Protecting their legacy
The 1972 Miami Dolphins held a half-hour conference call last week; and for the first 25 minutes, they were about as boring as they could possibly be. They praised
But with about five minutes left in the call,
The '72 Dolphins cannot lie. It is part of their legacy, right along with their 17-0 record. Even when they try to lie, they fail. For instance, quarterback
For this, they are labeled as grumpy and selfish. But in their golden years, the '72 Dolphins have become more relevant than ever. While other Super Bowl champions are cast aside and never heard from again, the Dolphins pop up every few years, when the Bears or the Broncos or the Colts start 10-0 and bring back the notion of a perfect season.
Invariably, the '72 Dolphins are asked to gauge their level of anxiety. If they are nervous, the threat is real. You knew the Patriots were good when they played the undefeated Colts in Week 9 and the Dolphins rooted for the Colts -- because they considered the Patriots a better candidate to finish the season undefeated.
"Right now, I look down the road, and I just don't see anybody that will beat the Patriots," former Dolphins' tight end
The Patriots did beat the Colts, improving to 9-0, and a week later the Dolphins fell to 0-9. Several members of the '72 team sat in the alumni suite at Dolphin Stadium, including defensive back
Finally, Babb made the unpleasant choice. "If the Dolphins go winless, they can still get the No. 1 pick in the draft, come back next season, maybe even win the Super Bowl," he said. "If the Patriots go undefeated, then it will never be the same again."
Call them curmudgeons, but they are correct. If the Patriots finish 19-0, they will go down as the best team in football history. The Dolphins can only hope to be second. They know that. It is why they have held their record so tightly for the past 35 years.
Only recently have they started to loosen their grip. Should the Patriots win Sunday,
But what will happen next season, if the Cowboys or the Chargers sprint out to 10-0? We won't get any of Anderson's toasts or Shula's jabs or Morris's colorful reminiscences. We will only get Belichick, standing behind a podium, saying nothing at all. Even if the '72 Dolphins are a little grumpy, at least they are not aloof.
They are still in the picture, for one more weekend. Shula will be at the Super Bowl on Sunday. Most of his players will be spread around the country, watching on television. They have not planned any big reunion. They will have to cheer quietly.
But make no mistake, they are holding out hope for an upset. Only they can fathom the pressure that the Patriots are under. And they are happy to pour more on.
"If we would have gone 16-0 and then lost the Super Bowl, that season would have been a complete failure," Shula said. "That's where New England is right now."