According to the NFL they aren’t. The Miami Dolphins 53/’No Name” defenses of the early 70’s were left off the top ten list of the NFL Films special on the NFL Network discussing the top ten defenses of all time. Taking into consideration that every other team on the top ten list had at least ONE loss during their seasons, could it be that the “No Name” defenses were duped or are the early 70’s Dolphins defenses one of the top ten of all time?
While at least two of those top ten defenses listed by the NFL (The Baltimore Ravens of ’00 and The Tampa Bay Buccaneers of ’02) to my witness were lopsided teams with little offense (Trent Dilfer is not only an ESPN analyst!), it’s a question that should be posed for the Fins of the early 70’s – were they just all together better balanced teams that the defense isn’t recognized solely? If not, are they worth at least one of the bottom slots of the all time best? Holding firm at the 9 slot are The Dallas Cowboys of the late 70’s and at the 10 slot are The Minnesota Vikings of the late 60’s/early 70’s which in ’71 had 3 losses in the regular season and lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs. Are you kidding me?
While having the definitive and only undefeated NFL season in ’72 culminating with a Super Bowl victory of course, in ’73 the Fins weathered a slew of opponents holding 11 of their 14 regular season opponents to 14 points or less with a record of allowing just 150 points in a 14 game season. Also, doesn’t making it to the Super Bowl three consecutive seasons (’71-’73) and winning the last 2 make them a potential candidate for a top ten slot on the list? Let’s not forget that the ’72 defensive was ranked #1 that year led by linebacker Nick Buoniconti, end Bill Stanfill, tackle Manny Fernandez and safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott.
My only conflict, as I piggy-back onto my earlier question, resides within the outstanding offenses the Fins had those years. Future NFL Hall of Famer Bob Griese led those teams with a running back named Larry Csonka; maybe you’ve heard of him? The offensive line included future Hall of Fame members Jim Langer and Larry Little and Pro Bowler Bob Kuechenberg. That offense is certainly tough to match, but to have that problem, having an outstanding offense to match your defense isn’t really a problem at all.
Having all respect for the majority of those teams listed in the top ten, I still beg to argue about slots 9 and 10 (and still on the fence about the Bucs in ’02 at slot 8). Most other lists, including ESPNs’, see the 70’s Dolphins ranking in the top ten. As a passionate Dolphan, I’m struggling with the failure of the NFLs recognition of the 1970’s Dolphins “No Name” defense. However, I will wholeheartedly agree with the argument that the 70’s Fins were just all around better teams for the defense to be called out on its own.
In the early 1970’s the Miami Dolphins defense, were unknown. 40 years later, it appears they still are.
A short video of the NFL Networks program can be seen here.