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  The 50 Greatest Dolphins
    | Home | News Wire | Roster | Depth Chart | Schedule | Links |  
         

by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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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 bit easier.

 

I came up with three:

  1. Hall of Famers - those players who have already been widely validated as among the greatest to ever play the game.
  2. Players who will be (or should be) in the Hall.
  3. 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 with me.

 

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 title.

 

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 consecutive years.

 

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 of 2008).

 

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 All-Pro.

 

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 Anniversary team.

 

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 Anniversary Team.

 

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 borderline HOF candidate; Ray Guy’s case might one day open the door for him and other great punters.

 

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 candidate.

 

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 Pittsburgh Steelers.

 

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 interceptions (31).

 

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 blocker.

 

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 XIX.

 

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 ranking.

 

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 times.

 

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.

 

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