Jeremy Schaap on the Dolphins E60 documentary, what you may not know
By Brian Miller
Following a viewing of the media screener for The Perfect Machine, an E60 ESPN documentary on the ’72 Miami Dolphins, I had a talk with the narrator, Jeremy Schaap.
Produced and directed by Dan Lindberg, The Perfect Machine aired Sunday on ABC and ESPN+. If you haven’t seen it, you really should.
Schaap spoke with several Dolphins players, a former NFL quarterback, and the son of Don Shula, Dave. Linderman spoke with the other players in the documentary.
When asked about his approach, Schaap said that he took “an anecdotal approach” to the questions and as the interviews went on, Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris were the longest, he would simply throw out a date or a year and the players would run with it. He called it the “easiest assignment” he has had.
Schaap has been around the NFL since his youth. His father, legendary Dick Schaap, who was close to the Green Bay Packers and sports obviously runs in their blood, but through it all, there is still times to sit back and enjoy listening. He praised Mercury Morris for his knowledge and his energy surrounding the discussion of that ’72 team.
I wanted to know why the players continued to revert their comments back to Don Shula. Here they had a chance to talk about their contributions, and even the sacrifices of the players made for that season but during the course of the E60 documentary, everything tended to lean and turn back to Shula. I asked him what he thought about that.
In a way, it surprised him. It was hard not to. Shula turned the franchise around when he joined the Dolphins. Shula changed the direction of the franchise. “He is a big figure, not just for this franchise but for the NFL.” If you get that feeling as well after having watched it, Schaap brought up a great point. For the most part, this is the first time since Shula’s death that the players are talking about the season and their coach. “They (the players) are in a place where they can talk about his legacy, they are in a place where they can talk about him and appreciate him”.
I found it also interesting that Schaap talked about how this is different from say the 25th anniversary. As he points out, the narrative over the years has changed.
"“If you do this in 1997, nothing has changed from that 72 year but the perspective from the players have changed. Their ability to reflect on things has changed. They have different memories that they emphasize and different appreciations for things, the different parts of it, the different people that were a part of it, and moments that were a part of it.” – Jeremy Schaap"
Early in the episode Dan Lindberg (the producer and director of The Perfect Machine) interviewed Marv Flemming. Flemming joined the Dolphins after playing for the Green Bay Packers. He said that he walked in to the locker room and told the players that he was going to “Change clothes on the Mason-Dixon line” a reference to the locker room being split with black athletes on one side and white athletes on the other.
Flemming would go on to say that Don Shula changed that and the first thing he did was put Bob Griese and Paul Warfield together. I wanted to know about his from Schaap and whether or not he thought this was surprising and how it may have changed the team’s future.
"“I found it interesting. I know that when I did interviews with Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, and even Manny Fernandez they emphasized that Shula wanted to break down those barriers. It was important to him (Shula) and one of the first things he did was room Griese and Warfield together. It was important to him.”"
We moved on to who he interviewed and I asked Jeremy Schaap if he had a favorite. He laughed and said “don’t do that to me” but in reality, he loved interviewing all of the Dolphins players he was given. He did say he really enjoyed speaking with Mercury Morris.
For anyone that has seen a Morris interview or spoken with him, they would know that Morris loves to talk about football and the undefeated team. He can talk for quite a long time. His passion is clear and his energy on the subject is unparralled. Schaap got to see this first hand, in a good way, as this was his first interview with Mercury.
"“He (Morris) looks like he could play now. I’ve never seen a 75-year old in that kind of shape. His enthusiasm and the vividness of his memories, it was great, one of my all-time favorites”"
He said he wanted to interview Flemming because of the Green Bay connection and he has a history with Joe Namath through his father which made that interview special as well. He praised Larry Csonka, and who wouldn’t, but he also said that he really wanted to talk with Manny Fernandez for a more personal reason. Jeremy Schaap wanted to apologize for the actions of his father.
Schaap shared the story of how Jake Scott was awarded the MVP for Super Bowl VII and it was all because his father made a mistake. Schaap said that his fathers job at the SB was “to hand out the MVP ballots”, as the editor for Sports Magazine, at halftime but for whatever reason, “he forgot” to and when the game was over, he hadn’t past them out.
As the story is told, Dick Schaap cast the only vote for the Super Bowl VII MVP and he didn’t pay much attention to what was going on during the game. He quickly looked at the stat sheet and saw that Scott had two interceptions in a low scoring defensive game so he picked Scott. Without realizing that Fernandez had 17 tackles in that game and clearly should have won the MVP award.
“I wanted to do the Manny Fernandez interview myself so I could basically apologize for my father” Schaap said as he laughed telling the story. I asked what Fernandez’ response was, and he said, “No hard feelings”.
It’s a great twist to a story that has been told before but not heard by many. I had remembered hearing bits and pieces of it but never something that was concrete, until now. So there you have it, had it not been for an oversight by Dick Schaap, Super Bowl MVP history could have looked a lot different.
Lastly, I asked him about what was missing from the E60 special. The Super Bowl MVP stuff isn’t in the documentary and that was one thing that would have made an interesting postscript to the entire thing but with all the footage, all the people involved, there simply isn’t enough time alloted to get everything into a one-hour piece (I’m all for a Dan Lindberg directors-cut for what it’s worth).
Schaap said that many of the interviews went on for hours and that 95% of the interviews would end up on the cutting room floor. He said that one thing he wished could have been in or had time for would have been the Dave Shula and Garo Yepremian story.
“Dave (Shula) was a ballboy for the team that year. Shula didn’t have Yepremian practice with the team especiallly at home. He would be on another practice field. He just wasn’t around the team when they were practicing.
In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, Dave and Garo played a lot of catch that week. Garo was his throwing partner. Dave was 13 so he and Garo would throw the ball around. Dave “in a joking way” blames himself for the errant throw during the Super Bowl” because he thinks that they spent too much time throwing the ball that Garo thought he could actually throw it.
It isn’t a story that many remember but Don Shula in later years would say that “they almost lost Super Bowl VII because his son was playing catch with Garo Yepremian.” It was a joke that Don Shula could use later down the road because of course, the Dolphins didn’t lose the Super Bowl.
Dave Shula also talked about an incident that was also recited later in Don Shula’s life following the Super Bowl win. He and his family were in Cape Cod on vacation when they entered a movie theater and the thin crowd applauded when they walked in. Don Shula, stood and according to Dave Shula, through Jeremy Schaap, stood and accepted the applause and thanking them. Only to find out they were applauding because they needed a couple more theater patrons or the theater wouldn’t show the film.
There is so much more to tell and someday, maybe we will hear more of these stories. They are out there but we have yet to see or hear them. Schaap and Dan Lindberg have heard a lot of them, more than we will know.
Schaap said that the game, back then was completely different. But “The Dolphins didn’t make mistakes and that’s how you win.”