Ranking every Miami Dolphins head coach: You know who’s No. 1, but who’s No. 11?

Don Shula in Cleveland snow in 1978. (Bill Reinke / The Miami News)

I was talking with Alex Donno of WQAM-560AM on Thursday night when we somehow got onto the subject of the worst coaches in Dolphins history.

Alex asked whom I rated at the bottom but, being the kind of guy he is, blurted out my answer before I could beat him to the punch. If the phrases “fail forward fast” and “the entire Ted Ginn family” are dancing in your head, you think exactly like we do.

The exercise got me thinking on how I’d stack up all the head coaches in Dolphins history. Before getting to my list, a qualifier: You won’t find Adam Gase’s name here because I don’t think it’s reasonable to include him at this point. Call me a wimp, but after Year 1, everybody would have been in a rush to slot him as high as No. 2. After Year 2? Not so much.

Let’s give it another year, although I suppose if you gave me truth serum today, I’d probably say around No. 5.

Anyway …


Cam Cameron. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

11. Cam Cameron

(2007, 1-15)

Poster child for the NFL coordinator whose ceiling was just that. There’s a good reason Cameron was the shortest-lived of any Dolphins head coach excluding interims. Not only did he come within an eyelash of going winless, he often was clueless. During this dead end of a season, he insisted on going with Cleo Lemon at quarterback even though the only meaningful thing that could have come out of the year was some knowledge of whether second-round pick John Beck might be the long-term answer. We learned Beck wasn’t the solution, eventually. With Cameron, we already knew.


George Wilson

10. George Wilson

(1966-69, 15-39-2)

Kind of felt guilty slotting ol’ George this way. Luckily, I have a very forgiving nature. Nobody could have won with the roster he started with. Problem is, the Dolphins weren’t trending in the right direction even late in his tenure. The ’69 team went 3-10-1 with a lineup that included Hall of Famers Larry Little, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and Nick Buoniconti, plus studs Norm Evans, Jim Kiick, Manny Fernandez, Dick Anderson and Bill Stanfill. Any wonder that when Don Shula took over in 1970, Miami flipped it around to 10-4?


Joe Philbin

9. Joe Philbin

(2012-15, 24-28)

Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Brian Billick were said to be on Stephen Ross’ radar. In the end, he went with Philbin, who had enjoyed success as the Packers’ offensive coordinator. Overlooked — far too much, as we soon learned — was that Philbin never called plays for Green Bay, so how much credit he deserved for its success was debatable. Less debatable is that he could never relate to players nor could they relate to him. A fine man, certainly, but not a fine head coach.


Todd Bowles.

8. Todd Bowles

(2011, 2-1)

He took over a 4-9 team for Tony Sparano and won two divisional games (over the Bills and Jets) but might have been most impressive in a Christmas Eve loss on the road, 27-24 to the eventual Super Bowl runners-up, the Patriots. Current coach of the Jets coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons.


Nick Saban. (NFLPhotoLibrary)

7. Nick Saban

(2005-06, 15-17)

At last, the lightning rod. Some will be aghast his name didn’t come up sooner in this list, some, later. If you’re a control freak demanding that every little thing go your way, yet you’re OK with violating one of the basic rules of the game — don’t quit — you’re losing big points in my book.


Jim Bates. (Allen Eyestone)

6. Jim Bates

(2004, 3-4)

Similar to the Dan Campbell tale, Bates took over a sinking ship but managed a few bright spots along the way. None brighter than a 29-28 Monday night win over a Patriots team getting used to seasons ending with parades. Right after that one, Bates interviewed with owner Wayne Huizenga for the permanent gig, but everyone knew by then that Saban was Wayne’s guy.


Tony Sparano.

5. Tony Sparano

(2008-11, 29-33)

Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat. Chad Pennington, one of the great stopgap players in Dolphins history. Sparano made it all come together for a division title in ’08. Too bad he never could duplicate it. And those field-goal celebrations. …


Dan Campbell. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

4. Dan Campbell

(2015, 5-7)

It was a surprise when he was elevated from tight ends coach when Philbin was dumped after that debacle in London, but maybe it shouldn’t have been. Campbell has that “it” factor that inspires players. Isn’t that a huge part of being a head coach? Alex Marvez, a one-time reporter on the Dolphins beat, wrote this week how Campbell is next in line to be a head coach somewhere. Whichever organization makes that move will be glad it did.


Dave Wannstedt. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

3. Dave Wannstedt

(2000-04, 43-33)

In a post-Marino world, Wanny took heat for a conservative style in which punts weren’t considered a bad thing. But when you have Jay Fiedler as your quarterback and Lamar Smith and Ricky Williams as your running backs, would you be airing it out? Besides, how many other guys on this list were over .500?


2. Don Shula

Just making sure you’re paying attention.

Jimmy Johnson. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Jimmy Johnson

(1996-99, 38-31)

The groundswell to get him hired in Miami, thinking he could duplicate his success with UM and the Cowboys, didn’t quite pan out with the Dolphins. But he is one of only two Dolphins coaches to reach the playoffs three consecutive seasons.


Don Shula. (Allen Eyestone)

1. Don Shula

(1970-95, 274-147-2)

Shocking, I know.

 

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Ryan Tannehill’s comeback for Miami Dolphins: Marino, other QBs have rebounded quickly

Everything’s riding on Ryan Tannehill again this year. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

There were clouds of both the literal and figurative variety hovering over the Dolphins on the  opening Sunday afternoon of the 1994 season.

Nobody seemed to know what to expect of Dan Marino, seeing his first action since tearing his right Achilles tendon nearly a year prior.

At least one Dolphin knew what to make of Marino once the returns were in later that day.

“I’m telling you all to kiss his … ,” linebacker Bryan Cox told skeptics about as emphatically as Marino had performed.

It’s a day that comes to mind as the Dolphins rev up offseason training with organized team activities Tuesday, when we could get our first glimpse of quarterback Ryan Tannehill as he attempts a comeback from a second serious knee injury.

Not even the greatest optimist can expect Tannehill to come anywhere close to the magic Marino pulled off in his return: 473 yards and five touchdown passes including a dramatic late score in a 39-35 escape against New England.

If you’re wondering how NFL quarterbacks typically respond from long layoffs, the answer is often, they look more like themselves than you might expect.

Before we start exploring examples from around the NFL, some important semi-obvious disclaimers:

No two injuries are alike, just as no quarterback is like Marino. Besides, while Marino was out for about 11 months, Tannehill will have to shake off far more rust. Assuming he suits up for the opener Sept. 9 against Tennessee, it will be his first meaningful action in 637 days — 1 3/4 calendar years.

Coach Adam Gase has maintained that he believes Tannehill is “ready to go,” and the company line is that the Dolphins expect Tannehill to look like Tannehill, which is a must because this team has no proven backup.

Dan Marino avoids pressure in a game against the Patriots. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

But if Tannehill is storming out of the gate, he wouldn’t even be the second Dolphins quarterback deserving of comeback player of the year consideration. Bob Griese rebounded from a broken ankle to win two Super Bowls, remember.

Speaking of Hall of Fame-caliber QBs, we’ll begin with Tom Brady, who tore his ACL and missed all but one game of the 2008 season. He immediately went to the Pro Bowl the next year, going 10-6 and winning the AFC East. His stats were very Brady: 4,398 yards, 28 TDs, 13 interceptions and a 96.2 rating.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers fractured his collarbone in 2013 but came out sizzling in ’14 with 38 TDs and only five interceptions. His passer rating was 112.2, eight points higher than his career stat, which ought to encourage Packers fans since he missed nine games last year with another collarbone injury.

Then-Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase confers with Peyton Manning in 2014. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Continuing on this theme of Hall of Fame QBs being a different animal altogether, Peyton Manning sat out the 2011 season because of a career-threatening neck injury. With Gase serving as his quarterback coach, Manning immediately put up back-to-back seasons of excellence both from a team perspective (13-3 both years in Denver) and personally (37 and 55 touchdown passes, triple-digit passer rating).

That’s not to say, of course, anyone is preparing a bust in Canton for Tannehill. Let’s turn to mortal passers.

Matthew Stafford played only three games of his second NFL season in 2010 because of a shoulder injury. The Lions obviously didn’t have many concerns about it in ’11, because his 663 attempts led the league. His 5,038 yards were a career high and his passer rating was among his best ever at 97.2.

Carson Palmer, a spectator with the Bengals for a dozen games in 2008 after injuring his elbow, put up more pedestrian numbers when he returned (3,094 yards, 21 TDs, 13 INTs). Ditto for Alex Smith, who missed 2008 with the 49ers because of a bum shoulder, then put up an 81.5 passer rating in ’09.

The Dolphins have to hope Tannehill doesn’t stay on the same track as Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who missed nine games in 2015 with a string of injuries, played well in ’16, but was back on the shelf again in 2017. Same story for Sam Bradford, who suffered two ACL tears and is now with Arizona, in the likelihood you’ve lost track amid his many travels.

For dreamers out there, that ’94 performance by Marino ranks among his best. It was typical Marino. The Dolphins were down 35-32 and facing a fourth-and-5 with three minutes left. Rather than try a 52-yard field goal from the Marlins’ infield dirt, coach Don Shula liked his chances better by putting the ball in Dan’s hands (go figure). Or maybe Dan’s eyes.

In the huddle, Marino told receiver Irving Fryar if he had one-on-one coverage, he’d be going to him, and when they got to the line of scrimmage, Marino gave him the eye that said all that needed to be said.

Thirty-five yards later, touchdown. It was a play and a day for the ages.

“I felt pretty good about what I did,” Marino said.

“Dan’s back,” Shula said.

Come Sept. 9, Dolphins fans can hope for two words coming out of Gase’s mouth:

“Ryan’s back.”

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How to solve Miami Dolphins’ penalty epidemic? Don Shula ‘wouldn’t tolerate practice penalties’

This long run by the Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake, against Denver linebacker Todd Davis, was called back because of a penalty in December. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

FORT LAUDERDALE — Having just polished off a burger at his favorite burger joint — Shula Burger — Don Shula was reflecting on when he knew he had an aptitude for his original profession, coaching football.

“I was always telling somebody what to do,” said Shula, 88, a smile crossing his face.

When Shula says something, he means it. So when he says he was “always” telling people what to do, it goes back more than you think …

“In grade school,” Shula said. “In high school. College. So it was just natural to go into coaching.”

When he did, Shula held onto his principles, including one that his teams should never, ever, make it easy on opponents by doing something stupid.

Penalties classify as something stupid. So Shula teams did not commit them. In 1976, the Dolphins led the league in fewest penalties committed. They duplicated the feat the next year and the year after that and didn’t stop until their streak was an NFL-record nine years.

“We were always the least-penalized,” Shula said.

[RELATED: Don Shula, to critics of Adam Gase: ‘Give him a chance’]

The current Dolphins are at the other end of the spectrum, penalized more often than any team except Seattle. They were slammed with 17 flags in one game, and when coach Adam Gase called that “ridiculous,” he got not a single argument.

Question is, what to do about it?

Former Dolphins coach Don Shula at Hard Rock Stadium on Jan. 1, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Answer: Why not ask the man who wrote the blueprint?

“I’d get mad if we did something in practice,” Shula said of penalties. “If you do that in a game, it’s going to cost us. I wouldn’t tolerate practice penalties.”

He didn’t have to tolerate them in a 1993 playoff game against San Diego. The Dolphins won without committing any infractions. Of course, Shula did face occasional moments when his stare could melt 300-pound men. You wouldn’t have wanted to be a Dolphin the morning of Oct. 2, 1995. A day earlier, the Dolphins were penalized 14 times for 143 yards, all-time highs under Shula. Worse, it came in Shula Bowl II, against the Bengals, coached by Don’s son, David. At least the Dolphins won 26-23.

Where’s that leave us today? Unless you’re wearing a helmet or coach’s shirt, you can’t truly know how much penalties are or aren’t tolerated by Gase in practice. There’s no reason to think Gase is any more thrilled when officials are marching the Dolphins backward than Shula was.

But clearly, if the Dolphins want to take a step forward in 2018, things must change. The Dolphins were penalized 125 times for 1,141 yards in Gase’s first season and managed to get worse this year at 137 for 1,154 yards.

Look at it this way: It’s as if Jarvis Landry has not gained an inch the past two years. Landry has 2,123 yards in receptions, but the team has gone backward a total of 2,295 yards.

Ridiculous.

Shula’s formula didn’t just start on the practice field. His former All-Pro safety, Dick Anderson, likes to point out that the 17-0 defense in 1972 made only 13 mental errors all season. They didn’t commit dumb penalties and could have been called the “No-Penalty Defense” if not for the fact “No-Name Defense” sounds a thousand times better.


‘If you have a great athlete who doesn’t know what the hell to do, it’s going to get you beat.’ — Don Shula, on the premium he put on having smart players


Shula’s work toward that end would begin before the draft.

“We had a lot of information,” Shula said. “I always looked for guys that knew what to do. If you have a great athlete who doesn’t know what the hell to do, it’s going to get you beat.”

If you ever hear a coach saying he needs to simplify his game plan, you have to wonder if it’s because, as Shula says, the players don’t know what the hell to do.

This isn’t a perfect science. Gase and his assistants have correctly pointed out that some penalties, you have to live with. Ndamukong Suh is the highest-paid player on the team and won the team MVP award this season (correctly so), but he also drew the most flags of anyone on the team, 13. If he’s lunging for a tackle and, in the heat of the moment, his hand occasionally grabs a guy’s face mask instead of his jersey, that happens with the speed of this game. You can occasionally forgive that.

But when Suh lines up inches from the ball and gets called for seven pre-snap penalties in a season, that’s another story. If Gase got tired of Jay Ajayi putting the offense in first-and-15s with his running style, he cannot excuse linemen handing out first-and-5s like candy. The Dolphins have enough trouble going forward without having to always go backward.

And if you don’t believe all that, there’s probably a prodigy in grade school somewhere who can convince you.


FINAL REPORT CARD FOR 2017 MIAMI DOLPHINS

[GRADING THE QBs: Barely a passing grade is all they deserved]

[GRADING THE RBs: Kenyan Drake’s explosiveness offers hope for ’18]

[GRADING THE OL: Without upgrade next season, team isn’t going anywhere]

[GRADING THE RECEIVERS: The top two are obvious … but then what?]

[GRADING THE DL: Lots of dollars, so why not lots of sacks?]

[GRADING THE LBs: All downhill once opponents discovered blueprint]

[GRADING THE DBs: Veteran safeties, youthful corners form good nucleus for ’18]

[GRADING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Parkey, Haack have moments, but unit has ups and downs]


 

Don Shula, to critics of Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase: ‘Give him a chance’

Don Shula (right) signs a football for Jupiter’s William Gogan, the winner of a national “SweepSteaks” drawing for a five-day, all-inclusive trip to Sicily. The Shulas and the Gogans met for lunch Sunday at the Fort Lauderdale location of Shula Burger. (Hal Habib / The Palm Beach Post)

FORT LAUDERDALE — One Miami Dolphins coach who enjoyed immediate success was reflecting over lunch Sunday afternoon about another Miami Dolphins coach who enjoyed immediate success.

The only difference is that for an encore, the speaker — Don Shula — won a couple of Super Bowls while the second coach — Adam Gase — is left wondering what went wrong.

Dolphins fans are, too. A year ago, they were sure the Dolphins had finally hired the right guy, but today, some aren’t so sure about Gase.

“Give him a chance,” Shula said. “The guy proved that he could do it. And you know everybody at one time or another has an off year. Give him a chance to bounce back and utilize his ability.”

Gase met Shula shortly after taking the job in January 2016, and the two have forged a bond before our eyes on many a Sunday afternoon. There would be Shula, 88, in a golf cart, on the Dolphins’ sideline during warmups at Hard Rock Stadium. And there would be Gase, making sure he took time to pay respects to Dolphins royalty.

“I enjoyed going to games,” Shula said. “Go down on the field before the game and saying hello to the coach. He’s a good guy, Adam. I like him — everything I know or have seen about him. I’m not an expert on him, but I like his mannerisms.”

Shula may not be an “expert” on Gase, but he is on the path traveled by him. Shula was only 40 when he was named Dolphins coach in January 1970. A year later, he had the Dolphins in the playoffs and 23 months later, they were in the Super Bowl.

Don Shula, with Hall of Famers Larry Csonka and Larry Little, is a familiar presence on the pregame sideline at Hard Rock Stadium. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Gase was 37 when the Dolphins hired him. One year and one day later, he had the Dolphins in the playoffs. But that’s where similarities end. It took Shula seven years before he had one of those off years he referred to; Gase’s first losing season was 6-10 this year.

“Good players, good assistants, good organization,” Shula said in explaining how he pulled off two Super Bowl championships within four years of arriving. “All those things have to fit together. You can’t do one without the other. So as a coach, you’ve got to put it together. You’ve got to know where your strengths and your weaknesses are. You build on your strengths and try to uplift your weaknesses.”

Gase inherited many on the current roster. The assistants are his — or were, since he’s taking a sledgehammer to the staff. Shula figures Gase deserves a couple of more years before anyone judges what he can do.

“I think he should be entitled to that,” Shula said.

Since he is Don Shula, he got to have lunch Sunday on the house, at a place that put his name in lights. It was at Shula Burger on the 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale, honoring Jupiter’s William Gogan for winning a national “SweepSteaks” drawing for a five-day, all-inclusive trip to Sicily in April.

Over a casual, two-hour meal of burgers, fries, onion rings and beer (Diet Pepsi for The Coach), the Gogans and Shulas mixed talk of football and world travels.

David Shula unveils a mural depicting his Hall of Fame father, Don Shula, at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 22, 2016. (Hal Habib / The Palm Beach Post)

Afghanistan? Been there, Shula said, on a trip to honor the military. A rewarding experience? Certainly it was, even though wife Mary Anne explained it was not all smooth sailing. There was a helicopter flight to an outpost in which they had to wear 40-pound bulletproof vests and were surrounded by heavily armed personnel. They didn’t question the need for either the moment the chopper came under fire. After the pilot scurried them out of there, pronto, she inquired as to just how much danger they’d been in. Whatever amount it was for them, came the response, it wasn’t nearly as much as for the guys firing from down below. That’s the kind of defense the Shulas can appreciate. But they arrived at another stop to learn a suicide bomber had struck the area only hours prior.

Diners passed the table, did a double-take and fiddled around to open the camera app on their phones.

“Thirty-five dollars,” Shula told each. “Two for $70.” Then, Shula would laugh that grandfatherly laugh that his startled old players only lately discovered had been locked deep down inside for years. He clasped a young boy’s hand for one photo, making sure to do so as just the right angle so his diamond ring from the Pro Football Hall of Fame glistened for the lens.

“Who do you like today?” someone asked.

“Anybody but Belichick,” said Shula, who made headlines years ago when he referred to the Patriots’ Bill Belichick as “Beli-cheat.”

Don Shula was a stickler for ethics then; he’s a stickler still. But he does respect New England quarterback Tom Brady, 40 — so much so, the obvious question was how Shula would compare Brady to Dan Marino.

“I think nobody has thrown it or will ever throw it any better than Marino,” Shula said. “He had a lightning-fast release. That ball came out like lightning. Brady is more of a field general.”

Maybe so, but Marino could talk like he had five stars on his shoulders.

“We were in a critical situation one time and it was a timeout,” Shula told Gogan. “And he comes over to the sideline and I was asking everybody what they liked and I get to Dan and I said, ‘Dan, what do you like?’ He said, ‘Throw the (expletive).’

“Fun days.”

Know what else was fun? That Monday night in 1985 when the Dolphins spoiled the Bears’ perfect season 38-24 to protect the legacy of Miami’s 17-0.

“Kicked their ass, big time,” Shula said.

Some players on the ’73 team will tell you it was better than the ’72 team, the key words being “tell you.” Try telling that to Shula.

“You know how you keep track of that?” Shula said. “They have what they call ‘scores.’ ”

However proud he was that day they beat Washington to complete 17-0, he might be even more proud today.

“I would have thought that it could happen again — that if we did it, it wouldn’t be that hard for somebody to do again,” Shula said. “But the fact that they haven’t tells you how tough it was to do.”

It’s tough winning them all in this league. As the current Dolphins coach knows, it’s tough winning even some.

“Hopefully, he’ll make it,” Shula said.

The Gogan family and Shula wrap up following lunch Sunday. (Hal Habib / The Palm Beach Post)

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25 years of mediocrity: Dull Dolphins wait for return to AFC title game

Dan Marino throws a pass in the 1993 AFC championship game, which the Dolphins hosted. (Getty Images)

The last four teams standing in the NFL will be on the field Sunday to fight for a trip to the Super Bowl. Aside from the Patriots, who always know better than to plan vacations for this time of year, the other three teams reached this stage despite at least one season of five wins or fewer within the last six years.

If Dolphins fans tune in to Patriots-Jaguars or Vikings-Eagles, they’ll probably think, “Hey, that looks fun.” Many of them, especially those under 35, likely have no recollection of the last time Miami was good enough to crack the final four.

The year was 1992, and it was a different time in America. Everybody rushed to the local Blockbuster Video hoping to get their hands on a VHS copy of Wayne’s World, and gas was about $1 a gallon. George Bush was president. And Tupac was still with us. Modern-day marvels like Amazon, smartphones and the Jacksonville Jaguars were years away from coming into existence.

This was maybe eight or nine names ago for the Dolphins’ stadium. Don Shula was still coaching them, and Dan Marino was in his prime. They had a top-five offense and a top-10 defense. Perhaps that’s the least believable part of this tale. Ask your parents about it. They’ll tell you.

The ’92 team started 6-0 and won the AFC East at 11-5, then trounced the Chargers 31-0 in the divisional round of the playoffs. Miami went into the conference title game on equal footing with Jim Kelly’s Buffalo Bills and was poised to take its best shot at Troy Aikman or Steve Young in the Super Bowl.

The Dolphins fell to Buffalo, though, and that’s where this story takes a nightmarish turn. Despite several more good seasons from Marino, they failed to make it that far the rest of his career. This weekend marks 25 years since the last time Miami was a real threat to win the AFC or make a run at the Super Bowl.

The Dolphins haven’t even had a season in which people thought they might be good enough to get that far, like last year’s 13-3 Cowboys or Peyton Manning’s Denver team in 2014. All but five of Miami’s seasons since 1992 have fallen between 6-10 and 10-6, and the team is 201-199 during that span.

That .503 winning percentage actually ranks a respectable 15th in the league, but it’s come in the most mundane way possible. While South Florida has been enduring perpetual mediocrity, the NFL has seen 26 of its other 31 teams reach the conference title game at least once and 22 of them play in the Super Bowl.
The only teams with a longer drought than the Dolphins are the Bengals (29 years), Browns (28), Redskins (26) and Lions (26); The Texans, who started in 2002, also haven’t reached a conference title game. Being in any club with the Browns and Lions is never a good thing.

Hard as it might be to believe, this is the Jaguars’ third time in the AFC championship game, and they were an expansion team in 1995. Starting from scratch, they reached this round the next season.

This is Philadelphia’s fifth conference title game post-1992 and Minnesota’s fourth. The Patriots, of course, have played in this round 13 times.

Miami’s had nine playoff teams since its last conference title run, but none of them were contenders. Five of those teams were 9-7 or 10-6.

Last year’s Dolphins were the first to make the playoffs since 2008, and those teams were eerily similar. Both clawed their way in by winning a bunch of close games against bad teams, and neither was particularly good at any one thing.

Being nondescript has been a hallmark of the last 25 years of Dolphins’ football. They haven’t had a top-10 scoring offense since 2001, when Jay Fiedler to Chris Chambers was their best weapon under Dave Wannstedt. That’s the only time it’s happened, by the way, since Marino retired. The defense has fared slightly better, finishing 10th or better 10 times, but nobody tunes in to watch defense.

Speaking of Wannstedt, he’s one of seven head coaches who’s tried to shake Miami out of its slumber. That group managed a total of three playoff victories.

After Shula lasted 26 years, his six successors prior to current coach Adam Gase survived an average of 3.1 seasons. If Gase turns in another 6-10, he might hit that mark as well.

Quarterback’s been another exasperating department, and to this point Ryan Tannehill has yet to prove he’s anything more than the latest model in a series of guys who were average at best. He’s one of 21 quarterbacks to throw for the post-Marino Dolphins. Only five teams have had less stability during that time.

Whether it’s luck or skill that put these four teams one win away from the Super Bowl this weekend, Miami hasn’t had either. Jacksonville went through some truly awful years, even recently, but at least that roller coaster’s had peaks, too. With the Dolphins, the faces keep changing, but they’re all generic. And so are the seasons.

[Possible Dolphins 2018 NFL Draft target Baker Mayfield cleared for NFL Combine]

[What does Las Vegas think of the Dolphins’ chances in 2018?]

[Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry is headed to the Pro Bowl]

Check out The Palm Beach Post‘s Miami Dolphins page on Facebook

Magical Vikings? Here are top 20 magical moments in Miami Dolphins history

Running back Tony Nathan, shown against the Steelers, was instrumental in one of the great moments in Dolphins history.(The Palm Beach Post)

Forty-five minutes after the game Sunday, the stadium was still packed with Minnesota Vikings fans, delirious with the kind of high only sports can offer.

Who could blame them? Isn’t winning in a fashion the Vikings did — a miracle on the last play — what you live for as a fan? Doesn’t that one moment make sitting through those hot/cold/dreadful days worth it? Isn’t it why, when the announcers implore you not to change the channel, because this game isn’t over, you obey, listening to that voice in your head reminding you of that time 10 years ago when dadgummit, you didn’t?

Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs, 61 yards, touchdown. Vikings 29, Saints 24.

Despite recent misfortunes, the Dolphins have had moments that make you leap from your seats. In honor of Sunday’s classic, here are the 20 best. A disclaimer: These are not the greatest or significant plays the Dolphins have pulled off. They are the plays that made you leap out of your seat, spill your beer, not care, and high-five the best friend sitting next to you, whom you met three hours prior.


20. The imperfect season averted

The Dolphins avoided going 0-16 — and getting talked about in the same breath as this year’s Browns — with a 22-16 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens late in the 2007 season. Greg Camarillo’s 64-yard touchdown reception decided it. “Take us out of the history books!” radio analyst Joe Rose yelled. “We’re not going in for that one, baby!”


19. Auer burns the Raiders

With the first play in team history, Joe Auer returned the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown against the Raiders. At that point, Auer’s main concern was getting hugged by Dolphins part-owner Danny Thomas, the actor, who had his omnipresent lit cigar in his mouth.


18. An onside punt?

Nobody knew the rules like Don Shula. In 1980, the Dolphins had given up a safety with 6 1/2 minutes left and trailed the Bengals 16-7. So Shula called on punter George Roberts to execute an unheard-of “onside punt” with the free kick. The Dolphins recovered and were on their way to win 17-16.


17. Ginn turns on Jets

Consider this a two-for-the-price-of-one entry. In 2009, Ted Ginn returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, beating two Jets who had an angle on him. The Jets, not having learned their lesson, kicked to Ginn again. Ginn sidestepped two defenders back-to-back on his 15, then cut outside for a 101-yard touchdown, a feat that earned him a temporary display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


16. Oliver goes coast to coast

When Louis Oliver intercepted that Jim Kelly pass intended for Thurman Thomas in the end zone and didn’t immediately kneel down, it was easy to wonder if he’d lost his mind. Actually, Oliver knew exactly what he was doing, returning it 103 yards for a touchdown on a 1992 day in which he had three interceptions. “I said, ‘Let me take it to the end zone and do a little dance or something,’ ” Oliver said after the 37-10 win. “But when I got to the end zone I was tired as hell.”


15. Fail Flutie

Doug Flutie appeared ready to haunt Miami again by throwing a touchdown pass, seeing the Bills recover an onside kick, and driving Buffalo to the Miami 5 with 17 seconds left in the 1998-99 playoffs. Trace Armstrong had other ideas, getting a sack-strip-fumble on Flutie that Shane Burton recovered to preserve a 24-17 victory. “I don’t know if they’re going to rule it a pass or a fumble,” Armstrong said. “I’m just praying it’s a fumble, for two reasons. It would end the game, and I don’t think I could go another play.”


14. Mr. Smith goes to the end zone

Lamar Smith’s 17-yard touchdown run ended his 40-carry, 209-yard effort in a 23-17 overtime playoff victory over the Colts. The win, on Dec. 30, 2000, remains the most recent Dolphins playoff victory.


13. Fulton’s Super record

No one had returned a kickoff for a touchdown in a Super Bowl until Fulton Walker went 98 yards for a 17-10 lead over Washington in 1983. The Dolphins eventually lost 27-17.


12. Anderson escorted to end zone

One week after the classic “Longest Game” win over the Chiefs, the Dolphins knocked the Colts out of the 1971 playoffs thanks to safety Dick Anderson’s 62-yard interception return. Johnny Unitas’ pass was deflected by Curtis Johnson, and after Anderson caught it, he had a wall of six blockers as he weaved his way into the end zone. “My eyes were popping as I ran,” Anderson said. “I’ve never seen so many people land on their heads.”


11. Shula gives up two

How could a play in which the Dolphins give up two points make this list? Leave it to Don Shula, who outsmarted everybody in 1973. The Dolphins were up by six in a Monday night game against the Steelers and deep in their own end, facing a fourth down. They lined up to go for it, were nailed with a delay penalty, and still didn’t send in punter Larry Seiple. The ABC crew was beside itself, wondering if Shula had gone mad. Bob Griese took the snap and casually stepped out of the end zone. This allowed Seiple a free kick, eliminated the chance of a blocked punt and still meant the Steelers needed a touchdown to win. The Dolphins held on 30-26. “Shula’s way ahead of us all!” Howard Cosell said.


10. Wake goes for two

A sack-safety in overtime? Who ever heard of such a thing? Cameron Wake produced the unthinkable in 2013, leading the Dolphins out of a slump when it was least expected. With 6:42 left in overtime, the Bengals had a third down on their 8-yard line. Andy Dalton dropped so far back to pass, he was in his end zone, where Wake nailed him for a 22-20 win. “I looked down on the grass and saw all colors. I figured, ‘Oh, we’re in the end zone,’ ” Wake said. “It’s just one of those games. How much better could it have been than to have a D-lineman kind of seal the deal?”


9. Lett it be, Lett it be!

Thanksgiving Day, 1993. All the Cowboys had to do to beat the Dolphins was nothing — nothing at all. Pete Stoyanovich’s 41-yard field-goal attempt in the snow was blocked by Jimmie Jones … except … what is Leon Lett doing? Lett cemented his place in football follies history by trying to recover a ball that didn’t need recovering. By touching it, he made it a live ball again. After Jeff Dellenbach recovered on the Dallas 1, Stoyo made good on his mulligan from 19 yards out for a 16-14 victory.


8. Seiple fakes out even Shula

A week after the Immaculate Reception, the Steelers faced the visiting Dolphins in the 1972 AFC title game. The Dolphins had noticed on film that the Steelers tended to turn their backs on punts and told punter Larry Seiple that when the time was right, they’d call a fake punt. Seiple didn’t feel like waiting, so in the second quarter, he took off, gaining 37 yards to set up a touchdown on what Steelers coach Chuck Noll called a game-changer. “Shula was not extremely excited,” Seiple said. “If I hadn’t made it, I would have kept on running.” The best part: The Steelers were so unaware what was happening that some players were running upfield along with Seiple, making it appear they were blocking for him.


7. No. 31 did it! 

As improbable plays go, it’s tough to top this one. Five days after the Dolphins claimed him off the 49ers’ practice squad, Michael Thomas was pressed into duty in 2013 when several defensive backs went down. He didn’t know the plays. Teammates didn’t know his name, so they called him “31.” All Tom Brady knew was he was the new guy. So on fourth down with seven seconds left, Brady picked on Thomas, aiming for Austin Collie in the end zone. Thomas picked it off, sealing the Dolphins’ win. Long forgotten is that just before that play, Thomas also broke up a throw to Danny Amendola. Thomas had not taken a single snap on defense in practice. He wasn’t even sure if he was allowed to keep the game ball (he did). “I can’t put this into words right now,” he said tearfully in the locker room. “You know, I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”


6. A.J. for the TD

A.J. Duhe intercepted Jets QB Richard Todd three times in the 1982 AFC Championship Game, returning one 35 yard for a touchdown and the final points of a 14-0 win. Duhe bobbled the screen pass a couple of times before securing it. “Today was the greatest day ever,” Don Shula said.


5. Marino’s back, and so is magic

Dan Marino, coming off an Achilles injury in the 1994 opener, hit ex-Patriot Irving Fryar with a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-5 with 3:19 remaining to win 39-35. “They just don’t get any bigger than that,” Don Shula said.


4. One unlucky Bear

You could score this one Marino to Clayton (assist, Hampton). The Dolphins took a 38-17 lead in the classic 1985 victory over the Bears thanks to a Dan Marino pass that ricocheted off the helmet of Dan Hampton. Mark Clayton happily collected the ball and waltzed the remaining 42 yards for a touchdown.


3. Duper was Super

In 1985, three weeks before the famed Monday night game vs. the unbeaten Bears, the Dolphins trailed the Jets 17-14 following a 20-yard touchdown pass by Ken O’Brien with 68 seconds left. Dan Marino needed two plays to rewrite the script, hitting Mark Duper with a 50-yard bomb in a 21-17 victory. Good chance the play never would happen today. Duper, who had missed the previous seven games with an injury, was single-covered on the play by cornerback Bobby Jackson. One play earlier, Jackson had fallen while tackling Mark Clayton and was so dazed, he couldn’t get up without teammate Johnny Lynn hoisting him up by the jersey. Concussion protocol, anyone?


2. The clock play (of course)

This might be the most-watched play in Dolphins history. It’s certainly one Dolfans will never tire of seeing. “Clock! Clock! Clock!” Dan Marino yelled in 1994, motioning that he was going to spike the ball to stop the clock. The Jets bought it just enough to allow Marino to fire a 11-yard touchdown pass in a 28-24 victory. “I am an accomplished actor,” Marino said.


1. The hook and lateral

From the greatest game in Dolphins history comes the greatest play in Dolphins history.

The Chargers had jumped to a 24-0 lead in the 1981-82 playoffs before Miami started chipping away. Still, San Diego was sure to go into halftime ahead 24-10 when Don Shula suggested “87 circle curl lateral” to quarterback Don Strock with six seconds left.

“Sure, why not?” Strock said, even though, years later, he admitted to The Sun-Sentinel he was thinking there was no chance the play would work.

Strock hit Duriel Harris with a 25-yard pass. Harris lateraled to Tony Nathan, who cruised down the sideline the final 15 yards with ball held aloft.

Harris also was so unconvinced it would work, he was thinking of holding onto the ball after the catch. Nathan probably couldn’t have blamed him.

“It never even worked in practice,” Nathan said.

Plenty of teams try the hook-and-lateral in desperation mode today, but back then, it baffled the Chargers. The Dolphins were so fired up, Shula didn’t have to bother with a halftime pep talk.

Still, the Chargers went on to win 41-38 in overtime in what the NFL later termed “the Game of the Decade.”


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Ex-Miami Dolphins personnel man Bobby Beathard a Hall of Fame finalist

Bobby Beathard, shown when he was GM of the Chargers in 1990, is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Getty Images)

Bobby Beathard, personnel director for the Dolphins from 1972-77, was selected Friday by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Contributors Committee as a finalist for the Class of 2018.

Beathard, 80, also worked for the Kansas City Chiefs (1966-67), Atlanta Falcons (1968-1971),  Washington Redskins (1978-1988) and San Diego Chargers (1990-99).

Over the years, Beathard referred to his time with the Dolphins as a learning experience. There were high draft picks who flopped (Don Reese and Darryl Carlton), but Beathard also had his share of hits, including defensive standouts Larry Gordon, Kim Bokamper, A.J. Duhe and Bob Baumhower.

“Generally, you learn so much just being around Don Shula,” Beathard told The Miami Herald in 1983. “That was great experience for me.”

Beathard, once labeled the smartest man in the NFL by Sports Illustrated, said his drafting philosophy changed after taking Reese, a first-round bust in 1974.

“One thing I learned that I wish I hadn’t learned at anybody else’s expense was drafting guys like Don Reese, who you knew had very poor work habits in college, Beathard said. “There are guys on whom there is no question about their ability but a question about their willingness to pay the price. You find out through the years that those guys don’t change.”

To be elected, Beathard must receive 80 percent of the vote when selectors meet on Super Bowl weekend in February in Minneapolis. The contributors category enabled Dallas owner Jerry Jones to be enshrined this month.

Beathard was a tough-to-miss figure in football circles, a runner who competed in dozens of marathons and always seemed to look the part, eschewing coats and ties at all costs.

He once ran the New York City Marathon the morning Washington was playing the Giants. Upon finishing, he told his cab driver to take him to Giants Stadium, then sprawled out in the back seat. When Beathard finally looked up, he realized that the driver, who did not speak English, had taken him to Shea Stadium.

Beathard ended up missing half of the first quarter.

“There’s nothing I love more than football,” Beathard said upon hearing Friday’s news. “I feel like I’ve gone through life without a job and got paid for it.”

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Miami Dolphins’ Larry Csonka: Owner’s cold shoulder forced jump to WFL

Larry Csonka (left) and Jim Kiick in their Dolphins days.

Hall of Famer Larry Csonka, whose jump to the World Football League signaled the end of the Dolphins’ dynasty in the 1970s, pointed a finger at owner Joe Robbie on Saturday, writing that neither he nor teammates Paul Warfield and Jim Kiick wanted to leave Miami.

Robbie’s feuding with agent Ed Keating twice got in the way of Csonka returning to the Dolphins after the WFL folded, according to a blog Csonka posted on his website Saturday.

When Csonka finally returned to the Dolphins in 1979 after a four-year absence, he did so by circumventing Robbie and negotiating directly with coach Don Shula.

“That deal was agreed to in just 3 days and in 1979 we made the playoffs,” Csonka wrote.

The historic saga began when Csonka, Kiick and Warfield traveled to Toronto to negotiate with John Bassett. The players were armed with a lengthy list of demands, including salary, bonuses, endorsements, luxury apartments, cars and travel expenses. Bassett agreed, with a catch: The players had to sign before leaving Toronto.

Csonka spoke to Shula and waited for a call from Robbie, “which never came,” Csonka wrote.

That account matches what Kiick told The Post in 2005.

“I could understand why he doesn’t want me, but he doesn’t want you,’ ” Kiick said he told Csonka, referring to Robbie. “ … He never gave us a call.”

The WFL disappeared in October 1975, but rather than jumping at the chance to re-sign the popular Csonka, Robbie still feuded with Keating, Csonka wrote. So Csonka became a free agent.

Csonka said he still was willing to return to Miami for less. Eventually, Robbie asked Csonka for an “outline” to negotiate. Fearing that Robbie wouldn’t keep the outline private, which would hurt his bargaining power with other teams if it came to that, Keating sent Robbie a copy of the original deal with Bassett.

“Needless to say, Robbie exploded and immediately had my ‘demands’ published in The Miami Herald – calling it ridiculous and absurd to expect such a deal,” Csonka wrote.

That explains why Csonka spent the 1976-78 seasons with the New York Giants.

Returning to the Dolphins in 1979 at age 33 reinvigorated Csonka. In his final NFL season, Csonka rushed for 837 yards and 12 touchdowns — his most productive season since gaining 1,003 yards for the 1973 Super Bowl team.

“I am happy Coach Shula and I were able to come to terms in 1979 and I was able to end my career with him and the Miami fans,” Csonka wrote.

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A little candy to treat Dolphins fans sick of seeing Patriots in Super Bowl again

This time of year can be tough on Miami Dolphins fans, now 43 years removed from

1973 file photo. Don Shula.

Don Shula in 1973. (Post file photo)

the last NFL championship in franchise history, and that frustration goes double when the New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl again.

As a public service to the South Florida market we offer these proofs that it was not always this way (Patriots ruling the AFC East and, too frequently, the world) and it will not stay this way forever (in theory, at least).

  • Between 1964-75, the Boston/New England Patriots experienced a 12-season postseason drought. The Dolphins’ longest stretch without a playoff game is seven seasons.
  • During the sad period of Patriots history listed above, the Dolphins won a couple of Super Bowls, posted the only perfect season in NFL history and ran up a 13-6 record against the Pats.
  • Between 1963-82, the Patriots qualified for just four playoff games and lost them all. The last loss in that string was a first-rounder to Miami in 1982, and the Dolphins went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.
  • The Dolphins are 16 years without a postseason victory at the moment, but there’s still time to put one on the board before reaching the Patriots’ franchise worst drought of 21 years between 1964-84.
  • Three times in their history the Patriots have owned or shared the worst record in the NFL – 1970, 1990 and 1992. That has happened to Miami only once (2007).
  • The Dolphins lead the all-time series with the Patriots 53-50, playoffs included.
  • The Dolphins own the longest winning streak in the series, with nine straight victories over the Patriots between 1989-93. The Patriots have never won more than seven in a row against Miami.
  • The Dolphins have the most lopsided victory in the series, 52-0 in 1972.
  • When Tom Brady joines the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, he’ll still be outnumbered by Bob Griese and Dan Marino.
  • Bill Belichick may have 262 career victories but he’s still 85 short of Don Shula.

 

Conclusions? This makes me feel a little bit better about the faulty concept that everything always goes New England’s way, and a little bit worse that it took so much work to find these Miami advantages.

Trust me, it does no good to dig further. Stop here, before counting up division titles, Super Bowls and such, and before recognizing that Shula was 65 when the Dolphins pushed him out of the way for Jimmy Johnson. Belichick is 64 and still working on his trophy case.

[Here’s a Miami Heat upset crazier than Monday’s win over Warriors]

[Gators fall a touchdown short of college football’s scoring average]

[Wondering if Dolphins’ No. 22 draft slot is haunted]

Fond farewell to ‘giant in the landscape,’ columnist Edwin Pope

Edwin Pope is enshrined in the journalists' wing at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Edwin Pope is enshrined in the journalists’ wing at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“Who’s he going to shoot?”

That’s the title of the first chapter in “The Edwin Pope Collection,” a book published in 1988 featuring the finest work by one of the finest journalists to ever touch a keyboard.

I smiled when I saw that title Friday morning, immediately recalling the context of one of hundred — check that, thousands — of great Edwin Pope stories spanning his 88 years.

Since Edwin, the legendary Miami Herald sports editor, would be screaming at me to get to the point, the context was the time Don Shula was introduced to Don Johnson, in the height of “Miami Vice” fame. Johnson casually told Shula he should stop by sometime and “watch us shoot.” The tunnel-visioned, unaware Johnson was only a pretend cop, soon turned to a staffer and said, “Who’s he going to shoot? A bunch of crooks?”

Edwin Pope told that story countless times, chuckling in that Georgia drawl. A minute later, no doubt, he’d be on to another tale, then another, then another. Pope received a great gift of cramming several lifetimes into one; the gift he gave in return was sharing it with all who knew him.

When he told you a story, it was always, always as if he were telling it for the first time, and to only you.

Edwin Pope died of cancer late Thursday in Okeechobee.

No introduction is needed for Palm Beach residents who moved up the coast from Dade or Broward, lamenting the difficulty in getting The Herald back then to see what Edwin had to say about the Dolphins or the Hurricanes or the Kentucky Derby.

How big a voice did Edwin have in South Florida? If not for him, you might well not think anything of seeing the phrase “Jets coach Don Shula” or “Chiefs coach Don Shula.” Yes. Edwin was the man who suggested that Dolphins owner Joe Robbie consider hiring that young coach whom the Baltimore Colts had grown tired of.

“Simply put, Edwin Pope was a giant in the South Florida landscape,” the Dolphins wrote Friday morning to begin a news release mourning his passing. The Dolphins went on to call Edwin “an unabashed civic booster” who “played a huge role in Dolphins history.” A few years ago, the organization honored him by putting his name on the pressbox at what is now Hard Rock Stadium.

Cassius Clay becoming world heavyweight champion on Miami Beach? Pope was there.

The Dolphins winning two Super Bowls? Pope was there, as he was for each of the first 47 Super Bowls (one of only a handful who could make that claim).

The Miracle on Ice? A Pope favorite.

For my 19 years at The Herald, I was privileged to call Edwin a colleague. Often, it was my duty to edit his columns. My definition of nerve-racking is when you’re a green copy editor and they passed out the “duty ro” (Herald-speak for duty roster) and you saw “Popeco” (Pope column) under your name.

The issue wasn’t that Edwin’s columns required editing. He was such a wordsmith, most required zero editing. But that rare piece of writing that was only 99 percent perfect? Make it 100 percent or watch out. I still remember the lecture all the editors given by Paul Anger, then executive sports editor, because an extraneous word “the” had slipped under everyone’s noses.

Occasionally, a Saturday morning would roll around when I’d be at a dead-quiet 1 Herald Plaza. I’d see the light on far in the back of the Sports department and wander into Edwin’s office, which was adorned wall-to-wall with hundreds of books, kept company by an electronic air freshener Edwin had humming 24/7. I’d say hello and for the next 20 or 30 minutes, I’d listen to Edwin. Back before everyone sold himself as an “insider,” Edwin was the kind of trusted journalist who’d routinely stop by Shula’s hotel room on Saturday nights before Sunday road games, getting the real inside scoop.

I was so naive I’d start to feel guilty that I wasn’t getting “real work” done even though I now appreciate the greater good we were accomplishing.

“The South Florida community lost one of its greatest citizens,” the Dolphins wrote in their release.

And I’ve lost a friend.

You have, too.

Dolphins statement Friday on the passing of Edwin Pope.
Dolphins statement Friday on the passing of Edwin Pope.