Arnsparger Earns Lifetime Achievement Award

Alain Poupart

The brilliant career of longtime defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger arguably is the best assistant coach in Miami Dolphins history, was honored when he was selected as one of two recipients of the 2020 Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman Award.

The award, given by the Pro Football Writers Association, recognizes lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL.

The other winner along with Arnsparger was longtime defensive coach Romeo Crennel, who currently is assistant head coach with the Houston Texans.

The other nominees were Dick Hoak, Rod Marinelli, Bobb McKittrick, Floyd Peters, Buddy Ryan and Bobby Turner.

Arnsparger had two stints as Dolphins defensive coordinators and he helped the team reach the Super Bowl during each of them.

Bill Arnsparger

Under Arnsparger's guidance, the 1972 Dolphins not only led the NFL in fewest points allowed and came within Garo Yepremian's infamous moment from producing the first (and what would be the only) shutout in Super Bowl history.

The Dolphins defense was almost as dominant the following season, shutting out the Minnesota Vikings for the first three quarters in Miami's 24-7 victory in Super Bowl VIII.

He, of course, was the architect of the No-Name Defense that helped the Dolphins win back-to-back Super Bowls and produced the only perfect season in NFL history. Arnsparger masterminded the "53" defense during that time, whereby Bob Matheson (who wore 53) came onto the field as a fourth linebacker in obvious passing situations.

The Dolphins became the first team to win a Super Bowl title while regularly employing a 3-4 defensive alignment.

After that second Super Bowl, Arnsparger was hired as head coach of the New York Giants but he was fired midway through the 1976 season.

Shula, who first had met Arnsparger when both were assistants at the University of Kentucky in 1959 and had hired him as his defensive line coach for the Baltimore Colts in 1964, re-hired Arnsparger two days after the Giants let him go — just like Shula had made sure to bring Arnsparger with him from Baltimore when he was hired as Dolphins head coach.

It was under Arnsparger's guidance that the Dolphins' Killer B's defense emerged. Nicknamed because of the unusually high number of starters whose last name began with B (Doug Better, Bob Baumhower, Kim Bokamper, Bob Brudzinski, Glenn Blackwood, Lyle Blackwood), the Killer B's helped the Dolphins reach the Super Bowl in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Arnsparger left near the end of the 1983 season to take over as head coach at LSU and then became University of Florida athletic director, but returned to the NFL in 1992 as defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers. In his final season in the NFL, he helped the Chargers reach the Super Bowl.

Arnsparger passed away in Alabama in 2015 at the age of 88.

One of the recipients of the Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman Award in 2019 was Mike Westhoff, whose 19-year NFL career as a special teams coach began with 15 years (1986-2000) with the Dolphins.