The Miami Dolphins have a lot of players that could be considered the “best” in team history. A subjective look back at the last 50 years may be little surprising.
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I realize that the NFL Draft is almost here, so I wanted to present my list of the 10 greatest players in the team’s history, and show where they were drafted, or how they were acquired.
Now for my Top Ten:
1. Dan Marino Q.B. – First Round 1983 (27th pick)
O.K. that was an easy one. Marino was the 6th quarterback taken in the first round. The year before, David Woodley took the team to the Superbowl where they lost to the Washington Redskins. Woodley had a lot of upside and the team admitted that they were not even looking for a quarterback, but felt that Marino offered too much value to pass up. This is a great example of following a strategy for taking the best available player, versus drafting for need.
Few people (if any) would disagree that Marino was the best player in Dolphin’s history. From a historical perspective, the only negative on Marino is that he never won a Super Bowl, and only led his team to the big game one time. If a measure of a great quarterback is how many Super Bowls he won, then Bob Griese would have to be ahead of Marino on this list. Griese was great, he did win two Super Bowls and is in the Hall Of Fame. But Bob Griese did not have to put the team on his back like Marino did. In fact Griese seldom had to throw the ball. He had Csonka, Kiick, and Morris running behind what I consider to be one of best offensive lines ever. Griese also had the #1 rated defense in the NFL in 1972 behind him. Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostettler, Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer were all not even close to being great quarterbacks – yet they all won a Super Bowl. Of course Marino for most of his career did not have a running game to help keep defenses off balance, which to me makes his accomplishments even more remarkable.
2. Larry Csonka F.B. – First Round 1968 (8th pick)
At 6’3 240 +lbs. Csonka looked like an lineman back then. His running style was to lower his shoulder and lean so low, that it was amazing that he did not fall down on his own. By running low he was almost impossible to tackle because you were only able to bring him down (if his stiff-arm did not throw you to the ground) by the shoulder, an ankle tackle was not an available option. And even if you somehow were able to get to his legs, defenders still bounced off of him. Csonka simply ran over defenders, His 5.4 yards per carry average led the NFL in 1971. Monte Clark his offensive line coach commenting on how tough to tackle he was said, “When Csonka goes on a safari, the lions roll up their windows.”
NFL Films named Csonka the 10th toughest football player of all time. He was named Super Bowl Vll MVP and went to (5) Pro Bowls.
3. Paul Warfield W.R. Trade with Cleveland Browns for our number 1 pick 1970
Miami was a running team that seldom threw the ball because they had Csonka, Kiick and Morris. In 1973 the year Miami won a Super Bowl, he had only 29 catches for the season, but 11 of those receptions were touchdowns. Warfield was a big play receiver, he averaged 20.1 yards per reception. Warfield’s greatness is probably overlooked by many because Miami was a running team and the NFL had not yet opened up the passing game with rule changes favoring the offense. So it was hard for him to put up big stats. In addition, the NFL schedule back then was only 14 games a year, so his numbers were further skewed. Warfield only reached 1,000 yards receiving in one year. How does he rate #3 on my list then? How about making the Pro-Bowl (8) times and being inducted in the Hall Of Fame. He and Jerry Rice were the most fluid route runners I have ever seen.
4. Jason Taylor D.E. – Third Round 1997
Jason Taylor is 6th in the NFL for all time career sacks with 139.5. He holds the record for most fumble returns in NFL history with six. Talk about a playmaker! In 2002 Taylor led the NFL in sacks with 18.5, while also forcing (7) fumbles. He was named to (6) Pro Bowls and was the NFL Defensive Player Of The Year in 2006. He was also named AFC Player Of The Week (7) times. He was just as good off the field, having been honored with the Walter Payton Man Of The Year Award in 2007, which recognizes accomplishments for both on and off the field.
5. Dwight Stephenson C – Second Round 1980
Bear Bryant his college coach at Alabama called him the best player he ever coached regardless of position. He was voted All Pro (5) consecutive times. And despite having his career cut short (1980-1987) due to a knee injury, he was voted into the Hall Of Fame. Many regard him as the greatest center ever. His quickness was amazing. As the offensive captain he anchored the line that led the league in giving up the fewest sacks for a record six consecutive years. Like Jason Taylor, Stephenson was also honored with the Walter Payton man Of The Year Award, which he received in 1985.
6. Larry Little G -Undrafted 1967
Larry Little was traded from the Chargers for cornerback Mark Lamb. He became a (5) time All-Pro and a member of the Hall Of Fame. Little was a major factor behind the success of Csonka. Kiick and Morris. Sporting News named Larry Little number (79) on their list of the 100 Greatest Players.
7. Nick Buoniconti MLB – Traded in 1969 with New England for two players you never heard of
If you have never seen him play, think Zac Thomas with a little better feel for the game- he was that good. Undersized at 5″11 220 lbs. He was a six time All-Star and elected to the Hall Of Fame. Buoniconti was named the Dolphins M.V.P. (3) times 1969, 1970 and 1973 . Buoniconti was not big, fast, or strong. He did not need to outmuscle blockers, he went around them. He did not need to be fast, his reactions and pursuit angles put him the right spot quicker than most players with far greater speed and physical attributes.
8. Cameron Wake DE -Undrafted 2005
Wake was signed as a free agent in 2009 after he played in Canada for two years. He is a (4) time All-Pro and is the ultimate leader of men. He ran a 4.55 40 yard dash at the NFL combine, yet he went undrafted and was released by the New York Giants. After having failed to make in the NFL , Wake went to Canada to play with the B.C. Lions where he became Rookie Of The Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. He was the only person in CFL history to have won both awards in the same year.
9. Jake Scott FS Seventh Round 1970
A (5) time Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl Vll MVP. He was instinctive and a hard hitter who had 35 interceptions in six seasons playing for Miami. He also returned punts and on occasion kickoffs as well. He was the ultimate free safety a true ball hawk who always seemed to be in the right spot.
10.Richmond Webb OT – First Round 1990 (9th)
As the protector of Dan Marino’s blind side , Webb was a (7) time Pro-Bowler. At 6’6 325 he had prototypical left tackle size. Being large with long arms, he made it hard for defenders to get around him. What made Webb so good was that he had both the strength to neutralize bull rushers, and the quick feet to handle speed rushers.
Honorable Mention :
Bob Griese – If this had been a Ten Most Valuable Players List he would be on it because of the importance of the position. In no way am I am trying to diminish what he did.
Manny Fernandez – Vastly under rated his entire career, I may be guilty of under rating him as well.
Bill Stanfill –Jason Taylor and Cam Wake are the reasons he is not a top ten.
Marks Brothers – Duper and Clayton were awesome but Warfield was better