Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the Miami Dolphins.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
The Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated during an NFL regular season and win the Super Bowl. I don't mean that as a slight to the New England Patriots, who went 16-0 back in 2007, but lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. (Dolphins fans probably would, though.) It's just the truth: The Patriots didn't finish the job. It's like building a high-rise condo in Miami, but not tossing an infinity pool on the roof. Like, what's the point then?
So, credit to the 1972 Dolphins for being the only team to ever pull off this feat. The only problem? It's been kind of a downhill slide since that time. I mean, the 'Fins did repeat as champs in 1973. But yeah, not much since then. They did win the AFC in 1984 -- Dan Marino's second season. But then Miami ran up against the 49ers in the Super Bowl and that was pretty much it. Everybody thought it was going to set up a rivalry between Marino and Joe Montana, like a Bradshaw vs. Staubach of the 1980s. But it never materialized. One and done.
There was also the 1992 AFC Championship Game, but the Dolphins lost to the Bills (who should have lost to the Oilers, but you'll learn about that in the Bills entry of this series). So yes, it's a long drought. Unless you count some of the championships The Rock led them to in "Ballers." This is why you need to make the most out of your opportunities when they are presented to you, kids. If somebody offers you a free ticket to the Hyde Lounge inside of Staples Center for Monday Night RAW, you seize that because that might not ever come around again. (Sorry, that might not have been about the Dolphins.)
But this year
There are high hopes for this season. The Dolphins started 1-4 under new coach Adam Gase and you started to wonder if the wunderkind was a little overmatched. But the team finished last year at 10-6 and made the playoffs. That was just the second postseason appearance for Miami since 2002 -- quite an incredible stretch for one of the most important teams in NFL history. Now, the Dolphins did lose to the Steelers in the playoffs, but the big picture here is that Gase looks like the real deal.
And if you've been a faithful reader of this series, you know I somehow find a way to wedge the Bears into every conversation. So I don't want to disappoint and will ask ... Why in the hell did the Bears not hire Gase as their head coach instead of John Fox? The Bears never hire retreads, but the one time they do, they chose Fox over Gase, who would have been perfect. (Speaking of perfect, the Dolphins were the 1 in 15-1 for the Bears in 1985.)
What about the quarterback?
Ryan Tannehill will enter his sixth year in the league. SIXTH! It seems like just yesterday that his wife Lauren became an internet sensation and he was finally going to be the answer for the Dolphins. Kind of like the way we are waiting around for Zac Efron to become the megastar we all know he's destined to be. (Haven't seen "Baywatch" yet, but I have high hopes.)
Tannehill was pretty efficient last year. He posted the highest passer rating of his career (93.5) and looks to be trending in the right direction. Although some people seem unimpressed. There's a Dolphins fan who sits next to me -- whom I won't call out by name, but it rhymes with Alex Sanchez -- who pointed out that the Dolphins won two out of their last three regular-season games with Tannehill sidelined by injury, and that their scoring average went up. But those two wins were against the Jets and Bills. And you lost to the Patriots and Steelers (in the playoffs). So stop hating.
Look, I know Tannehill isn't the most thrilling option, but still pretty good. It's like channel surfing late at night and the only thing you can find on is "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates" -- might not be your first choice, but still pretty good.
Jay Ajayi is one of my favorite dudes in the league. And not just because the London native is a fan of The Arsenal. (Look, I've lived in California too long -- we put "the" in front of everything.) But maybe just a little bit.
This guy started off last season in Gase's doghouse -- wasn't even active in Week 1. Arian Foster started over him. (Holy hell, remember that?) And then he finished with 1,272 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. What's more impressive: He was second in the NFL in yards after contact and first in forced missed tackles. Translation: He has a pretty attractive running style.
He could be in line for an even bigger role this year, as Gase recently mentioned Ajayi could have 350 carries. Which doesn't happen anymore. Giving a running back 350 carries is like channel surfing. Nobody does that stuff. I know when I brought it up previously, you all thought to yourself, Who the hell does that stuff? Well, my editor Gennaro and I do. So deal with it.
That Landry catch was pretty ridic. And it should have received more hype. However. Making a crazy catch against the Cowboys on "Sunday Night Football" is hard to top. Doing it in the sun against the Colts is great. I thought it was lovely. But it's not going to move the needle. It's like when you post something you think is hilarious on Twitter and nobody cares. But then you tweet out a meme of a farting cat and get a load of likes. Though I'm not giving OBJ's catch enough love.
And some good news: Jarvis is still working on the final year of his rookie contract (thanks to not going in the first round), which means ... Contract year monster! And even better news, he's not holding out.
Defensive coordinators are typically some of the most animated guys on the sidelines (or in the booth), as most seem to have the cuddly personality of a velociraptor. But if Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke were a dinosaur, that'd be a big problem because new 'Fins defensive end William Hayes wouldn't believe in him. Hayes doesn't believe in dinosaurs -- but mermaids are totally real:
Here's a fun note: Burke spent his vacation this offseason in Uganda hiking the mountains with gorillas. Like he's Jane Goodall or something. (Jesus -- read a book, people. And no. No. Nooooo. The movie with Sigourney Weaver was not about Jane -- that was the Dian Fossey story. I'm done here.)
BTW, what I wouldn't give to hear a candid conversation between Burke and Hayes ...
The franchise's best
Dan Marino. Easy. One of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. Had that quick release, which kept defenders from ever laying a hand on him. Retired as the NFL's all-time leader in fourth-quarter comebacks. (My man Matt Marini and I were the NFL researchers who dug that out, mind you.) His previously mentioned 1984 season was magical. The Dolphins went 14-2. He set the NFL record with 48 touchdown passes -- a mind-boggling number in that day. Think about the modern passing rules of the NFL. Nobody eclipsed that mark until Peyton Manning did it in 2004. Twenty years. And he had 44 in 1986. So he had the top two seasons in passing TDs for 18 years. Crazy.
Laces out, Dan!
No doubt you've heard some dude yell this after a missed Dolphins field goal. And you might think that it's in reference to some iconic play in club history. Yeah, not so much. It's from the movie "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective," which starred Jim Carrey, Courteney Cox and Marino! And I'll be honest: Marino wasn't bad in this picture. That "Laces out, Dan!" part is kind of a major plot point, but I won't spoil the movie or anything -- it's definitely worth a viewing. (Before you get all indignant and scream, "Who doesn't know this movie?" ... remember that there is some rookie on the Los Angeles Dodgers who doesn't know who Jerry Seinfeld is. "Ace" came out in 1994. That was quite some time ago.)
Not enough credit
Ricky Williams will always be known for his lifestyle choices, but the dude could flat out play. He had some good years in New Orleans, but his first season in Miami was legendary. Dude rushed for 1,853 yards and 16 touchdowns. He followed that up with 1,372 and nine before he hung it up for a year in 2004. He didn't start a lot of games in 2005, but was still good. The rest of his career was a mixed bag.
Recycled coaches. The Dolphins tried to recapture the magic when they brought in Jimmy Johnson to coach in the late 1990s and it wasn't the rebirth of the early-1990s Cowboys. In fact, it should be considered a disaster because, when Jimmy left (after a 62-7 loss to the Jaguars in the playoffs), the Dolphins promoted Dave Wannstedt (hey, former Bears coach). That worked out great. Not really. Well, the Dolphins were 42-31 with Wanny. But that's not the expectation in Miami. He resigned after starting 1-8 in 2004. All right, I'm being harsh on him. But next they hired Bill Parcells as the executive vice president of football operations in 2008. Didn't work out so well. The Dolphins have tried a variety of things, but it looks like Adam Gase could indeed be the long-term answer. Well, until the Bears steal him away.
I've long felt a Jim Jensen No. 11 would be on the Mount Rushmore of hipster jerseys. He was a do-everything player for the 'Fins in the 1980s. Running back, receiver, tight end and emergency quarterback. He was amazing. And if you want a couple of jerseys to make you look like true hipster, you could rock a Wes Welker or Thurman Thomas. Or maybe you shouldn't.
Bring back these throwbacks
You don't have to go this far
Closing fun fact
There is this urban myth that the Dolphins pop champagne every time the last unbeaten team loses. But apparently, it isn't true. Even I believed it for the longest time, but no, the Dolphins do not do this. They might have done it once or twice with a couple of the guys, but it's not some coordinated thing. And the Dolphins were pretty gracious with the Patriots when they went 16-0 in 2007. Well, maybe not Mercury Morris, but most of the Dolphins.
The Dolphins have a fun fan base that travels really well. I used to have Chargers season tickets for a while -- look, I love football; sue me -- and the first time I went to a Dolphins game, it kind of surprised me how many fans they had. Though not a complete surprise because you figure some of those fans either grew up in the 1980s with Dan Marino or they grew up in the 1990s with Ace Ventura. So they had something really special. All of those fans who have hung on during all of these dark years have a really nice future to look forward to with Gase. And if you wanted to kind of merge in with the herd and blend in, nobody would be the wiser. Like this dude who wandered into the Dunkin here and somehow managed to jump ahead of me in line. Like, did you not see me standing here? But I'm a pushover, so it was easy for him to blend in. Thus, if you want to cut in line with the Dolphins fans, do it now, because this bandwagon's going to fill up really soon.