20 years of losing and Miami Dolphins still rank 7th in winning percent

Don Shula (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
Don Shula (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images) /

The Miami Dolphins were once of the defining teams in the NFL. A consistent winner who challenged yearly for the NFL’s top spot.

Don Shula left in the late 90s and at the turn of the decade, Dan Marino was gone too. Miami succeeded statistically for a few years later with Dave Wannstedt but his inability to manage the salary cap and poor drafting doomed Miami for decades.

Wannstedt, the third-most winningest coach in franchise history, left the team in 2004 when he resigned during the bye-week. Miami would end the season 4-12 after two 11-5 seasons, a 9-7 season, and a 10-6 season. But those years would only net Miami two playoff appearances.

Since 2003, Wannstedt’s last full season, the Dolphins have had only 3 double-digit winning seasons, they have had only two other seasons above .500 and two other seasons finishing at .500. The rest? All under the .500 mark.

So how good were the days of Don Shula and the eight seasons of Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt combined? Consider that the Dolphins are still the 7th ranked team in overall winning percentages in league history.

This is an incredible fact given the poor play over the last twenty years. Twenty years is a long time and even with a handful of successful seasons, Miami was so good for so many years they have hardly hurt their historical standings.

Don Shula’s last losing season was in 1988 when the Dolphins went 6-10. Jimmy Johnson, in his four seasons, finished no worse than 9-7. Something he did twice.

Miami used to be one of the premier teams in the NFL and along the way everything changed. Fans have endured the flirtation with Nick Saban and asked the “what if” questions about Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees…again.

We have watched some very bad head coaches float through the organization, Cam Cameron and Joe Philbin. Still, the Dolphins, who are no longer considered playoff relevant, yet, remain one of the top historically good teams in the league. A testament to Don Shula for certain.

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Now, history belongs to Mike McDaniel. He will write his own legacy and in doing so, will affect the team’s legacy. Can he be the next great Miami Dolphins head coach or just another in a long list of failures who could have done better? Time will answer that question just as time still shows how good the past was for Miami.

When you think about it, the six teams ahead of the Dolphins, Dallas and Pittsburgh have always been consistently good. The Patriots and Ravens have only been good over the last 2 decades consistently.