-logo-1973The divisional playoff game would be in Oakland against the revenge minded Raiders. Although Miami defeated them in the AFC Championship Game at home in ’73, the Raiders beat them in the regular season in Berkeley. That win halted the Dolphins 18 game winning streak which was an NFL record at the time. So into the Oakland Coliseum they went…

The game became known as “The Sea of Hands” one of the most famous games in NFL history. The Dolphin dynasty came to an end with Kiick, Warfield, and Csonka jumping to the new league the following season. No one knew Don Shula would go on to be the winningest coach in NFL history. Even more surprising, he would coach through the 1995 season and would not win another Super Bowl.

For the coach on the losing end of Super Bowl III, to the coach who drove his team to the NFL’s only undefeated season, to the man that led his team to 3 of the next 5 title games, culminating with this ring. The second NFL championship ring that crowned a dynasty. Don Shula had taken his place among the greatest coaches in NFL history.

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Undefeated season…17-0 and a win in Super Bowl VII 14-7 over the Washington Redskins and still regarded by many as the best team of all time.  They have the argument in their favor…1 season everyone vanquished…no one else can make that claim.

superbowlviiYet going into Super Bowl VII the Dolphins were a 3 pt underdog. Why? George Allen was completing a rebuilding with old veterans and hadn’t won any big games as a head coach. His Rams couldn’t leapfrog the Packers in the western conference in 1967. He was the Defensive Coordinator for George Halas’ last champion in 1963, but how does that rate better than Shula’s club who had just gone to the Super Bowl a year before?

Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris (both 1,000yd rushers), Kiick ran solidly and Manny Fernandez dominated the Super Bowl from his defensive tackle spot. Back in 1989 NFL Films came up with a fictitious playoff of the greatest teams ever and the last game was the ’72 Dolphins v. the ’78 Steelers. Could the 72 Dolphins handle the ’78 Steelers? Would Terry Bradshaw outsmart Jake Scott or Dick Anderson?  After further review, The Chancellor doesn’t think so.

super-bowl-logo-1972Under the same systems in 1973 when the Steelers played Miami, S Dick Anderson picked off the Steelers 4 times returning them for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was the signature game of a Defensive Player of the Year campaign for Anderson. The No Name Defense was rarely out of position and would make even a more mature Bradshaw make some mistakes. In Super Bowl VII, Jake Scott fooled veteran Billy Kilmer into 2 ints as he went on to become the MVP.

During the 1972 season, they were masterful with 3 shutouts and allowing 10 points or less in 6 games.

visideThe 78 Steelers were giving up some candy to running games and I think the Dolphins would move the ball on them. They gave up 192 yards rushing to the Rams, 181 to Kansas City, 169 to Houston and 155 to the New York Jets. So to think 2 – 1,000 yard rushers would be able to run on the Steel Curtain isn’t far fetched. Csonka was a Hall of Famer.

I think the 72 Dolphins would beat them. Bob Griese wouldn’t turn the ball over either.  By the way in 1973 Pittsburgh was a playoff team and to make it to Super Bowl VII a season prior, Miami beat Pittsburgh in Three Rivers to get to the Super Bowl.  Don’t look now but Miami doesn’t get the respect their due. Are there stronger teams…its debatable…but I think they would handle Pittsburgh in a mythical match-up.

Further evidence to this would be the ’72 AFC Championship game where the Dolphins had to win in Pittsburgh to make it to Super Bowl VII. Or in court terms – Exhibit A:

By the way, I used the 78 Steelers instead of the 79 Steelers because in 1979 the Steelers led the NFL with 52 turnovers. That team doesn’t beat the mistake proof 72 Dolphins. No way.