Are the 1972 Miami Dolphins really the NFL's ultimate divas? Mercury Morris doesn't believe so, and he had a few choice words for the NFL.com writer who ranked the legendary team No. 1.
In a recent "Pick Six" column, Adam Rank called the undefeated '72 Dolphins the game's top divas, focusing on the players' supposed proclivity to celebrate any team falling short of matching Miami's perfect record with a champagne toast.
But Morris, a Dolphins running back and kick returner from 1969 to 1975, recently said he could recall just two champagne toasts in the past 39 years, scoffing at the widely held belief that it's an annual celebration. So, Morris took exception to Rank's characterization.
Instead, Morris remembers the '72 Dolphins as a lunch pail-type squad that managed to translate hard work and unselfishness into immortality.
"During that era, we were a middle-class team with middle-class values," he said. "We had a middle-class coach who preached middle-class ethics: Work hard, practice hard, do something extra, stay out when practice is over and provide yourself a winning edge."
The Dolphins went 17-0 under Don Shula's guidance in 1972, capping their dream season with a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. Morris and Larry Czonka formed a vaunted backfield, becoming the first pair of teammates to run for 1,000 yards in an NFL season.
Several teams have come close to joining the 1972 Dolphins in perfection, but they've always fallen short. The 1985 Chicago Bears began the season 12-0 before losing to a Dan Marino-led Dolphins team on "Monday Night Football." The 1998 Denver Broncos started 13-0 before stumbling against the New York Giants. The Indianapolis Colts began 13-0 in 2005 and 14-0 in 2009 before falling in each instance. No team came closer than the 2007 New England Patriots, who won 18 consecutive games before a stunning loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
Despite the unmatched achievement, Morris doesn't believe his team receives the respect it deserves. To Morris, Rank is just the latest in a long line of haters who can't properly contextualize what the Dolphins pulled off in 1972.
"That's why you have these sour grapes like people calling us a diva," Morris said. "People don't really understand what it takes to get there. They think it's simply winning, it's more than that. Because (out) of the 4,680 tries that they've had since the National Football League came into existence, it's only happened one time, and we're sitting in that seat."