Don Shula Retires Vs. WFL

The Miami Dolphins have had their share of “unmemorable” events.  From horrid draft picks to bad coaching.  Some were one time affairs while others had a more lasting impact on the teams history.  As we wind down the first round of “worst events” in Phins history, we explore the retirement of a legend and a defection of 3 others.  All in an attempt to put these moments behind us as we move into a new era.

NFL.comDon Shula is as much a father to the Miami Dolphins as our own fathers are to us.  He built the team that was, took us to perfection, and then, following the 1995 season and 33 years as an NFL head coach, Don Shula stood at a podium and announced he was leaving the game he loved.  I will not bore you with details of the mans career.  Frankly, if you don’t know about Don Shula and his impact on Miami then you really shouldn’t be voting in this entire poll at all. 

For Shula however, the retirement came for some a year too late, for others it should never have come at all.  The fall out of the 1995 season left owner Wayne Huizenga trying to decide the future of the franchise.  An out of work Super Bowl winning HC was sitting in a broadcast booth and wanted back in.  To this day, the retirement of Don Shula carries as many questions surrounding it as the Dan Marino retirement.  Was he pushed out, forced out, or did he call it game on his own terms?  As fans we will likely never know. 

After Shula left Miami, the team began traveling down a road that would erase the class, discipline, and aura that Shula had built over 20 plus years.

Don Shula’s retirement almost seems like a no-brainer, until you ask yourself what could have been in 1975.

The Dolphins had come off 3 consecutive seasons that saw them in the Super Bowl.  A loss to the Raiders in a “Sea of Hands” knocked them out of their bid for a 4th.  The Dolphins would not return to the Super Bowl until the 1980′s.  It was not the loss to the Raiders that knocked the Phins out for almost a decade, it was the departure of 3 key players on their roster.  Paul Warfield, Jim Kiick, and Larry Csonka left Miami to play in the World Football League.

The fledgling league had scored a coup when it landed two eventual NFL Hall of Famers’.  Offering more money than any NFL team, the 3 players quickly left the Dolphins after then owner Joe Robbie refused to cave into a salary demand that would have opened a flood of new contract demands both in Miami and around the NFL.

Paul Warfield, Larry Csonka, and Kiick headed across the northern border to Toronto but the team relocated to Memphis before any games were played.  They would play for the Memphis Southmen for the 1975 season and then finish their careers elsewhere.  Warfield would return to the NFL with the Cleveland Browns for 2 years.  Csonka would return to the NFL and play for the NY Giants before playing his final games for the Dolphins.  Kiick would return to the NFL with the Denver Broncos where he never excelled.  He would be cut in 1977 and sign with the Washington Redskins.  After one season he retired.

For their WFL stint the trio were given guaranteed 3 year deals, each played only one season as the league folded 12 games into the season.  Csonka’s salary was $1.4 million, Warfield’s $900,000, Kiick’s $700,000. 

In an interview with Larry Csonka for this site, Larry had this to say concerning his WFL stint and whether he would do it again now.  LC:Yes, it was a business decision.”  You can read his full interview here

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Tags: Don Shula Jim Kiick Larry Csonka Memphis Southmen Miami Dolphins Paul Warfield Toronto Northmen WFL

  • Ed L

    Don Shula Retires Vs. Dolphins leave for WFL
    Actually what did in the Dolphins was not the departure of the three players to the WFL but injuries. After the loss in the sea of hand game to Oakland, the 1975 Dolphins found good replacements for Warfield with Freddie Solomon and Norm Bulaich for Jim Kiick. However I do agree that

    Csonka’s departure did leave a void. 
    Injuries knocked out Nick Buoniconti, Bob Heinz, Dick Anderson and Manny Fernandez for the year. Later in the season Bob Griese, Mike Kolen and numerous others were also injured. This injury plague is what held the Dolphins back from their potential, which carried over into the 1976 season. After that the Dolphins were never again the same team