Friday, April 15, 2016

Dolphins All Career-Year Team

By John Turney
We at Pro Football Journal are trying to pick the best individual seasons in the history of each franchise, which we will continue today with the Dolphins franchise. By "Career-year" we mean the best performances at each position, with the following rule: Only one season per player per position. For example, here, we cannot pick Dan Marino's best two seasons and use both QB slots.

Here is the team, First-teams on left, Second-teams on right:
Starting from the top, we went with Dwight Stephenson's 1985 where he seemingly won every award there is. He was a consensus All-Pro plus was the NFLPA AFC Lineman of the Year, the NFL Alumni NFL Lineman of the Year, and Seagrams NFL Lineman of the Year (which was a poll of assistant coaches).
Dwight Stephenson. Credit: Merv Corning
Langer, on most teams, would be a lock for a First-team selection, but with Stephenson in the mix, perhaps the best center ever, he takes a back seat. Mike Pouncey,  2013, Tom Goode, 1969, and tough Tim Ruddy, 2000, are the honorable mentions. For Langer, we first went with 1973, but then realized that in 1974 and 1975 he was a unanimous All-Pro and in 1973 he wasn't. The Super Bowl season of 1973 contributed to our initial thoughts but Paul Klatt, a member of the Pro Football Researcher's Association Awards committee changed our minds and we ended up going with 1975.
Larry Little. Credit: Merv Corning

Larry Little was a consensus First-team All-Pro several times, we went with 1973 since the offense was better in 1973 than in 1972, the Perfect Season so we chose that season. Little was amazingly consistent and was an All-Decade selection as well.

Keuchenberg ranks with Jerry Kramer as the best guards not in the Hall of Fame, and 1975 was a stellar season for him, though he had plenty of others. Richmond Webb was a 1990s All-Decade performer and in 1994 he was honored the most, protecting Marino's blind side. Jake Long was a consensus All-Pro in 2010.
Bob Keuchenberg
Ed Newman backs up at one guard and Keith Sims at the other, both were underrated performers. Brandon Albert had a fine season in 2015 allowing only four sacks and was not called for holding.
Brandon Albert
Norm Evans felt 1973 was his best year when he was a Pro Bowler, they won the Super Bowl and he said he felt strong all year, never got nicked, even after the Pro Bowl. He said he could have played a few more games. Wayne Moore, 1973, is an honorable mention at tackle. He was a Pro Bowl fill-in and was a good left tackle for several years. Eric Laakso was a Sporting News All-Pro in 1983 and also gets an honorable mention as well as his cohort Jon Giesler who was Second-team All-AFC in 1984 and 1986. We are going with 1984 as his honorable mention performance.
Richmond Webb. Credit: Pratt Institute
Keith Jackson, 1992, and Ferrell Edmunds, 1989, get the nods at tight end, though it is Randy McMichael, 2004, who has the "numbers". Jim Mandich in 1974 also is an honorable mention along with McMichael.

Breaking down the receivers was difficult as they played in different eras and that has to be factored in. Paul Warfield, 1971, and Mark Clayton, 1984, get the top spots and Nat Moore, 1977 and Mark Duper, 1986, are the Second-teamers. It's hard to break up the Marks brothers, but Warfield was special and 1971 he was at his best.
Paul Warfield. Credit: Mark Gardner
Chris Chambers, 2005, Karl Noonan, 1968, Irving Fryar 1994, and Brandon Marshall, 2011, merit honorable mentions.

Davone Bess, 2009, is the slot or 3rd receiver and Duriel Harris, 1977, backs him up. Honorable mention goes to Wes Welker, 2006, as a slot. Harris, for some reason, always seemed to come up with a big play in a key situation. He only started when Nat Moore or Freddie Soloman were nicked, but he played often as a slot receiver when both were healthy.
Jim Kiick. Credit: George Bartell
Big backs Ricky Williams and Larry Csonka are the top running backs with Mercury Morris and Delvin Williams the back-ups. Williams had the biggest rushing season and Zonk was the All-Pro fullback from 1971-73. Delvin Williams arrived in Miami from the 49ers and promptly has a 1200-yard season. Williams was made expendable in San Francisco due to the 49ers giving up a King's Ransom for O.J. Simpson in 1978.

Larry Csonka. Credit: Merv Corning
For the Dolphins we added a 3rd back, Jim Kiick, would replace Zonk or Morris in passing situations and catch passes. Davenport was a touchdown maker, a short-yardage specialist like Ottis Anderson was for the Giants in 1988 or Tony Baker for the Rams in 1973, among others. Tony Nathan was also a good 3rd down specialist in 1980 and 1986, in between he was a starter, but we give the honorable mention to 1986. 
Dan Marino.  Credit: Dan Menta
Marino gets top spot for his 1984 MVP performance and we went with Griese's 1971 NEA MVP season over 1973. He did more with less in 1971. 
Jason Taylor. Credit: Pratt Institute
Jumping to the defensive side of the ball there were several great candidates at defensive end, so good, in fact, Cameron Wake, 2012, had to settle for honorable mention. Other HMs are Adewale Ogunleye, 2003 (62 tackles 15 sacks) and Jeff Cross, 1990 (10 sacks)

First-team selections are Jason Taylor and Bill Stanfill. Taylor's 2006 edges out 2002 and 2000.  In 2002 he had 18.5 sacks, but in 2006 he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and forced nine fumbles to go with his  65 tackles and 13.5 sacks. That season he was listed by the Dolphins as an OE" or open end, which was a hybrid position of outside linebacker and defensive end, so he spent plenty of time in a two-point stand, but for all intents and purposes, he was a defensive end, usually away from the tight end. But, for purists, we could go with 2002 just as well when he had 18.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles to go with 69 tackles.
Bill Stanfill. Credit: Pratt Institute
Stanfill's 1973 was likely just as good as Dick Anderson's 1973 DPOY campaign. Anderson had two pick 6's in a Monday Night Football showdown with the Steelers and that carried a lot of weight in our view. But Stanfill had, at least, an equally impactful season. He had 65 tackles (10 were stuffs) and had 18½ sacks and four forced fumbles and was a consensus All-Pro.

Doug Betters was the AP Defensive Player of the Year in 1983, and we still put it behind Stanfill's 1973. Betters had 16 sacks, 76 tackles (8 were stuffs) four passes defensed and a forced fumble.  For the other Second-team Vern Den Herder's 1975 campaign edges Cameron Wake's 2012. Den Herder was a great run defender and in 1975 he had 84 tackles and 11 sacks. Wake had 53 tackles and 15 sacks and three forced fumbles in his best season. Den Herder was also named to Paul Zimmerman's New York Post All-Pro team, which carries weight with us.

Manny Fernandez, 1973, gets the nod over 1970 and 1972. He had 48 tackles, 6½ sacks, and a marvelous post-season ending with eight tackles and a sack in the Super Bowl where he could have been named the MVP.  He also won an obscure "Unsung Hero of the NFL" award in 1973. We are not 100% sure of the meaning of the award, but it has to be a good thing, right?
Manny Fernandez  Credit:  Bart Forbes
Bob Baumhower, 1983, was his best season being All-Pro and eight sacks, though he was so consistent, a few other years would qualify, 1981 being one when he had a career-high nine sacks.
Bob Baumhower. Credit: Pratt Institute
What we love about the Second-team selections, Tim Bowens, 1998,  Paul Soliai, 2011, is that they had zero sacks, between them. They were both Pro Bowlers and supreme run-stuffers.Vonnie Holliday, 2006, and Randy Starks, 2012, Brian Sochia, 1988, as a nose tackle, are honorable mentions.

Trace Armstrong, 2000, is the designated pass rusher, he led the NFL in sacks, was Second-team All-Pro, and voted a Pro Bowl starter, despite not starting a single game. Lorenzo Bromell, 1998, is the Second-team DPR. He usually rushed from the inside and had eight sacks. Kim Bokamper gets an honorable mention for his 7½ sacks in as a role player in 1981.
Nick Buoniconti. Credit: Gary Thomas
We went with Nick Buoniconti, 1969, as the 4-3 MLB and  John Offerdahl, 1990, as the 3-4 ILBer. Zach Thomas was so-so close, though. Buoniconti had 114 tackles in 1969, 8½ were stuffs, six passes deflected, three interceptions and was a consensus All-AFL selection. Thomas was All-Pro often, but never a consensus All-Pro, so that was the deciding factor of Buoniconti getting First-team and Thomas named Second-team.
John Offerdahl. Credit: Merv Corning
We think people forget how good Offerdahl was. Injuries took away what could have been a HOF career. In 1990 he had 116 tackles (98 solo) 7 passes deflected and was a consensus All-Pro. A.J. Duhe, 1983, is the backup ILBer. Oddly, in 1984 he was named to Pro Bowl despite being benched. However, in 1983 he was effective.
Zach Thomas. Credit:  Bruce Tatman
Joey Porter, 2008, gets one spot as the rushbacker in what was kind of a revival season. He had 47 tackles, 17 sacks and four forced fumbles. Bryan Cox, 1992, had a lot of sacks, but was a good run player and pass defender as well and was more than a rushbacker. In 1992 Cox had 76 tackles (59 solo), 14 sacks, eight passes defensed, four forced fumbles, a pick and a fumble recovery.

The classic "SAM" backer was Kim Bokamper, 1979, and Larry Gordon, 1978, who was good at coverage. Bokamper battled tight ends like Dave Casper, Russ Francis, and was voted to Pro Bowl and was Proscout Inc.'s top OLBer in 1979 and he had 64 tackles and 5 sacks.
Dick Westmorland. Credit: Merv Corning
Sam Madison, 1999, and Dick Westmoreland, 1967 are the First-team corners. Westmorland led the AFL with 10 picks and Madison was a consensus All-Pro. With tough competition Patrick Surtain, 2002, and Brent Grimes, 2013 are relegated to Second-team. Terrell Buckley, 1998 (8 picks), Curtis Johnson, 1973, and Jimmy Warren's 1966 season are the honorable mentions.
Dick Anderson. Credit: Bart Forbes

Jake Scott. Credit: Bart Forbes
Dick Anderson, 1973, Jake Scott, 1974 followed by Reshad Jones, 2015 Willie West, 1966, HM is Louis Oliver, 1992 Anderson was the 1973 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Scott was All-Pro in 1974 and had a career-high eight interceptions. Jones was a PFJ All-Pro selection. Willie West got Second-team All-AFL honors and led the Dolphins with 118 tackles and eight interceptions and was voted to the AFL All-Star game in 1966 and for those reasons he's the Second-team free safety here.

The nickel back is Lloyd Mumphord, 1972 and Terrell Buckley, 2003. Mumphord was one of the first regular nickel backs in NFL history. When the Dolphins used nickle or even the 53 nickel he was in the game and he intercepted four passes and one went for a pick-six. In that era, teams didn't go to three wide receivers very often, so few players got a lot of snaps as a nickel back. However, the Dolphins, who would build up leads, would put opponents in must-pass situations and had to employ an extra receiver. That is what going 14-0 will do.

Garo Yepremian, 1973. He was All-Pro and the NFL's top kicker and was also All-Pro in 1971. Between Olindo Mare, 1999, and Pete Stoyanovich, 1992, it was a tough choice for the Second-team but we went with Mare and Stoyanovich gets the honorable mention.
Garo Yepremian. Credit PFJ
Reggie Roby, 1984, was a no-brainer and Brandon Fields, 2013, is the backup. Roby was exceptional booting punts high and having a hang time that didn't allow many returns.

O.J. McDuffie, 1993, and Freddie Solomon, 1975 are one-two as punt returners. McDuffie had 2 TDs in 1993 and while Soloman was a great returner, but it was hard to get publicity when Rick Upchurch and Billy White Shoes Johnson were in the same conference. Nonetheless, he gets a Second-team nod for his 1977 performance.

Ted Ginn, 2009, gets it based on his two touchdowns and Mercury Morris, 1970, averaged nearly 30 yards a return and had a touchdown return. Joe Auer, 1966, is an honorable mention.

Jim "Crash" Jensen, 1988, was voted NFL Alumni Special Teams Player of the Year and it edged his own 1989 season. Larry Izzo, 2000, was great with Dolphins before he assumed the same role as a special teams demon with the Patriots. Mumphord, who is the First-team nickel back is an honorable mention special teams for his 1972 season and was the Dolphins special teams MVP that season. He led Dolphins in special teams tackles and blocked two kicks (he also blocked two kicks in 1970 and 1971). Reyna Thompson, 1986, is another honorable mention for special teams play with his 27 tackles and two forced fumbles.

Agree? Disagree? Post in the comments section below.


  1. As a Dolphins fan since age 4 in 1972, I just have to say that I think you've done a beautiful job here. I could question a few selections here and there and make some subjective arguments on behalf of, say, Oronde Gadsden, Curtis Johnson, a few others ... but, really, excellent work here. And thanks for it. Makes me happy to read it. And the artwork is excellent--the Dick Westmoreland, Dick Anderson and Jake Scott run is especially great.

  2. Love reading this. The memories are just great. Been a Dolphins fan since I cried when they lost to Dallas in Superbowl VI

  3. From the moment GM Thomas made the trade for Warfield from Cleveland, the Dolphins were a different team. I think Nat Moore is also one of the most underrated WRs going.

    I know Dick Anderson didn't have a long career but it seemed to me on film and broadcast games, that he was always making a big hit or turnover. Does he deserve to be in Canton ?

  4. This is a very thoughtful account of the history of the team. Very little to take exception with. Keutchenberg and Kramer both belong in HOF. Keutch was an outspoken guy, players union buster and not always a pleasant fellow - but his body of work as a player speaks for itself over a long career. He made the pro-bowl in two different decades and as both a G and T. So versatile for Shula. Nat Moore's body of work often goes unnoticed - but he played in an era when 700 receiving yards was considered a very solid season. In the early 80's after 10 yrs service as starting WR he gave way to the Marks Brothers but transformed himself into perhaps the most productive 3rd/slot receiver in the NFL as part of Marino's arsenal. His numbers compare very favorably to Steelers Lynn Swann in terms of HOF consideration. Nat had the misfortune of arriving in Miami the year following their last Super Bowl Championship (1974) - that is the only factor that puts Swann in the HOF and keeps Nat Moore out of the HOF.