Which Team Is The Greatest In NFL History?
A group of sports writers at ESPN announced their pick for the greatest team in NFL history. They picked the 1985 Chicago Bears. Their thoughts about the 1972 Dolphins going undefeated? They said, "Ultimately, it's a thin argument".
Going undefeated is a "thin" argument?
A reporter asked Bill Parcells, then coaching the Patriots, if he thought that the Patriots were better than their record. He responded by saying "No, we're exactly as good as our record". He explained that since winning was the only thing that counted, it didn't matter how fast, how tough or how strong the players were if they didn't win. No team is "better" or "worse" than their record.
The '72 Dolphins were exactly as good as their record - they were perfect. No team was perfect before them, none have been perfect since. And nothing else really matters.
But for those who wish to nitpick, let's look at some of the details. The 1972 Miami Dolphins had the best offense and defense, in terms of yards gained and yards allowed. They also led the league in points scored and points allowed. They were so dominant running the ball, they had two 1,000 yard runners in a 14 game season, and both averaged over 5 yards per carry for the year. The team averaged 4.8 yards per carry running the ball, and averaged over 200 yards per game in rushing.
And while the passing game was overshadowed by the run, the Dolphins' top 3 receivers, Paul Warfield, Howard Twilley and Marlin Briscoe each averaged over 18 yards per catch. Hall-of-Famer Paul Warfield averaged 20.9 yards per catch.
After Bob Griese was injured in game 5 of the regular season, the team played 9 regular season games and 1 playoff game with a backup quarterback - Earl Morrall.
In 1972, the No-Name defense allowed an average of just 12.2 points per game. They gave up just 18 touchdowns in 14 regular-season games; and five of those came in the fourth quarter of one-sided routs. The Dolphins intercepted 26 passes, recorded 33 sacks, and allowed NFL lows in yards (3,297) and points (171).
Of the games that Miami played in 1972, only 3 of 14 ended with scores that were within one touchdown. So Miami beat it's opponents convincingly.
In those days, there was no such thing as home field advantage in the playoffs, so the Dolphins had to go Pittsburgh to beat them in the AFC Championship game.
And, of course, they won the Super Bowl. Not just won it, but dominated it.
The bottom line is about what "greatness" really means. Does being "great" just mean being really, really good or does it mean something more? Because if it just means being really good, then the 1973 Dolphins have more of a claim to greatness than the undefeated 1972 Dolphins. Fans, knowledgeable sportswriters and the players themselves generally agree that the 1973 Dolphin team was a better team than their 1972 predecessors. And they're probably right. Although Miami lost two games in the following season (1973), the defense played even better. It allowed a league-low 150 points and 15 touchdowns. It held seven opponents to single-digit scoring. In the team's two losses, to Oakland (12-7) and Baltimore (16-3), the defense allowed only one touchdown. Speaking of great defense, consider this - the Miami defense allowed just 174 points during the 1971 regular season, a year before the Perfect Season.
Greatness is about more than just being really good. It's about more than even being the best in your chosen endeavor. Greatness, after all is said and done, is about going beyond the ordinary boundaries of what's possible and doing something that, under ordinary circumstances, would be impossible. It's about taking the game past its normal limits and showing the world something new... it's about accomplishing something that no one, before or since, has ever accomplished.
Greatness is unique. Many teams have ended the season with just 1 regular season loss and won a Super Bowl. No other team in the entire history of the NFL has ever gone undefeated through an entire season and won the championship.
Greatness is timeless. The achievements of greatness last well beyond the time in which they were accomplished. Merely being the best team in any given year is not timeless, because the players and the game have changed so much over the years. Comparing the 1965 Packers to todays teams is an "apples to oranges" comparison. If you could transport the 1965 Packers to this season, most of the teams in the NFL would squash them. But that does not diminish their accomplishments.
So, to pick the greatest team of all time, you must find a team that is truly unique - one that has accomplished something that no other team in the history of the league has accomplished. Otherwise, the selection has no meaning.Coach Shula's Thoughts On The Question
"I never have thought the accomplishment has been treated properly in history. "The Forgotten Team," Buoniconti calls it, and that sounds right to me. The Lombardi Packers, the Steel Curtain Steelers, the 49ers of the 1980s - for some reason, those are the teams that seem to get history's first mention as the greatest ever. And, it's true, they were great teams with great achievements. But were any undefeated for a season? Did any go 32-2 en-route to two Super Bowl titles? Isn't that how you measure success?"
Coach Shula and six players from this amazing team are enshrined in Pro Football's Hall of
Griese - Quarterback
Griese has been called the "thinking-man's quarterback" for his poised leadership and ingenious play-calling. He led Miami's offensive attack from 1967-80, becoming the 14th passer to reach 25,000 yards throwing in a career. His No. 12 jersey was the first-ever to be retired by the Dolphins. He had a .698 winning percentage (91-39-1) under coach Shula, and earned six Pro Bowl appearances to go with six team Most Valuable Player honors. After becoming eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 1985, Griese was named a finalist all five years before becoming inducted in 1990.
Bob Griese's Hall of Fame Page
Csonka - Fullback
Csonka ranks as the Dolphins all-time leading rusher with 1,506 carries for 6,737 yards (4.5 average) and 53 touchdowns. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, he put together three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (1971-73), as Miami advanced to the Super Bowl each year. He was named MVP of Super Bowl VIII after carrying 33 times for 145 yards and two TDs, leading the Dolphins to a 24-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. In 2002, "Zonk" became the third Dolphin to have his jersey retired (No. 39). He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, his second year of eligibility.
Larry Csonka's Hall of Fame Page
Buoniconti - Line Backer
Buoniconti played linebacker and was the driving force of Miami's famed "No-Name Defense." During his seven years with the Dolphins, the team advanced to three straight Super Bowls (1971-73) and won twice (1972, 1973). The first member of Miami's defense to be elected to the Hall of Fame, Buoniconti joined the team in 1969 after playing seven seasons with the Boston Patriots. During his tenure with the Dolphins, he was named the team's Most Valuable Player three times (1969, 1970, 1973), named to the AFL All-Star Game in 1969, and selected to two Pro Bowls (1973, 1974). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2001 after being named for the first time that year as a nominee from the pre-1976 era by the Hall's Senior Committee.
Nick Buonoconti's Hall of Fame Page.
Warfield - Wide Receiver
Warfield spent his first six seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns before being acquired by Miami in 1970. In his five seasons with the Dolphins, he had 156 receptions for 3,355 yards and 33 TDs - good enough to place him 16th on the team's all-time receiving list. A member of both the 1972 and 73 Super Bowl teams, he was selected to play in the Pro Bowl all five years he was with the Dolphins. Warfield, one of only two Dolphins (along with Mark Ingram) in the team's history to score four touchdowns in one game, also played one season with the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League (1975) before finishing his career with Cleveland (1976-77). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983 in his first year of eligibility.
Paul Warfield's Hall of Fame Page
Little - Offensive Guard
Little entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers for a $750 bonus. He was traded to the Dolphins in 1969, and played with the team at guard for 12 seasons. After starting just four games in two seasons with the Chargers, Little emerged with the Dolphins and played in 158 regular-season games. He also started 12 playoff games for the team and was a key piece of the Dolphins back-to-back Super Bowl teams of 1972 and 1973.
Larry Little's Hall of Fame Page
Langer - Center
Coming out of South Dakota State in 1970, Langer was signed as a free agent by Cleveland but released on the final cut and picked up on waivers by the Dolphins. He was the backup center in 1971, and won the job outright in 1972, keeping it until a knee injury sidelined his career in 1979. He played in a club-high 128 straight games during his career and also had a team-record 109 consecutive starts (a mark broken by Richmond Webb in 1997). Langer was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, and holds the distinction of having played every offensive down in Miami's perfect 1972 season. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987 in his first year of eligibility.
Jim Langer's Hall of Fame Page
Coach Don Shula