This morning I woke up to a nervous twitch in my stomach. I knew that within two short hours I would be talking on the phone with 1972 Miami Dolphin RB, Jim Kiick. Jim Kiick was part of the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid backfield consisting of himself and Larry Csonka, Jim was Cassidy. The two would set the NFL on fire, become the topic of a Sports Illustrated cover controversy, and then be part of the biggest coup in professional sports when they left for the World Football League.
Thanks to Jimmy Shapiro over at ZuckerSportsBooking for providing this opportunity to me. Jim Kiick was very gracious with his time and asked every question I threw at him. Tonight on Finsradio.net , or on the archive tomorrow, you can listen to Jim in his own words. The audio file will also be available tomorrow here as well. In the meantime, here is the transcript of our Phinphanatic exclusive interview. I hope you enjoy it.
PP: What were your thoughts during the time that New England scored the go ahead TD to the time when the Giants scored the winning TD?
JK: I was concerned, I grew up a Giants fan so people asked me if I was rooting against the Patriots and I would say no, I’m rooting for the Giants, but I guess if I was rooting for the Giants then I was rooting against the Patriots. I think Csonka put it aptly years ago when he said, “if another team does go undefeated, perfection is perfection whether there is 19 games or 17 games, there’s a zero at the end so we put another chair at the top of the mountain and share the accomplishment. But, I guess the Patriots thought they were the better football team because they were 19-0 so, I guess it was the perfect scenario.
PP: Keeping with the ’72 theme here, my Finsradio co-host James Lancaster wanted me to ask you if say in 5 years the Miami Dolphins were chasing perfection, would you be rooting for them?
JK: I don’t think anybody has that concern. I mean if it happens it happens, obviously we have no control over that so if it’s gonna happen it’s gonna happen. In all honesty, we’re just proud of our accomplishment, there is a lot of media people who have called us bitter old men, unfortunately we are old (laughing) we’re certainly not bitter we are just proud of our accomplishment we don’t stand there with a voodoo doll when a team is going 11, 12, 13, and “O”, again, we don’t have any control over it and if it happens it happens, as good as the Patriots we’re last year and lucky also, something you certainly need to go undefeated, it just shows how difficult it is, and the Patriots found that out and I think Tom Brady mentioned afterwards they would have been better off losing one of those games early on and then focus on the Super Bowl, like the Chicago Bears who lost to the Dolphins in ’85 and then the pressure was off and they could go about their goal of winning the Super Bowl. The Patriots are bragging that you know they say they have the tie that their season was undefeated (regular season), well, I don’t think that’s the accomplishment, your playing for one thing and that’s to win the Super Bowl. Unfortunately they fell short.
PP: I heard that the Patriots, Bob Kraft, bought the team “Perfect Regular Season” rings. Would you wear one of those?
JK: No. I don’t wear my 71 ring the game we lost to the Cowboys, I gave that to my mother. It’s called the AFC – NFC Championship ring. Most of us just call it the losers ring.
PP: I had a chance to speak with Larry Csonka back a few months ago and got his side of this story so I have to ask you. How did the alligator get into Coach Shula’s shower?
Jim Kiick: Well, we all have our own story that has been embellished with, but my remberence is (unaudible name) Csonka, and Bill Stanfill, decided they wanted to play a trick on Shula and I wasn’t involved, and they did put the alligator in Shula’s locker, and Shula and I at that time were not getting along too well as I was a product of the 70’s a little rebellious, Shula was like my dad, it wasn’t the right or one way it was his way, anyways to make a long story short, I heard a scream that I had not heard before and following that scream I heard a scream I heard quite often, as my name was patched through, he sort of came in yelling at me, how can I do that, I said, you know coach Shula, I’m gonna be honest with ya, my only involvement in this is that we voted to tape the mouth shut and I voted against it but unfortunately I lost. So that’s my rendition of it.
PP: There are a lot of stories about Don Shula, what is your favorite story about him, good or bad, that your willing to share?
Jim Kiick: wasn’t going to get any faster a the next day he was cut, so, so much for the 12 minute run, but Csonka a Well, I have two stories that I remember quite well, they both involve Csonka, I didn’t agree with Shula that often but these two time I did. We had this 12 minute run, well, I could never understand I mean how do you run 12 minutes on a football field, but that was what he wanted, he wanted to see what kind of shape you were in, and one year Dick Anderson who was one of the… he ran like 2 miles and we had this rookie who ran 2 and a half and Shula came in and praised this guy saying this is the kind of player we need, and stuff like that, and the next day he was cut, so much for the 12 minute run. The other moment I remember was with Zonk, he and I were running, I had allergies, I stopped after about 2 laps I just couldn’t catch my breath because of my allergies and the next thing I know Csonka stops, right next to me, and I see Shula running over screaming these expletives, that there was no way two guys could tired at the same time (laughing). So I look at Csonka and said you know, he’s right, so why don’t you just job a little bit more, so that was the infamous 12 minute run and the 2nd time was Csonka, he had to starve himself on weight in, Shula made his weight 237 figuring the lighter guys are the faster they would get, well Zonknd I wasn’t going to get any faster, but, Zonk would starve himself for 3 days, the morning of, which was Thursday, he would run around in sweat suit, sit in the steam room, and do everything possible, and when he got on he “hovered” around right around the 237 mark. So I said to Shula, I said why do you make his weight 237 when you know by game time he is 250, Shula looked at me and said, “well if I made his weight 250 by game time it would be 270″. Well, you probably got a point there too. So that was the two times I agree with Shula.
PP: Speaking of Larry Csonka, Sports Illustrated photo, he has the middle finger on his leg, but looking at your face, your almost laughing. Was there something else going on behind all this that you ‘can’ share?
Jim Kiick: No man, we were just having a good time, I can’t remember the photographers name, (Walter Looss, Jr.), he just asked us to have a good time and be ourselves, so we were shooting the bird about 90 percent of the pictures, just kidding around and, you know if you see it in 90 percent of your pictures, umm, I’m sure Sports Illustrated had proof readers, their gonna check on it and look closely, but I think they let it get through to bring some publicity. We got a lot of letters and that was one of the biggest issues of Sports Illustrated that were sold. I thought he was just saying we’re number 1 and the wrong finger came up (chuckles) but yeah, I think Sports Illustrated let it go through and you know it’s funny some people don’t know of it, you ask them if they see anything and they say no. The next year, or the year that we went to the World Football League, Csonka, myself, and Warfield were on the cover in a similar picture and if you look at Csonka’s picture, at his fingers, he has two fingers up this time, he was making sure there wasn’t just one.
PP: Speaking of the World Football League, I know that Csonka says it was a business decision, Warfield the same thing, I’m sure you will too, but what did you miss the most about the Miami Dolphins?
Jim Kiick: You know, to be honest with ya, I was playing less, the game wasn’t as fun anymore, as much as it was, and obviously it was a business decision, I was just looking for a change, we were pioneers, and it was like a train, Csonka was the engine, Paul was the middle, and I was the caboose. I mean, we could have played the rest of our lives and with the money that we were making at the time wouldn’t have made that much money so it was definitely a business decision overall but you know football wasn’t as much fun and I was looking for a change so I thought maybe it would freshen my attitude for football.
PP: How closely do you follow the Dolphins now?
Jim Kiick: I’m just a fan, I go to games, they give us, they got the skybox and you get to go to 4 games so they give us 2 tickets and a parking pass so I am basically just a fan, obviously with the changes they have this year it is a little more interesting. I know Parcells and he will do a good job, the attitude is completely different, the players are different so hopefully the record will be different so, it was lucky last year that we were hoping that not only would we be the only undefeated team but also the only winless team, well, not the only one but one of the only teams, so it would be a dubious distinction so we were hoping for the Dolphins to win at least one game.
PP: Have you had an opportunity to meet or talk to Tony Sparano?
Jim Kiick: Myself and Mercury just met with Sparano and Bill Parcells and, the general manager, they were upbeat and what they were trying to do is get the younger players involved with the franchise, it’s a storied franchise but a lot of the players today don’t really have a clue and they don’t know the history of the game, and they don’t know they are playing for a storied franchise in the Dolphins and Parcells and those guys are trying to implement our success with the players today. They told myself and Merc that they wanted us to get involved and wanted us to speak to the players once in awhile and just give a little input about this storied franchise and sort of help and bring back that and hopefully we can and whatever we can do we certainly will and it will help.
PP: When you look back at the 72 team and you hear how it was one game at a time, one game at a time, and everybody played as a unit, no individuality, that is still there 35 years later, your still being asked for interviews, a whole new generation of fans that know who you are, know who the 72 team is, do you ever just sit back and say “wow, i never would have thought back then, that I would still be doing this today”?
Jim Kiick: we weren’t trying to go undefeated, we were playing the 3 seasons, you know the regular season, the playoffs, a you win the Super Bowl. I’m thankful for it, thankful for just getting to the Super Bowl is an accomplishment, there are some great players in football In actuality, once I got out of football, I pretty much got away from it. In 1985 Shula called me and asked if I wanted to come to the (Monday Night) game, and I said, “Why?” and he said they were playing the Chicago Bears, and I said “well so what”, and he said well they are undefeated, and I said, “Well so what”, and he said do you not realize that you are the only undefeated team in the history of the NFL. In all honesty, I didn’t. Our main objective that year was to redeem ourselves from that loss, that embarrasment to the Dallas Cowboys and Shula made us watch that film almost every morning and it was the old cliche’ one game at a time and obviously the Super Bowl. We weren’t trying to do it and now as every year goes by, it becomes more and more of an accomplishment. Again, it’s a team accomplishment and that’s what it was all about. Shula made sure of that. All individual yards and pass catching and everything was great so long as it wen’t along with everything else. There are some great players in the NFL who have not gotten to the Super Bowl, some that have gotten to the Super Bowl and lost, so to have gotten to 3 Super Bowls, winning two of them, and one of them being undefeated is something that we are proud of.
PP: I have one more question for you Mr. Kiick, looking at yourself back then and the athlete that you were comparing yourself to the athlete of today, just a different era or yeah you could do it, you could play today?
Jim Kiick: I think certain people could do it, certain positions. I think I could do it maybe as a 3rd down back, I was good in short yards, I had good hands I could catch, I could block, i was still big enough, I was 215, 217, still a decent size today. I think where they would have a problem is on the offensive line, maybe at LB, where certainly they are a lot bigger. But, you know, people always ask me do you think you could have beat the 2008 or 2007 Patriots, I say no, for number 1 I’m 62 years old but yeah you could take them and they are bigger and they are faster but 2 there are different rule changes as well. I said which rule do you play? Do you play the rule that you put a skirt on the QB and you can’t hit him after a play or you can’t breath on them which is today’s rule they give everything to the QB, do you play the defensive backs where after 5 yards they can’t breath on ya? Where in our era you could beat the hell out ‘em all the way down the field, so thats a big difference so, there are certain rule changes that they made to benefit today’s game because they like scoring. Like baseball likes home runs the NFL likes scoring so they have given all the advantage to the offense where we didn’t, so, it’s a different game, besides the size, the different rules and everything else, like could Rocky Marciano beat Muhammad Ali? So just guess, you can say whatever you want, but no body knows.