At the start of the
2008 season, Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde published his list of the Top 50
Dolphins in team history. This I reviewed with much curiosity, as picking the right
Top 50, in order, from a team rich in tradition, is a damn near
impossible task…even for a Dolphin guru like Hyde.
This is why the poor
guy has probably been skewered with many critical e-mails since his list was
published. Yes, one of them was mine. And, yes, Hyde was kind enough to send me
a courteous reply.
This prompted me to
ask myself, “Could I do any better?”
It was then I decided,
when the season was finished and time could be afforded, that I would take a
shot at it. But I wanted some rhyme to my reason, a methodology, to help
justify the logic of my picks.
The first and most important thing to me was to have a definition of what
a “great Dolphin” is.
Here’s what I came up with: A “great Dolphin” is a player that has
exceptional accomplishments as a Dolphin to his credit. He must also
have a history of consistent achievement as a Dolphin over a reasonably
long period of time. He must also be someone who represented the Miami Dolphins
in an overall positive manner.
The second most
important thing is to have groupings of players, in order to make the sorting a
I came up with three:
- Hall of Famers - those players who have already been widely
validated as among the greatest to ever play the game.
- Players who
will be (or should be) in the Hall.
- The rest.
Finally, I have
stats, exceptional accomplishments, and the like; hard research, if you will.
Now I’m not entirely
convinced that I have this more right than Hyde, but it at least seems more
right to me. Still, I’m not naïve enough to think that Don Shula would agree
Therefore, at some peril to the available memory in my e-mail account, I
offer you my Top 50, with Hyde’s corresponding rank in parenthesis for
reference purposes. I welcome your feedback.
Group 1 - Hall of Famers:
1) Dan Marino, QB (Hyde: 1) – A no brainer…the greatest passer and, in the
judgment of many, the greatest quarterback to ever play.
2) Bob Griese, QB (8) – “Cornerstone of the Franchise” is what Joe Robbie
called him…and he was. He didn’t have a great arm, but neither did Joe Montana.
Three straight Super Bowl appearances, two rings. All he did was win, and the
Dolphins became one of the premier franchises in the NFL under his watch. Given
how we revere Super Bowl winning QBs, and his unique place in team history, only
Marino can arguably surpass his legacy as a Dolphin.
3) Dwight Stephenson, C (3) – Probably the greatest Center ever to play
the game, he was a master of leverage and power. There wasn’t a defensive
tackle he couldn’t handle one-on-one. Imagine that!
4) Larry Csonka, FB (2) – Super Bowl VIII MVP. “The face and the mindset
of the Perfect Season”, Hyde called him. He was perhaps the greatest fullback
since Bronko Nagurski. Robbie’s failure to pay Zonk fair market value drove him
to the World Football League and probably cost the Dolphins another Super Bowl
5) Paul Warfield, WR (4) – One of the greatest receivers in NFL history.
He was so dominant that he still holds team records for average yards per catch
for a season (25.1) and career (21.5). Think the Dolphins could use him today?
6) Larry Little, OG (5) – The greatest guard in team history. He wasn’t
drafted, and became a Dolphin when the Chargers foolishly traded him for CB
Mack Lamb. He was perhaps at his best leading the sweep.
7) Jim Langer, C (7) – Another undrafted player whom the Dolphins
acquired after a team gave up on him. Extremely smart and very physical, he
played every offensive down in the 1972 undefeated season and was named team
MVP in 1975.
8) Nick Buoniconti, MLB (10) – In my judgment, he is the greatest
linebacker in team history; the defensive general of the No Name Defense. He
was the team’s MVP in 1969 and the team’s Outstanding Linebacker five
Group 2 - Players who will be (or should be) in the HOF:
9) Bob Kuechenberg, OL (9) - Six Pro Bowl berths, five Super Bowls,
three-time first or second team All-Pro honors, and a three-time all-AFC
selection. His work in Super Bowl VIII, playing with a broken arm against Minnesota's Alan Page,
widely considered the best defensive tackle in the game at that time, endures
as one of the greatest performances by an offensive lineman in Super Bowl
history. So why is it again that Kooch is still on the outside looking in?
10) Nat Moore, WR (22) – He has better overall numbers than almost a
third of the WRs in the HOF,
including Lynn Swann. He’s in the top 25 in NFL history in TD receptions (74),
more than Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner, Raymond Berry, and John Stallworth. He
won all the requisite awards (Pro Bowl, All-Pro honors) and played in two Super
Bowls. He personifies class and was a Dolphin his entire career. Another guy
who should’ve been in the Hall a long time ago.
11) Jason Taylor, DE (6) – The greatest defender in team history, the NFL
Defensive Player of the Year in 2006, and NFL Man of the Year (2007). Unfortunately,
his credentials were tarnished when he quit on the Dolphins last year. Time,
and election to the Hall, should improve his standing in the future.
12) Zach Thomas, MLB (11) – I believe he is HOF worthy, and may eventually be regarded as
the greatest LB in Dolphin history. He would have fit in perfectly with the
No-Names. No one prepared or played harder than Zach.
13) Bob Baumhower, NT (12) – In my opinion, Baumhower is the
finest defensive tackle in team history. Was (and is) underappreciated as the
anchor of the Killer B defense. A five-time Pro Bowler, he made the whole thing
go. Few understood this.
14) Richmond Webb, LT (16) – Seven consecutive Pro Bowls, the finest left
tackle in team history. Marino’s blindside protector. A member of the NFL’s
All-Decade Team of the 90s, Webb is finally starting to garner some serious Hall
of Fame consideration (he was on the list of preliminary nominees for the Class
15) Mark Clayton, WR (19) – #1 in receptions, Marino’s favorite target.
If Swann and Stallworth are in the Hall, Clayton will have to be. Numbers
compare quite favorably among WRs in the HOF.
Not bad for an 8th round pick.
16) Dick Anderson, S (14) – One of the best athletes in a Dolphin uniform
I ever saw, a hard-hitting defender. NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1973
and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 70s, he’s a three-time Pro
Bowl honoree and a three time All-Pro. He set a team record with four
interceptions in a 1973 Monday Night game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers (three
were off Terry Bradshaw). Hopefully he will make the HOF one day through the senior committee.
Group 3 - The rest:
17) Jake Scott, S (13) – Super Bowl VII MVP. Superb ball instincts; holds
the team record for interceptions (35), and he did it in just six seasons. A
five time Pro Bowl selection, two-time All-Pro first-team, and two-time All-Pro
second team pick.
18) Vern Den Herder, DE (34) – Don Shula called him “the finest
defensive end I've ever had play for me”. Enough said.
19) Bill Stanfill, DE
(17) – He held the team record for sacks in a career before Jason Taylor passed
him by, though he is still tied with Taylor
for the season mark (18.5). Legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley called
him “the best lineman athlete I ever coached”. Stanfill was a four-time Pro
Bowl selection and a two-time All-Pro.
20) Patrick Surtain, CB (26) – The finest CB ever to wear a Dolphin
uniform; pure in pass coverage and tough against the run. He stands second in
team history for interceptions by a CB (29). He was a three-time Pro Bowl
selection and a two-time All-Pro. Surtain should have finished his career in Miami. Instead, Nick Saban
traded him away for a pick that eventually became Matt Roth in one of the
dumbest moves in team history.
21) Mark Duper, WR (20) – “Super” Duper is second in team’s record book
in career receptions (511) and first in yardage (8,869). Only Warfield had more
yards per catch than Duper. Duper was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a two-time
22) Doug Betters, DE (15) - The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1983,
a two-time Dolphin Outstanding Lineman award winner, and a member of the Silver
23) Manny Fernandez, NT (23) – He was the interior anchor of the
No Name Defense, very active and dominant. Super Bowl VII was perhaps his
finest game (17 tackles, 1 sack). Fernandez is a member of the Silver
24) Reggie Roby, P (29) – The greatest punter in team history, the only
guy I ever saw who could punt a ball above the rim of the Orange Bowl. His
special combination of distance and hang time made him one of the most intimidating
field position weapons in NFL history. A member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of
the 80s, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, and a seven-time All-Pro. A
candidate; Ray Guy’s case might one day open the door for him and other great
25) John Offerdahl, MLB (18) – NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1986
and one of the hardest hitting Dolphins in history. Made the Pro Bowl as a
rookie and earned five trips to the all-star game overall. Had he played
longer, he’d have been a HOF
26) Jim Kiick, RB (24) – Zonk’s sidekick for much of his time as a
Dolphin, the “Butch” to Csonka’s “Sundance”. Kiick, a two-time AFL All-Star,
gained over 1,000 combined yards in each of his first four seasons with the
Dolphins. He was very versatile and one of the best clutch players in team
history; in the 1972 playoffs, he scored the decisive touchdowns in the
divisional win over the Cleveland Browns and the AFC Championship win over the
27) Mercury Morris, RB (33) – Merc was a speedy change-up to Csonka’s
power. His numbers fell off dramatically after Zonk left for the WFL, due
partly to a neck injury sustained in 1973. He was a three-time Pro Bowler and
an All-Pro (1973).
28) Sam Madison, CB (27) – He and teammate Surtain simply erased
receivers out of the opposing gameplan. In his prime he was one of the best
press corners in the league. Madison
was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and is first among Dolphin CBs in
29) Tim Bowens, DT (35) – Bowens was an incredible inside force,
naturally strong and gifted, perhaps the single most physically intimidating
player in team history. The 1994 NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, “Timbo”
was a two-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro (1994). Notoriously averse to
hard physical training, one wonders just how good Bowens would have been if he
had actually worked at it.
30) Ed Newman, OG (25) - A four-time Pro Bowler who was twice named the
team’s best offensive lineman. Tough as nails, he was an exceptionally good run
31) A.J. Duhé, OLB/DE (49) – The 13th overall pick in the 1977
NFL Draft, Duhé was one of the most disruptive defenders in team history. He is
most remembered for his three interceptions of the Jets’ Richard Todd in the
1983 AFC Championship game, which propelled the Dolphins to Super Bowl XVII. Defensive
genius Bill Arnsparger moved Duhé all over the field, making him very difficult
for offenses to account for. The NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1977,
he earned Pro Bowl honors in 1984 and was a two-time All-Pro pick.
32) Norm Evans, RT (N/R) - Probably the best right tackle in team
history, a dominant run blocker. Two-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1991
Silver Anniversary team.
33) Kim Bokamper, DE/OLB (37) – The 19th overall
pick in the 1976 NFL Draft, “Bo” started out as an OLB and earned Pro Bowl
honors in 1979. He then switched to DE and played a vital role as a member of
the great Killer B defense.
34) Tony Nathan, RB (31) – Nathan is the only member of the 3,500/3,500
club in team history. Two of Nathan’s biggest moments came in two of the
biggest games in Dolphin history. The first was in 1981, in a playoff game many
believe was the greatest game in team history. In that game versus the
Chargers, Nathan scored the touchdown on the famous “hook and lateral” play;
Nathan caught Duriel Harris’s lateral at the 25 yard line and raced untouched
into the end zone before the half expired. The other was the 1984 AFC
Championship Game, where he caught 8 passes for 114 yards in a 45-28 win over
the Pittsburgh Steelers, a win that earned the Dolphins a trip to Super Bowl
35) Larry Gordon, OLB (N/R) – The 17th overall pick in the
1976 NFL Draft (a pick obtained from Washington
for QB Joe Theismann), Gordon started as a rookie and twice earned Outstanding
Linebacker honors. Gordon amassed 100 tackles every season but two and was
named to the Silver Anniversary team in 1991.
36) Bob Brudzinski, OLB (38) – “Bru” is a two-time winner of the team’s
Outstanding Linebacker award and the other OLB named to the Silver Anniversary
team. He is perhaps best remembered for delivering an incredible 20 tackle
effort in the 31-14 loss to the Patriots in the 1986 AFC Championship game (one
of the finest games by a LB I have ever seen).
37) O.J. McDuffie, WR (28) – One of the toughest Dolphins ever, McDuffie
never shied away from challenging defenders across the middle. He is fourth in
career receptions, fifth in career yardage, and holds the team record for the
most receptions in a season (90). He is the only Dolphin ever to lead the NFL
in receptions for a season (1998).
38) Bruce Hardy, TE (43) –At 6’5”, 232lbs., Hardy was a big target for
Marino’s passes and holds the team record for the most receptions by a tight
end. He is a member of the Silver Anniversary team.
39) Olindo Mare, K (42) – Mare is the team’s all-time scoring leader and
the greatest kicker in team history. As a Dolphin, he was #1 all-time in
accuracy, sixth in NFL history among kickers with at least 100 career field
goals (an .819 success rate), and had the most touchbacks in the NFL since the
introduction of the K-ball in 1999. He is also credited with revolutionizing
the on-side kick.
40) Garo Yepremian, K (30) – Yepremian is second in all-time scoring and
holds team records for scoring points in 121 consecutive games and for the most
extra points kicked (335). He is famous for kicking the game-winning field goal
that ended the longest game in NFL history as well as for his bungled throw
that Redskin Mike Bass returned for a TD in Super Bowl VII. A member of the
NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 70s.
41) Earl Morrall, QB (49) – Morrall gets extra special consideration here
for saving the Perfect Season and probably the 1972 Super Bowl title when Bob
Griese was lost in Week 5 with a broken leg.
42) Bryan Cox, LB (21) – A terrific player... three Pro Bowl berths and
the team’s Outstanding Linebacker five consecutive times. His colorful behavior
made him a fan favorite. However, his conduct issues often embarrassed Shula
and the club, this tarnishing his legacy. Unfortunately, this leads to his low
43) Don McNeal, CB (N/R) – McNeal, named to the Silver Anniversary team,
possessed excellent cover skills, though his career was hampered by injury.
Some believe that he was the most talented CB in team history, which may very
well be true. He was twice named the team’s Outstanding Defensive Back.
44) Keith Sims, OG (40) – A three-time Pro Bowler who helped anchor the
interior of the offensive line on the solid teams of the early 90s. Very
durable…from 1992-1996 he started and played in all but one game.
45) Jim Jensen, QB/RB/WR (41) – The ultimate utility player, “Crash” did
it all and did it well. He was especially valuable as a special teams player
and third down conversion machine. Won the team leadership award in 1989.
46) Jeff Cross, DE (36) – A 9th round pick, Cross went to the
Pro Bowl in 1990 and won the team’s Outstanding Defensive Lineman award four
47) Jim Mandich, TE (44) – The Mad Dog was a good all-around player,
equally adept at run blocking (which he did most of the time) or receiving. His
work as a run blocker was especially underappreciated.
48) Glenn Blackwood, S (48) – Strong safety on the great Killer B teams.
Together with brother Lyle (FS) they were affectionately dubbed “The Bruise
Brothers”. Blackwood is fourth on the team’s career interception list with 29.
49) Larry Seiple, P (N/R) – He has the most punts for the most yards in
club history (633 for 25,347 yards). His immortal 37-yard run off of a fake
punt in the 1972 AFC Championship game was a critical play that helped propel
the Dolphins past the Steelers and into Super Bowl VII.
50) Wayne Moore, LT (N/R) – The starting left tackle on the Super Bowl champions
and a Pro Bowl pick (1973). He was mostly asked to run block, and he was very
good at it.
You can view Hyde’s Top 50 by clicking here.