After dominating the early part of the 1970’s and then dissppearing for the rest of the decade, the Miami Dolphins in 1983 had returned to the Super Bowl. After a strike shortened season, the Dolphins finished at 10-3 while the Redskins finished at 12-1. Pasadena, CA was the site for the Super Bowl return of Don Shula.
The Dolphins ended the half with a 17-10 lead and appeared to be on their way to a 3rd Super Bowl title. However, the 2nd half proved to be costly. Starting with Redskins RB John Riggins. Riggins would account for a then record 166 yards rushing, but it was the image of Riggins running on the outside, arm outstretched as Dolphins CB Don McNeal failed to tackle the bruiser as he scampered on a 4th down play to a 43 yard touchdown. The Redskins had taken the lead after a field goal earlier by Mark Mosely.
The image of John Riggins bantering down the sidelines for 43 yards was a haunting reminder of what could have been. The Redskins would score 17 unanswered points in the 2nd half to beat Miami 27-17.
Jimmy Johnson proclaimed “How ’bout them Dolphins“. After leaving the broadcast booth after a quick stint following Super Bowls in Dallas, Johnson joined the Phins following the 1995 season and the “retirement” of Don Shula.
While the ring wearing Johnson would declare a return to the Super Bowl in 3 years, the league was different than when he left it. A salary cap was now in place and other teams were leary of making blockbuster deals with the man who wrote the NFL’s draft value chart. It was what Jimmy did off the field that had many in the organization and some fans angered.
Declaring that no presence or mention of the Dolphins history would be around the training center, Johnson separated himself and the organization from the Shula years which had just come to a close. David Cross, the teams official photographer told me that when Johnson came on board, the tension that was felt in the halls between he and Shula was thick. At one point, JJ refused to attend a charitable event if Shula attended. Shula refused to attend if Jimmy did. This was to be the future of the Miami Dolphins.
After just 3 years, Johnson retired for 24 hours citing burnout. Dan Marino would convince Johnson to return for one more season, and owner Wayne Huizenga would hire former Johnson assistant Dave Wannstedt to help him. Johnson would quit football for good a year later.
For all the fanfare and promises, Jimmy Johnson would finish his tenure with the Miami Dolphins with a 26-21 record and 1 playoff win, the week prior to the Jaguars loss. Despite drafting Sam Madison, Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, and Patrick Surtain, Johnson left Miami with Dave Wannstedt.