1972 Miami Dolphins season

The 1972 Miami Dolphins season was the team’s seventh season, and third season in the National Football League (NFL). The 1972 Dolphins are the only NFL team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. The undefeated campaign was led by coach Don Shula and notable players Bob Griese, Earl Morrall, and Larry Csonka. The 1972 Dolphins went 14–0 in the regular season and won all three post-season games, including Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins, to finish 17–0.

The team remains the only NFL team to complete an entire season undefeated and untied from the opening game through the Super Bowl (or championship game). The closest team to repeating this feat was the 2007 New England Patriots, who recorded the most wins in a season in NFL history by going 18–0 before shockingly losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII (the Dolphins won 18 straight through and until the first week of the 1973 season). Besides the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriots, the only other team to ever complete the regular season undefeated and untied is the Chicago Bears, who accomplished the feat in both 1934 and 1942. Both of those Bears teams however failed to win the NFL Championship Game.

During the 1972 season, Bob Griese’s ankle was broken in Week 5 as he was sacked by San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Ron East and defensive end Deacon Jones. He was replaced by veteran Earl Morrall for the rest of the regular season. Griese returned to the field as a substitute in the final regular season game against the Baltimore Colts and then also relieved Morrall for the second half of the AFC Championship game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and then started for Miami in Super Bowl VII. On the ground, running backs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first teammates to each rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Paul Warfield led the receivers, averaging over 20 yards per catch on 29 receptions. The offensive line included future Hall of Fame members Jim Langer and Larry Little and Pro Bowler Norm Evans.

The 1972 Dolphins defensive unit, called the No-Name Defense because Miami’s impressive offense received much more publicity, as well as Cowboys coach Tom Landry coining the phrase in an interview, was the league’s best that year. It was led by linebacker Nick Buoniconti, end Bill Stanfill, tackle Manny Fernandez, and safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott. In all, nine players—Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Little, Evans, Buoniconti, Stanfill, Anderson and Scott—were selected to the Pro Bowl, and Morrall, Stanfill and Anderson were named 1st team All-Pro.[1]

On August 20, 2013, four decades after their accomplishment, President Barack Obama hosted the 1972 Dolphins, noting that they "never got their White House visit".[2][3]

1972 Miami Dolphins season
Head coachDon Shula
OwnerJoe Robbie
Home fieldMiami Orange Bowl
Division place1st AFC East
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (Browns) 20–14
Won AFC Championship (at Steelers) 21–17
Won Super Bowl VII (vs. Redskins) 14–7
1986 Jeno's Pizza - 33 - Jim Kiick (cropped)
Jim Kiick (center right) rushing the ball for Miami in Super Bowl VII.


1972 Miami Dolphins roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists


Practice/Taxi squad {{{practice_squad}}}

Rookies in italics

Regular season


Week Date Opponent Result Record
1 August 5, 1972 at Detroit Lions L 23–31 0–1
2 August 12, 1972 Green Bay Packers L 13–14 0–2
3 August 19, 1972 at Cincinnati Bengals W 35–17 1–2
4 August 25, 1972 Atlanta Falcons W 24–10 2–2
5 August 31, 1972 at Washington Redskins L 24–27 2–3
6 September 10, 1972 Minnesota Vikings W 21–19 3–3


Week Date Opponent Result Record Attendance
1 September 17, 1972 at Kansas City Chiefs W 20–10 1–0
2 September 24, 1972 Houston Oilers W 34–13 2–0
3 October 1, 1972 at Minnesota Vikings W 16–14 3–0
4 October 8, 1972 at New York Jets W 27–17 4–0
5 October 15, 1972 San Diego Chargers W 24–10 5–0
6 October 22, 1972 Buffalo Bills W 24–23 6–0
7 October 29, 1972 at Baltimore Colts W 23–0 7–0
8 November 5, 1972 at Buffalo Bills W 30–16 8–0
9 November 12, 1972 New England Patriots W 52–0 9–0
10 November 19, 1972 New York Jets W 28–24 10–0
11 November 27, 1972 St. Louis Cardinals W 31–10 11–0
12 December 3, 1972 at New England Patriots W 37–21 12–0
13 December 10, 1972 at New York Giants W 23–13 13–0
14 December 16, 1972 Baltimore Colts W 16–0 14–0


Game Date Opponent Result Record Attendance
Divisional playoffs December 24, 1972 Cleveland Browns W 20–14 15–0
Conference championship December 31, 1972 at Pittsburgh Steelers W 21–17 16–0
Super Bowl VII January 14, 1973 Washington Redskins W 14–7 17–0


AFC East
Miami Dolphins 14 0 0 1.000 8–0 11–0 385 171 W14
New York Jets 7 7 0 .500 6–2 6–5 367 324 L2
Baltimore Colts 5 9 0 .357 4–4 5–6 235 252 L2
Buffalo Bills 4 9 1 .321 2–6 2–9 257 377 W1
New England Patriots 3 11 0 .214 0–8 0–11 192 446 L1

Urban legend

There is an urban legend that every season, whenever the last remaining undefeated NFL team loses its first game, all the surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins open bottles of champagne in celebration. Coach Don Shula tried to play down the myth by saying that two players, Dick Anderson and Nick Buoniconti, who live near each other sometimes have a toast together.[4][5] However, in a college football broadcast on ABC, following the loss of an undefeated team, Bob Griese, after being asked by his colleague, commented that he called former Dolphins, and they had Diet Cokes together. That celebration comes with the connotation that they no longer drink alcoholic beverages, but that a toast was customary.[6]

With the popularity of this story, the NFL capitalized on it in an official commercial that aired during Super Bowl LIII commemorating the 100th year of the NFL. The commercial featured "44 of the greatest NFL athletes" at a formal dinner event with almost everyone dressed in black tie. Cacophony breaks out, and three members of the '72 Dolphins, Larry Little, Paul Warfield, Larry Csonka, are shown casually sitting at a table together uniquely dressed in aqua-colored formal coats, and all three are drinking champagne, laughing at the chaos happening around them.[7]

The perfect season

Dolphins Honor Roll3
The 1972 team on the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll

The 1972 Miami Dolphins were the first team to execute a perfect regular season in the post-merger NFL. They are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated and untied in the regular season and postseason.

After their loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI (Miami's only loss during calendar year 1972), Don Shula had vowed to not get to the Super Bowl but to win it. To achieve this, he made the team watch the loss two times at training camp. Shula would later go on to say:

I think that’s when we all came together for what was going happen for the next two years. What I stressed in the locker room was that we wanted to make sure this wouldn’t happen again. Our goal was not to go to the Super Bowl but to win it.[8]

An enduring controversy is that the 1972 Dolphins played a soft schedule not possible under the current scheduling formula.[9] Prior to the implementation of position scheduling in 1978, opponents were set by the NFL on a rotating basis.[10] Statistically, the Dolphins’ 1972 regular-season opponents had an aggregate winning percentage of .397 and only two had winning records for that season (both the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants finished 8–6). This does not however constitute any record: the 1975 Minnesota Vikings, who began 10–0 and finished 12–2, played fourteen opponents with an average winning percentage of .332 and nine of their games were against teams 4–10 or worse.[11]

The Dolphins were beneficiaries of a weak AFC East which saw the Colts lapse from a perennial contender into a three-year stretch in which they would win only 11 games; a Bills team which had yet to find its legs with O.J. Simpson and the return of coach Lou Saban; a dysfunctional Patriots organization which had little to no talent to surround former No. 1 overall draft choice Jim Plunkett; and a Jets squad with a porous defense, offsetting the benefits of Joe Namath remaining healthy throughout the season and an emerging John Riggins in the running game. Miami also caught a scheduling break by facing an Oilers squad in the midst of back-to-back 1–13 seasons, a Chargers squad beginning a run of four consecutive seasons in the AFC West cellar, and a Cardinals squad which appeared to lack direction by rotating its starting quarterbacks instead of giving the job full-time to Jim Hart. Also, the Dolphins caught the Vikings in the midst of a massive transformation following the return of Fran Tarkenton. 1972 saw Minnesota miss the playoffs for the only time between 1968 and 1978, going 7–7.

However, the NFL’s rules at the time also forced the undefeated Dolphins (14–0) to play the Steelers (11–3) in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game, a game in which the Dolphins won on the road to reach the Super Bowl. Subsequent rule changes have since changed the playoff structure so that this would never happen again. Since the 1975 season, teams that have won their division and have had a superior record than their opponent (as was the case with the 1972 Dolphins when they faced the Steelers) would play their postseason games at home.

The Miami Dolphins 1972 team consisted mostly of the same core of players it possessed from 1970 through 1974 (five seasons) was the most dominant professional football team in the NFL during that stretch. In those five seasons the Dolphins made the playoffs all five years, won three AFC Championships, went to the Super Bowl three times for two wins and went undefeated and untied while winning the Super Bowl in 1972. They posted a record of 64–14–1, and were also the fastest franchise to win a Super Bowl after its inception and joining the NFL (7 years after they started in the AFL and then 3 years after becoming a member of the NFL).

Television coverage

Fans in the Miami area could not catch the home games on television – they had to be there at the stadium for the games, listen to the radio, or travel to outside markets to watch the games on TV. For Miami-Dade residents in 1972, that would have meant driving northwest on Florida's Turnpike towards Orlando, or north on Interstate 95 to areas along the east coast of the state which picked up signals from Orlando and/or Jacksonville.

1972 was the last year that all home games were blacked out on local television even if they sold out. Super Bowl VII was the first game to be televised in the market of origin under new rules which would come into effect the following season – games must be sold out within 72 hours of kickoff time in order to be aired in the market of origin (these blackout rules were lifted in 2015). As all Super Bowls except the first have sold out, none have been blacked out since (tickets sell out rather quickly due to high demand to see the most major game of the NFL season schedule).

Coincidentally, President Richard Nixon, many of his White House staff, and members of Congress were angered by the blackout rules, since they could not watch the Dolphins’ eventual Super Bowl opponent, the Redskins, play at home, even though all games at RFK Stadium had been sold out since 1966.

2013 White House visit

President Obama honoring the 1972 team at the White House in 2013

Four decades later in 2013, the team was invited by President Barack Obama to visit the White House. This occurred on August 20, when Obama noted that the team "never got their White House visit".[12] As to why this team had not been invited by President Richard Nixon in 1973, Larry Csonka stated that he did not feel neglected as it had not been a regular occurrence at the time.[13] However, MSNBC reported that this was a deliberate snub by Nixon, who was a Redskins fan, even though Nixon owned a vacation home in nearby Key Biscayne, Florida and telephoned Shula only hours after the Dolphins defeated the Colts in the 1971 AFC Championship game to suggest a play for Miami to use in Super Bowl VI (a down-and-out pass to Warfield which was broken up by Cowboys safety Cornell Green).[14] Obama had previously invited the 1985 Bears to the White House, as their visit had gotten cancelled due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster by President Reagan. President Obama, a Chicago resident and Bears fan,[15] had called them the greatest team ever, but during the Dolphins' visit he called his own words into question, also noting that the only loss the 1985 Bears had was to the Dolphins.[16] Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer, and Manny Fernandez all refused to attend due to political differences with the Obama administration.[17]


  1. ^ "1972 Miami Dolphins Roster". Pro-Football-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  2. ^ "President Obama Honors the 1973 Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins". YouTube.com/user/whitehouse. August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  3. ^ "Perfect 1972 Miami Dolphins Team Going to the White House". Archived from the original on August 18, 2013. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  4. ^ "ESPN – Shoes ... The Jaw ... by any name, Shula still the king – Columnist". Sports.espn.go.com. February 1, 2007. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  5. ^ "Urban Legends Reference Pages: 1972 Miami Dolphins Toast First Losses by Undefeated Teams". Snopes.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  6. ^ Caesar, Dan; "‘72 Dolphins share a Coke and a smile"; in St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 19, 1972; p. B8
  7. ^ The 100-Year Game | SBLIII (posted to the NFL official YouTube channel on Feb 3, 2019)
  8. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=-0ukAS0WhtAC&pg=PA56&lpg=PA56&dq=did+don+shula+make+his+team+watch+the+super+bowl+loss&source=bl&ots=p1sa91HfuJ&sig=OpVHz4ddkK42uS_FABd_5SoQ30Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjnkZaoiv3MAhXCQD4KHWiWBxoQ6AEIJzAE#v=onepage&q=did%20don%20shula%20make%20his%20team%20watch%20the%20super%20bowl%20loss&f=false
  9. ^ Moulton, David. "David Moulton: A final salute to the 1972 Dolphins " Naples Daily News". Naplesnews.com. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  10. ^ Urena, Ivan; Pro Football Schedules: A Complete Historical Guide from 1933 to the Present, pp. 10-12 ISBN 0786473517
  11. ^ 1975 Minnesota Vikings
  12. ^ "President Obama Honors the 1973 Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins". YouTube.com/user/whitehouse. August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  13. ^ "Csonka: '72 Dolphins still at the peak". YouTube.com/user/CNN. August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  14. ^ "40 yrs Later, Nixon Shunned '72 Dolphins Get White-House Respect". YouTube.com. August 21, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  15. ^ Laura Miller (October 7, 2011). "1985 Chicago Bears Visit the White House | The White House". Whitehouse.gov. Retrieved September 3, 2012.
  16. ^ "President Obama Honors the 1973 Super Bowl Champion Miami Dolphins". YouTube.com/user/whitehouse. August 20, 2013. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
  17. ^ Dave Hyde (August 17, 2013). "At least three '72 Dolphins refuse White House invite". sun-sentinel.com. Retrieved October 28, 2013.

External links

Earl Morrall

Earl Edwin Morrall (May 17, 1934 – April 25, 2014) was an American football player who was a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for twenty-one seasons. Morrall, who also occasionally punted, played 21 seasons in the National Football League as both a starter and reserve. In the latter capacity, he became known as one of the greatest backup quarterbacks in NFL history. During the 1968 Baltimore Colts season, he filled in for an injured Johnny Unitas leading to an NFL championship shutout victory and Super Bowl III, which they lost to the New York Jets. For the 1972 Miami Dolphins season (both under coach Don Shula) he filled in for an injured Bob Griese leading to Super Bowl VII and the only perfect season in NFL history. Morrall made Pro Bowl appearances following the 1957 and 1968 seasons.

List of AFC champions

The American Football Conference (AFC) is one of two conferences within the National Football League, the National Football Conference (NFC) being the other. The AFC has its roots in the American Football League (AFL), which began to play in 1960. In 1970, the AFL merged with the NFL. As part of the merger, the former AFL teams, plus three former NFL teams (the Baltimore Colts, the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers), were placed into the AFC. The remaining former NFL teams were placed in the NFC.

Perfect season

A perfect season is a sports season including any requisite playoff portion, in which a team remains and finishes undefeated and untied. The feat is extremely rare at the professional level of any team sport, and has occurred more commonly at the collegiate and scholastic levels in the United States. A perfect regular season (known by other names outside the United States of America) is a season excluding any playoffs, where a team remains undefeated and untied; it is less rare than a complete perfect season but still exceptional.

A perfect season may be part of a multi-season winning streak.

Exhibition games are generally not counted toward standings, for or against. For example, the 1972 Miami Dolphins (below) lost three of their preseason ("exhibition" games in 1972 NFL vernacular) games but are considered to have had a perfect season.

Miami Dolphins Honor Roll inductees
Division championships (13)
Conference championships (5)
League championships (2)
Retired numbers
Current league affiliations
Former league affiliation
Seasons (54)

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