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     These are some of my favorite Dolphin articles found on the Internet. I copied and pasted the words just in case the links are ever broken.
David Woodley:
Woodley's death sad but powerful

By Ken B.
May 7, 2003

I spent last night watching basketball, continuing to enjoy the NBA playoffs even though the officiating makes me nuts and Bill Walton makes me wish I were deaf. But as I watched the Kings — just between you and me, my choice as future NBA champs — rip through the Mavericks in the second half of Game One of their series, I noticed something scrolling across ESPN’s Bottom Line at the bottom of the screen that hit me like a ton of bricks.

David Woodley was dead.

That’s former Dolphins QB David Woodley, who led Miami to the Super Bowl in 1983. Forty-four years old, and dead of liver and kidney failure. Woodley underwent a liver transplant in 1992, something I didn’t know about, but his health progressively got worse and he passed away Sunday. Now, I haven’t thought about David Woodley in I don’t know how long. He wasn’t one of my favorite players growing up, and it’s not like I was ever a Dolphins fan. But still, the news of Woodley’s death really shook me.

It’s odd how some news can hit you. I know why Woodley’s death struck me so hard. It’s because he was an integral part of developing my love of football when I was young. When I was a kid, just like now, I simply loved football. Hell, all sports for that matter. Football, basketball and baseball took up pretty much my entire waking time. I spent my time reading about the history of all the sports, playing them whenever humanly possible and developing a love of the games that exists to this day.

I’m the son of a Rams-fan father and a Bears-fan mother, but being born in the Chicago area, I’ve always been a Bears fan. The Bears, however, didn’t bring a lot to the table in the early 1980s except the best running back of all time in Walter Payton and a string of quarterbacks that had great names and little talent. Mike Phipps, Bob Avellini and Vince Evans were the signalcallers at the time for the Bears, and Neill Armstrong was the head coach. When my father let me know that the guy coaching the Bears did not, in fact, walk on the moon, I had no more use for the fake Armstrong.

But my love went well beyond the Bears. I also loved the Rams (just a little influence from Norm), hated the Raiders (cheaters), liked the Bengals (great uniforms), despised the Cowboys (America’s Team? Not in Indiana). But the 1982 Redskins really caught my eye because they had a quarterback who had a helmet like the ones I was seeing in my history books, and a kicker who still kicked straight on. They also had the Fun Bunch and the Hogs and the Smurfs, all things that appeal to a 9-year-old who is just making his way in the world.

Which brings me back to Woodley. Woodley was the quarterback when the Dolphins played the Redskins in Super Bowl XVII, only the third Super Bowl that I actually remember watching live. I was completely into the hype surrounding the game, to the point that my mother bought me a Redskins T-shirt to wear for the game. And I had to hear story after story about how David Woodley, the hated David Woodley, was the youngest quarterback at the time to start a Super Bowl, how he was an eighth-round pick who had won the job over veteran Don Strock and was trying to follow in the footsteps of Bob Griese to lead the Dolphins to glory.

Hey, when you’re a kid, you’re pretty emotionally charged, and I had no love for David Woodley in that game.

And right off the bat, he justified my hate. He threw a 76-yard TD pass to Jimmy Cefalo to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. My hate got cranked up to 11 at that point, and it pleased me to no end to see Woodley struggle after that. So much so, in fact, that he had to be lifted in favor of Strock late in the game after going 4-of-14 passing for 97 yards.

John Riggins took care of the Dolphins, however, in the fourth quarter, and for the first time in my long and illustrious three years of watching the Super Bowl, the team I was rooting for had won. The Redskins beat the Dolphins and that big jerk David Woodley, and all was right with the world. Again, when you’re 9, there rarely is a whole lot wrong with the world.

Woodley, of course, didn’t hold that starting job for much longer. Some kid out of Pitt named Marino won the gig the next year, and the year after that, Woodley was just a memory in Miami. And for me, he became a memory I rarely thought of.

But the news of Woodley’s death brought all of those memories back, although they have taken on a different form in the two decades since he was Ken’s Enemy No. 1 in January 1982. Now I just smile at how ridiculous I was, and I hope Woodley realized how much of an impact he had on people. He gave the Dolphins a Super Bowl run and helped give at least one little boy in cold and windy northwest Indiana a reason to have a passion for football that continues to this day.

My fiancée, Lauren, gets upset with me because I don’t always remember the names of her cousins, but the name of David Woodley has stayed with me through the years. Woodley is a man I never met, I never talked to on the phone and I never really thought about all that often. But that doesn’t mean that his life didn’t have an impact, or that he should be forgotten. The news of his death is sad, but in passing away, he has brought back a lot of fond memories for football fans, and that’s a testament to the impact he had on the game.

David Woodley:,0,187684.story 
A look back: Even then, Woodley shrank from spotlight
Commentary by DAVE HYDE
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted May 7 2003

The first obituary out of Shreveport said David Woodley died sometime this week, somewhere, from some unknown cause and that the time and date of his services hadn't been made public. And might not be. Or maybe the services already were held?
No one seemed to know much, and his family wasn't saying anything, which if death mirrors life is how Woodley would have preferred it.We assume so much about our sports heroes. We assume they love their lottery lives. We assume if they throw tight spirals their lives should be one. We assume fame and fortune make them some bendable action figure to push or pull, boo or cheer, and all the money and headlines should insulate them from whatever we ask, say, write or shout about them across talk radio.
David Woodley never felt insulated. The boos hurt him. The spotlight bled him. The former Dolphins' quarterback always seemed to be living the dream of someone else's life, but never his own, so much so that he pounded beer to numb his days, chugged Nyquil to sleep at night, chain-smoked cigarettes until dawn most game days and one Sunday in 1985 called his wife to say he was quitting.

"Where are you?" she asked.                                        

"In the locker room," he said.

The locker room was in San Diego. Kickoff was an hour away. She begged him not to quit, not like that, and if any day sums up Woodley's strange football ride it is that he went on the field that Sunday, threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth in a Pittsburgh Steelers' loss.

And then he quit. All today's stories center on him being the youngest starting quarterback in a Super Bowl, at age 24, for the Dolphins' run in 1982. But how many will say he was the youngest Super Bowl quarterback to die as well?

He was just 44, just starting life's second half if you care to keep the football analogy that he never did.

"Everybody sat back and said we must have had the life, but I would've done anything for us to have a normal life with a normal job outside of football," his ex-wife, Suzonne Pugh, once told me. "I loved that man. I loved him. And to see what the pressure did to him, well, it ate him up."

Consider that the next time you say every athlete has it made. Consider how the boos in college, "did something to his mind," his ex-wife said. Consider that his dream was to play in an empty stadium -- no fans, no media, no one but coaches and players. Consider how he forfeited $500,000 in 1986 -- the richest contract the Steelers ever had at that point -- rather than put himself through another season.

He retired at 27. Think of that. And think how the happily-ever-after that people consider the athlete's post-career consisted of losing his wife, his money, his liver, several unusual post-football jobs -- he once showed up at Dolphins camp selling jewelry -- and all contact with anyone who might care about him.

"It wasn't my idea of a good life, much less a life at all," he once told me about football.

Forgive me for intruding on Woodley's story. But he left no other way. On Tuesday, dozens of former coaches and teammates were interviewed about Woodley, from Shula to Don Strock and A.J. Duhe, a fellow Louisiana State alum. And they all began by offering some version of the line, "I haven't seen David since I played with him."

When I mentioned spending three days with him a decade ago, several asked, "How'd he look then?"

It wasn't their fault. It was Woodley's way. He had such little contact with people since football that all the initial obituaries from Shreveport tried to give some form to his days by listing him as a "high-school radio analyst." But his partner, Charlie Clavell, said Woodley, "only worked three games" this season while filling in for the regular analyst.

"It was a good experience for him," Clavell said. "You know, David was quiet, reserved, real private. But this was a chance for him to get re-connected with the community for a bit. He had been away for so long, out of the spotlight, I think he liked it."

We'll never really know why he stayed away. Maybe the flame of fame burned him.

"I know one game we played the Jets when they were still at Shea Stadium," Shula said. "We faked an inside handoff and they all went after that. Woodley kept it and went around end for a big gain in a critical situation."

That's how we want to remember our sports stars. A big day. A good play. But David Woodley was a name Dolphin who never wanted to be a superhero. He played the most public of positions in the most private of ways, right to the end, when the obituaries couldn't even tell when, where or why he died.
Woodley bio
  • Native of Shreveport, La., the city that produced NFL quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw, Bert Jones and Joe Ferguson.
  • Threw for eight touchdowns and ran for 14 while a senior at Louisiana State.
  • An eighth-round pick in 1980, he was taken with rights the Dolphins got in a 1978 trade to Washington for Jim Mandich.
  • Fourth on the depth chart in training camp, he became a starter after Bob Griese was hurt. Was voted team`s Most Valuable Player.
  • At 24, he was the youngest starting quarterback in a Super Bowl. In that 1983 game, he completed 4 of 14 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in Dolphins` 27-17 loss to Washington. The TD was a 76-yard pass to Jimmy Cefalo.
  • Traded to Pittsburgh Feb 21, 1984, for a third-round pick in that year`s draft. The Dolphins would package it with their first-round pick to trade up and take Oklahoma linebacker Jackie Shipp.
  • Platooned in Pittsburgh with Mark Malone, he retired before the 1986 season at 27.
  • Moved back to Shreveport in 1990 and pursued an information technology degree at LSU-Shreveport. Worked in the physical education department of the school and was a radio commentator for high school football games.

They assured a Fresno banker that he wouldn't miss a weekday of work, as long as they could bank on him long-snapping in Seattle on Sunday.

They located a defensive lineman on a British Columbia moose hunt, then convinced him by satellite phone to hunt Dolphins in the Kingdome.

They recruited a running back with three years' experience by emphasizing his NFL pension eligibility after three more games.

They signed a safety to serve as an option quarterback, until they could persuade veteran passer (and Nebraska teacher) Bruce Mathison to come run a pro-style offense.

Training camp discards. Other teams' rejects. Semipro players from Tacoma. Any stray body that Randy Mueller and the Seahawks' other personnel men could find to face a team of replacement Dolphins on Oct. 4, 1987, two decades ago today.

"It was comical, and really a lot of fun," Mueller said of the signing spree the 1987 strike created. "It wasn't easy to get guys to Seattle, either. It's the last stop before Nome."

Mueller is now across the country, trying to rebuild the Dolphins as their general manager. At least this rebuild represents a conventional challenge. Back on Sept. 22, 1987, when the NFL had its second work stoppage in five years, Mueller and current Dolphins college scouting coordinator Rick Thompson were Seahawks personnel assistants. The league canceled the Sept. 27 schedule, then gave teams less than a week to construct a team of "replacement" players for contests that would count.

"I'm sure every team took a little pride in getting players," Thompson said. "It was analogous to trying to sign free agents after the draft, except you're filling out an entire roster."

Their work led to a 24-20 victory, one that resonated weeks later, when the Seahawks qualified for the playoffs as an AFC wild card at 9-6 while the Dolphins missed at 8-7. The strike's strange circumstances still do.

"Hopefully, it will never happen again," Dolphins security director Stu Weinstein said. "But it really gave me an appreciation for what coaches do."

The Dolphins had been especially disappointed, since the Sept. 27, 1987 cancellations had postponed the sold-out regular-season opening of the new Joe Robbie Stadium against the defending champion Giants. Then the "replacement" mandate created some unusual complications. They couldn't house the players in the training camp hotel at St. Thomas University, because now students were using it. So the players lived in the dorms.

"Talk about archaic," said Weinstein, who stayed in the hotel's media relations office.

In those short-staffed days, he handled community relations and player development in addition to security. So he was caught between his duty to assist replacement players and his loyalty to regulars, who picketed adjacent to the practice facility when they weren't at Miami-Dade College North participating in practices organized by Dan Marino and Don Strock.

"I had to go out there every morning to keep the peace," Weinstein said.

It was hard for the coaching staff to keep focus, as it tried to construct a cohesive unit to take to Seattle. Don Shula had three offensive linemen at the first practice. Supporting unions were issuing threats. Weinstein secured the promise of St. Thomas and police not to arrest players trespassing on private property.

Weinstein had to get another blessing, this one from the Volusia County State Attorney's Office. Without time for the usual background checks, he didn't learn until the team was headed for Seattle that one player was out on bond on a murder charge.

"I had to get the judge to put him in my custody and Coach Shula's custody, guaranteeing I would get him back to the judge when the game was over," Weinstein said.

No Dolphin regular crossed the picket line in time for the first game. The late punter Reggie Roby did after the second game, citing a need to rehabilitate his injuries. Liffort Hobley, a safety cut in camp, reported that first Friday, minutes after the team had left for Seattle.

So the Dolphins took their ragtag team and off-duty police officers to Seattle. The climate was combustible league-wide, particularly in traditional union cities. The "Spare Bears," with future NFL coach Sean Payton at quarterback, arrived at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium at 5 a.m. Sunday, napping in the locker room to avoid confrontations.

"The focus was how do you get the players from the airport to the hotel to the game and back out without any of the interruptions from possible picketers and security threats," said Dolphins President Bryan Wiedmeier, then the travel secretary. "It was a whirlwind."

Home teams took their own precautions. The Seahawks didn't stay at their usual pregame hotel, predicting correctly that news trucks and striking players would show up there.

"We weren't that stupid," Thompson said.

The replacements took the game seriously.

The level of play?

"Division I-AA," Mueller said.

Kyle Mackey threw for 179 yards for the Dolphins. Mathison threw for 326, including 137 to Jimmy Teal. One connection set up Rick Parros' winning touchdown. Mueller called it one of the five greatest wins in Seahawks history, "because of what we'd gone through to build a team. There were about 20,000 people that day. When we left the stadium, they were still chanting."

Twelve days later, the strike ended, though teams would play a third replacement game. By then, about 15 percent of players had crossed, including five Seahawks. Steve Largent had 13 catches for 261 yards in the first half against Detroit, before taking himself out.

"He had the guy spinning like a top," Mueller said. "He said, 'I just can't do this anymore.'"

Most teams felt that way by the time all regulars returned.

Still, the Sea Scabs, as some called them, had their moments. They went 2-1. The Dol-Finks went 1-2. Mackey and Hobley led a 42-0 home win against the Chiefs on Oct. 11. Mackey then took the host Jets to overtime on Oct. 18, despite 55 facial stitches and five interceptions, and while facing regulars Marty Lyons, Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau.

Could history repeat? Will teams ever hunt down players on moose hunts?

"It would be ludicrous to think we couldn't find better options," Mueller said. "But again, I've seen a lot of stuff."


Miami Orange Bowl: The End Of An Era

by Suzy on November 12, 2007

ABOVE: An ariel view of the Orange Bowl overlooking Downtown Miami.

Barring the occasional crowing rooster, the residential area surrounding the Orange Bowl is like any other in the country; kids playing in the street, parents on the sidewalk watching over them, barking dogs and teens zipping by way too quickly.  But not on select Saturdays during college football season- University of Miami Hurricanes home football games to be exact.  On these days, the ordinarily quiet area transforms into a 5 mile radius block party. 


On game days, the residential area is invaded with orange and green.  In typical game day gear, fans, students and parents arrive with painted faces, dyed hair strands, and even beads.  Dishing out upwards of $50 per car to park on residential streets within close proximity of the Orange Bowl, fans will overtake lawns and convert them into roadside barbecues.  Mini-tents will go up and radios will start blasting.  Home-made contraptions to guzzle beer come out and kegs begin to flow-all in the name of spirit; a spirit that will be no more.

Earlier this year, University of Miami president Donna Shalala, citing dilapidated facilities as the key factor, announced that the university would not use the Orange Bowl after the 2007 college football season but rather would be moving the team’s home field to Dolphin Stadium.  The decision brought mixed emotions to students and fans alike who say the Orange Bowl, rich in university history, is much more than just a football field. 

And it is.

Built in 1937, the Orange Bowl was originally named Burdine Stadium after Miami pioneer Roddy Burdine.  The Orange Bowl classic, for she which she is named, began there the year after but it wasn’t until 1959 that the stadium received a name change.

Orange Bowl Highlights Over the Past 70 Years

The Miami Dolphins played their first 21 years in the venue.  It was at the Orange Bowl where the Dolphins flourished under Hall of Fame Football Coach Don Shula.  The only undefeated season in NFL history was played there. Dan Marino made the stadium tremble with patrons when he broke the single-season passing record.  Actually, there was a steel structure in the end zone that fans would set to rumbling by stomping their feet.  They also had a dolphin in a tank at the end zone.  The Miami Dolphins enjoyed a level of success at the Orange Bowl that they have not been able to recreate at Dolphin Stadium.

The Orange Bowl ties the Rose Bowl for second place in the Super Bowl Host category having hosted five. Super Bowls like the one where Joe Namath shocked the crowd and made good on his Super Bowl promise, and the most famous upset in Super Bowl history: Super Bowl III, Jets vs Baltimore.
The Old Lady also crowned fourteen national champions when the Orange Bowl Classic was held there including three belonging to the University of Miami.

Not just rich in football history, in 1956, the Orange Bowl hosted the largest crowd ever for a minor league game.  57,000 came to watch a 50 year old pitch for the Miami Marlins.  The Orange Bowl has hosted international soccer teams as well as pro teams.  It was even the venue for some of the 1996 Summer Olympic events.  The Orange Bowl was also the place where the world crowned Welter weight champion Alexis Arguello following his bout against Aaron Pryor.

The original home of the Miami Dolphins, the Orange Bowl has seen many historic athletic moments.  Yet, even though the Orange Bowl is rich in athletic history, it’s actually been ground zero for some of the most memorable events in not only Miami’s but South Florida’s history as well.  Actually, the Orange Bowl boasts a remarkable fact.  No venue in the entire Southeastern United States has hosted as many games, names and memorable moments as the Orange Bowl has.

In 1946, just days before his famous “Sinews of Peace” speech, Winston Churchill spoke before a crowd of 17,500 spectators at the Orange Bowl as he accepted an honorary degree from the University of Miami.

In 1962, forty thousand men, women and children applauded as then President John Kennedy was handed the treasured brigade flag from the commander of the 2506 Brigade.  The 2506 Brigade, was a group of American-trained Cuban fighters sent to overthrow Castro in the ill fated Bay of Pigs invasion.  Those that were captured by Fidel were held in exchange for ransom that was paid later.  It was on that December 1962 day that the surviving members of the brigade walked on to the Orange Bowl’s field and were personally thanked by President Kennedy before a thunderous cheering Cuban crowd.


The same stadium became a cot-lined home to many Cuban immigrants during the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980.  The camp provided a safe haven for the refugees who, upon arriving in Key West, would be sent via bus to the Orange Bowl during the immigration process. 

U2, the Eagles, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, The Police, Metallica, Genesis and Prince have all performed at the Orange Bowl.  Actually it was the site of Prince’s Purple Rain finale where it was rechristened the ‘Purple Bowl.’

In 1995 Hurricane Wilma caused severe structural damage to the OB which was later repaired.  Incidentally, the stadium also served as a supply distribution locale following the storm.  Tens of thousands of desperate, unprepared people waited in lines for hours for basic supplied.  Cars sat in half mile lines for bags of ice.  They would line up again days later to apply for government assistance in the wake of the storm.

In recent years, the Orange Bowl has been home to monthly car sales outside the stadium, wrestling events, tractor pulls, car shows, international soccer games, FIU college football (as their new stadium is being built), high-school football games, religious revivals, and numerous commercial shoots; But no tenants that lasted as long or drew as many fans as the University of Miami did.

The Hurricanes with their 31-30 victory over Nebraska in the 1984 title game received their first national title there.  It’s a favorite memory amongst many Hurricane fans.  Later that year and equally as memorable is the most replayed ending in college football history: Doug Flutie’s 46 yard Hail Mary(Flutie) pass that connected in the end zone with the hands of Gerard Phelan to hand the defending National Champions a 47-15 loss to Boston College; and of course, who can forget any number of ‘wide’ kicks made by Florida State.  Sadly, the school’s farewell to the Old Lady would not be as joyous as any of the Seminole’s errant kick games. 


The Hurricanes played their last home game at the Orange Bowl on Saturday November 10th.  The ‘Old Lady’ as she’s referred to, once home to the nation’s longest winning streak, closed out her rein with an embarrassing loss to Virginia.  Nobody rushed the field. Officials quickly turned the scoreboard off following the university’s final goodbye to the place it called home for 70 years.

Even sadder than seeing the University of Miami leave it’s home, is the city of Miami’s decision to demolish the Orange Bowl.  In a move that’s angered many residents, the city of Miami has decided to free itself completely of the dilapidated sports mecca in the hopes of using the land for a new ballpark with a retractable roof for the Florida Marlins.  They will begin selling off pieces in early 2008 as memorabilia before tearing the Old Lady down.  The last event scheduled to be held is a high school football All-Star game.

I’ll be sad to see her go when the city begins demolition in 2008.  Much like many other residents of Miami, I have a “my first event” story at the Orange Bowl.  I first went there as a little girl in the 80’s with my aunt and cousin to see my first concert ever: Madonna.

It’s not just a field, stadium or venue, not to me anyway.  The OB is a another piece of my childhood I’ll be losing. 

Orange Bowl: End of an era

By Tim Reynolds | The Associated Press    12:31 PM EST, November 8, 2007

MIAMI - As pregame tradition dictates, a cannon will boom and white smoke will pour from a tunnel leading out of the locker room. The Miami Hurricanes will emerge and run east into the night, traipsing across ground where John F. Kennedy spoke, Joe Namath made good on his Super Bowl guarantee and the Miami Dolphins were perfect.

A rusty old building, nothing but steel and concrete and ghosts, will shake in delight.

And an era will end.

For 70 years, the Hurricanes called this place home. The Orange Bowl, now an exquisite eyesore, hosted everything from Super Bowls to the Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen, from Hollywood movies to hurricane evacuees.

And, by the way, some of the finest college football games were played there, including 11 that decided national championships.

On Saturday night, the Hurricanes will play there for the 468th time.

The final time.

"I guess the old girl had to be retired at some point, since we couldn't get enough money to get her built up the right way," said Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp, a 1994 All-American at Miami. "She goes out the greatest stadium in America, in my mind."

At the beginning, she was.

Billed at its opening as "the largest and most modern steel stadium in the nation," the Orange Bowl - or Roddy Burdine Stadium, as it was originally known, a nod to the department store magnate who got it built - was beyond compare.

"A beautiful structure without peer in beauty and adaptability," wrote Jack Bell in the Miami Daily News on Dec. 10, 1937, the night the place was dedicated. Times change.

The Orange Bowl's best days were decades ago. More than a few seats are falling apart. The scoreboard is as modern as bellbottoms. It's not uncommon to see something fall off the structure during games. Some visitors make the sign of the cross as they enter the elevators. There's drips from the ceilings, rust on all corners, puddles in the concourses and evidence of decay almost everywhere.

"Not the prettiest place on earth," said former Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, who led the Hurricanes to the 2001 national championship. "But it was our home."

A cherished home, too.

The Hurricanes won three national titles on their home field, all when the Orange Bowl game was played in the Orange Bowl stadium. They won a record 58 straight games there during one stretch, were victimized by plays forever known as the "Florida Flop" and "Hail Flutie," and put a historic 58-7 beating on Notre Dame there in 1985, the worst loss in Fighting Irish history.

Namath's Jets won the 1969 Super Bowl there over the Baltimore Colts, the one the quarterback guaranteed he'd win. Flipper, a dolphin that swam in a tank behind the east end zone during Dolphins games, was a star attraction for years. Dan Marino's Hall of Fame career started at the Orange Bowl in record-setting fashion.

But the night perhaps most fondly remembered by Miami football fans was Jan. 1, 1984.

Nebraska vs. Miami, Orange Bowl, national championship game. The Cornhuskers closed within 31-30 in the final minute and coach Tom Osborne simply didn't want the game to end in a tie, so he went for a 2-point conversion with the title on the line.

Ken Calhoun deflected Turner Gill's pass, and Miami prevailed.

After more than a half-century of often-mediocre football, the Hurricanes had won it all.

A day noted for romance brought a bittersweet breakup for Zach Thomas, who parted ways with his one-and-only NFL franchise on Valentine's Day.

Thomas' celebrated 12-year career with the Miami Dolphins came to an end Thursday, as the team terminated his contract in an attempt to get younger and create cap space for the impending free-agency period, which starts at the end of this month.

While Thomas, 34, was told he no longer fits into the team's long-term plans, the seven-time Pro Bowl selection intends to continue playing despite having his 2007 season shortened by concussion-related issues.

According to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, Thomas is healthy and cleared to play, and his goal is to latch on with a contender.

Rosenhaus claims the former fifth-round pick, who has led the Dolphins in tackles 10 of his 12 seasons, has already drawn some interest now that he's on the open market.

"Zach will most likely be playing for a team that was in the playoffs," Rosenhaus said.

"I have been very pleased by the interest so far."

Because the bulk of Thomas' signing bonus was paid in the first two seasons of the five-year extension he got in 2003, nearly all of Thomas' $5,560,000 salary comes off the books with little penalty.

Thomas was the fifth 2007 starter cut by the Dolphins this week as part of a massive roster overhaul.

Nine players — most notably quarterback Trent Green, receiver Marty Booker, right tackle L.J. Shelton and defensive tackle Keith Traylor — were cut Tuesday.

The Dolphins were the first NFL team to start terminating contracts and doing so cleared between $13 million and $15 million in additional space once prorated bonuses are factored in.

In total, the Dolphins are approximately $35 million under the 2008 projected salary cap of $116 million, which puts them in prime position to be one of the biggest movers and shakers in free agency. However, all the recent moves further depleted a roster that finished 1-15 last season, the NFL's worst.

Thomas' departure means Channing Crowder, who led the team with 78 tackles in an injury-shortened season, will likely take over as the team's middle linebacker unless the Dolphins address that position in free agency or in April's draft.

Thomas was one of many Dolphins who had the 2007 season shortened because of injuries. He suffered a concussion in the second game of the season against Dallas. He came back and played three games after a two-week hiatus, but was sidelined again due to concussion-like symptoms stemming from an October car accident after a loss to the Patriots.

Thomas contributed 52 tackles in the five games he played last season, marking the first time in his career he didn't record 100 tackles. During his career, he had 1,866 tackles, 18.5 sacks, 17 interceptions (four for touchdowns), 13 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries.

Thomas did not return phone calls Thursday, but in a released statement he thanked the Dolphins new front office for handling his release in a "first-class manner."

"I want to thank the entire organization, especially [team owner H. Wayne] Huizenga, for making my 12 seasons with the Dolphins as memorable as they were," Thomas said. "I have a tremendous appreciation and admiration not only for the Dolphins organization, but for the fans as well, for all of the support that they have given me. I am healthy and look forward to playing in 2008, but will always consider myself a Miami Dolphin."

He arrived as a nobody from Pampa, Texas, who in his first Dolphins summer was mistaken for a high school player by his barber and as a nightclub valet attendant by major league pitcher Tom Glavine.

"Here you go," Glavine said, tossing him the keys.

"Uh, OK," Zach Thomas said.

Now here it is, 12 years later, and the most productive tackler in Dolphins history is finally throwing back the keys to what turned into an era. He's saying goodbye. The Dolphins released Thomas on Thursday in a move that's cold, potentially questionable, all kinds of uncomfortable and something else above all that:

It's best for Thomas.

This move sets Thomas free. It lets him play the open field. It gives him a chance for the elusive happy ending. If you're a Thomas fan — and, come on, who hasn't been these past 12 years? — you have to see that.

Thursday's move means Thomas' final days won't be wasted baby-sitting another Dolphins rebuilding job that may or may not work out, but certainly won't be finished before his football days are. So don't cry for Thomas. Be happy for him.

Hope he finds a contending team that's desperate for a middle linebacker.

And hope Jason Taylor is next out the door.

In fact, hope harder for Taylor, if you want what's best for him. What's best for the Dolphins is another matter. They can't keep saying goodbye to productive players. But Taylor, at 34 next year, is just a year younger than Thomas, potentially just a year from a similar fate as his brother-in-law and brother-in-arms.

Can you root for your favorite players over your favorite team?

Dolphins fans are about to find out. The point is, if you like happy endings, you should have stopped reading the story about Thomas and probably Taylor a couple of years ago.

There wasn't going to be a happy ending here involving them and the team they'll be forever linked with. Not considering the Dolphins' revolving regimes. Not with the roster annually put around them. Not when Thomas and Taylor were the last two draft picks that the Dolphins front office hit out of the park.

Sure, they made millions chasing a ball and lived the rock star's life doing so. But their doomed fate as a competitor was clear long before Thomas yanked his namesake sign out from his Dolphins' parking space at the end of last season and brandished it for the cameras like a memory.

It was even clear before the latest dismal season, when Thomas looked at the offseason happenings and said in a private moment, "I hope these guys know what they're doing."

The regime of Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller were his last hope. At 34 last season, he knew that. Really, Nick Saban and Dave Wannstedt sunk him far much more. Everyone talks about the Dan Marino's wasted years. At least he made the Super Bowl.

Thomas never made it past the second round of the playoffs. And so now he'll try to do what Marino never did, what Dolphins fans never have really had to watch. He'll try to find the right match of a contending team and see if they want him.

Did you notice at the Super Bowl of New England's linebackers of Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau are retiring? Do you think, with a few other adjustments, Thomas could have a place there? Maybe? If his health holds? Would they trade for Taylor, too?

Dolphins fans need aspirin just thinking such thoughts.

The blueprint of the new Dolphins czar, Bill Parcells, isn't clear yet. He's cut some old players. He's cut some expensive players. He has made a lot of salary-cap room and open positions (nine starting positions are open).

That's the easy part, as we've seen over the wasted years. The harder part is filling these holes with decent players.

So if it's understandable from the cold logic of business why Thomas was cut, at 35, with health issues, with a hefty contract, you have to see who replaces him before saying if it makes full sense. Maybe Thomas refused to trim his contract because he wanted out. Maybe the Dolphins didn't want him back no matter what.

What's strange in this, what's utterly wrong, is the only spokesman from the Dolphins is General Manager Jeff Ireland. He's been here six weeks. Where's team owner H. Wayne Huizenga or vice president Bryan Wiedmeier or someone who's been around for all of Thomas' years publicly expressing the thanks every Dolphins fan is today? Isn't that simple manners?

As for Thomas, everyone says he had to make believers out of everyone. It's true, too. Starting with himself. His dream was to play one year in the league. That's it. Hook on with special teams. Carve a role for himself for a year.

That's what fifth-round draft picks do. Instead, he started the first game of that first season, a Dolphins win under Jimmy Johnson. He walked out of the stadium that day and was met by his parents.

"I saw the look in their eyes that said they couldn't believe I could play like that," he once said.

For most of 12 years, he put that look on everyone's face. He beat all the odds. Now, nearing 35, he tries to beat them again somewhere else. Maybe it's best for the Dolphins. We'll see about that. But one thing's for sure: It's best for him.

Fifth-rounder-turned-star gets plaudits

| South Florida Sun-Sentinel

When then Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson took 5-foot-11 linebacker Zach Thomas with his third pick of the fifth round of the 1996 draft, he thought he could be a solid special teams player.

Instead, Thomas just ended up being special.

Thomas, who was released by the Dolphins on Thursday after a dozen sterling seasons, became a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker and notched at least 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons.

Johnson said Thomas' greatest talent was his preparation and anticipation.

"He never took a bad step," Johnson said Thursday during a radio interview on WQAM (560-AM) . "He was able to anticipate where the ball would be and where the receiver would go. He was thoroughly prepared. We'd be in the office to the wee hours of the morning and we'd leave and Zach would still be there studying tape."

"He played with a passion like no other," said Dolphins defensive tackle Vonnie Holliday, Thomas' teammate the past three seasons. "He epitomized professionalism. You know a lot of changes were coming and you hear the rumors but when it happens it's certainly disappointing to see a guy like Zach go. When you think of the Miami Dolphins, you think about Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor.

"If he's healthy and everything is going well, he'll go somewhere else and make some plays. I just hope it's won't be on the Patriots like everyone else."

Taylor, Thomas' teammate for 11 seasons and also his brother-in-law, was traveling Thursday.

Many pundits consider Thomas the greatest linebacker in Dolphins history, including his predecessor, five-time Pro Bowl selection John Offerdahl.

"We're all replaceable. It's a matter of time that someone shines higher and brighter than you, and Zach certainly did," said Offerdahl, who retired three years before Thomas' arrival. "No question he was the greatest Dolphins linebacker. Look at the length of time he played, the level he played at and his productivity. You don't need to take my opinion for that."

When former Dolphins fullback Rob Konrad played for the Dolphins from 1999-2004, the defense was always ahead of the offense.

"He's been the heart and soul of that defense for a decade or more," Konrad said. "He demanded the best out of himself, so everyone gravitated to that. He was so emotionally vested in football, be it at practice or preseason. I can't think of a time Zach wasn't going at full speed. ... If you could build a whole team with players like Zach, you'd be in good shape."

University of Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt, who spent 1999-2004 with the Dolphins, said he has never been more impressed with a player.

"In 26 years of coaching football and coaching over a dozen Pro Bowl players and five to six Hall of Famers," Wannstedt said, "I always look for one guy that I use as an example for the younger players, and Zach's the guy."

Dolphins Hall of Fame coach Don Shula never got to coach Thomas, but wishes that he had.

"I would've loved to have the opportunity to coach him," Shula said. "Zach and Jason are a credit to the Dolphins and even in the tough times you could always count on those two to be great players.

"I love the way he played. He did everything he could do to prepare to play at the best of his ability. In my mind, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas are both future Hall of Famers."


Miami Dolphins tough out a disciplined victory against Chargers

Miami secured a tough victory as it continued to learn how to win again. Said Yeremiah Bell: 'How do you get [respect]? You go out and you take it.'

It was an awkward high-five, the type of energetic hand slap that came with all the right intentions even if it lacked proper execution.

So after failing to connect hands on their first attempt, Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington backed up a few steps, plowed forward for a second try and landed a crisp, handshake with linebacker Joey Porter to celebrate a touchdown pass.

Hey, nobody said this whole winning thing wouldn't take practice. But stunningly and suddenly, as indicated from a 17-10 victory Sunday at Dolphin Stadium against the Chargers, the Dolphins seem poised to figure it out.

''I mean, for us, we're just learning how to win,'' coach Tony Sparano said. ``We're a young team learning how to win right now.''

Not a bad lesson plan so far, Coach.

Remember when the lowly, miserable Dolphins watched from home last year as the Patriots and Chargers played for the AFC championship? Less than a year later, Miami has already beaten both teams back-to-back.

And they did it Sunday with the type of physical, disciplined football that is quickly becoming the identity of this team, an identity that has been preached by a new coach (Sparano), new general manager (Jeff Ireland) and new vice president of football operations (Bill Parcells).

''We want that respect,'' safety Yeremiah Bell said. ``After last year, we don't have much. How do you get it? You go out and you take it.''

The Dolphins defense, anchored by the play of linebacker Matt Roth and Bell, did just that.

Even as the offense continued to click, even as Pennington's efficiency in the base offense continued to assist Ronnie Brown's proficiency in the Wildcat package, it was the defense that began defining the attitude and identity of this team.

Just like Sparano has said: Tough. Smart. Disciplined.


That's not to belittle Pennington (he completed 22 of 29 passes for 228 yards) or Brown (he rushed 24 times for 125 yards). Instead, the production of the defense, which held San Diego to 202 total yards, appears to be emerging as an equally legitimate force.

The best example? When the Chargers capitalized on Miami's only major mistake of the game -- kick returner Davone Bess fumbled a kickoff -- the Dolphins defense was pinned into a corner in a situation it didn't create.


But when San Diego pushed the possession to the 1-yard line, Miami's defensive front came up with a critical stop by stuffing running back LaDainian Tomlinson on a fourth-down run. The play maintained the Dolphins' 17-10 fourth-quarter lead.

''That situation right there, it was perfect,'' linebacker Akin Ayodele said. ``It feeds our ego, and it sends a statement out there. We're starting to learn how to win, and we're starting to believe we can win.

``Your mind-set can really determine the outcome of a game.''

That's the mentality Sparano said his team has been working toward creating since training camp. The coach said scenarios during practice -- when something has gone wrong the way it did Sunday when Bess fumbled the kickoff -- led to a critical lesson heading into Sunday's game.

'We often talked about at some point, you have to say, `Not today. It's not going to happen today,' '' Sparano said. ``I thought, in that situation, it was really a defining moment in the game.''

There were other defining aspects, too. The Dolphins didn't gain Sunday's win simply based off one goal-line stop. Instead, they more appropriately maintained something they already had earned.

The consistency and discipline on both sides of the ball played as much of a role in Miami's success as anything else. The Dolphins committed just one penalty (tight end Anthony Fasano had a false start) and gave up just one turnover (Bess' fumble).


With Sunday's win, Miami made a major leap toward NFL legitimacy, while also bursting back into contention in the AFC East. But more importantly than anything in the standings, the Dolphins also did something else with the win.

They earned back another small dose of respect.

''People do not respect us,'' Holliday said. ``It's sad, but it's true. They think they can come in, enjoy South Florida, get some good weather, maybe a nice dinner and a win. But we need to show them that it's not happening.''

December 10, 2008

Marino says goodbye to his 'hero'

Tuesday, Dan Marino remembered his father. Involved, but not overbearing, Dan Sr. imparted life lessons. And he sure taught his son how to throw.

He hugged his dad upon leaving for the night Friday and said he loved him, because that's how they parted for as long as they were father and son. He then phoned his parents before flying to New York on Saturday morning and was told everything was fine, not to worry. By the time Dan Marino got to the CBS studios in Manhattan he received the phone call all of us fear: There was a problem. He'd better come home.  That was Saturday afternoon, and now it was Tuesday morning as Marino walked before a crowd of 1,000 family members and friends gathered at St. Bonaventure Church in Davie. Dan Marino Sr.'s coffin already had been walked to the front. Some grandchildren had read from the books of Wisdom and Corinthians. Ave Maria and You Lift Me Up were sung.

"I want to say a few words for our family about my dad," Marino said now.

He looked down and cleared his throat. "I know he would appreciate you coming here. He was a great man. He cared about people. He loved to laugh. He was my hero."

He repeated that thought, more quietly this time, "He was my hero."

This is a story you don't hear enough in a sports world where the dad is a beaten caricature. There's the dad who's deserted and the one who's overbearing, the dad who's living through his athletic kid and the one making money off his position.

Marino raised his voice into a joking tone now and looked at
Don Shula in one of the front pews. "No offense, Coach Shula," he said. "He was my greatest coach."

Dan Marino Sr., 71, was someone worth knowing or, since he didn't allow that much, someone worth knowing about. Even if you didn't see him much in the spotlight, you saw his finished product. It wasn't just the surface stuff that he taught his son on the Pittsburgh sandlot that now bears the family name.

"Who taught you to throw?" University of Pittsburgh coach Jackie Sherrill asked Marino after a few practices.

"My dad," Marino said.

"Don't let anyone change you," Sherrill said.

Other lessons took root just as deeply.

Hard work? Dan Marino Sr. drove a
Pittsburgh Press circulation truck even after his son had signed a five-year, $25 million contract midway through his career.

Values? He lived in the same working-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh for his first six decades. Family, loyalty, sacrifice — it was all there in him.

"My dad used to joke when mom said she had faith in him," the son was telling the church. "Forty-eight years ago when they married, my mother had to have faith, he'd say, because he didn't have a job."

Dan Marino Sr. had good lines like that. Often they accompanied better advice. When his son hung his head once in defeat as a kid, the father said, "Don't let the scoreboard define you." When his son's team once talked openly about playing a better team, the father said, "Make sure you bring out their best game."

When others talked about the son's great football future, he didn't fully believe it until his father said something to him after high school. "If you stay humble and keep working, you might do something," the father said.

In a sports world where fathers are too strong a presence or not one at all, Dan Marino Sr. found the proper medium. He was there for his son but didn't push himself on everyone else. He
even refused to move to South Florida for years, accepting only a satellite dish from his son so as to watch Dolphins games. The yard was so small they had to cut down a buckeye tree to fit it in.

Then, instead of calling his son immediately after a game, he'd go to the basement and write letters. Pages and pages of encouraging letters to his son.

They often were finished with lines like, "You're the best!" and "Believe in yourself" and, always, "Love, Dad."

"That was my therapy after games," Dan Marino Sr. once said.

The letters meant so much to the son, he kept them. Only a few years ago did he discover they meant something to the father, too. He had kept copies, too.

"Some things I just found out recently," Marino was saying now at Weston Hills Country Club, where a reception was held. One involved a junior-high game. Dan Sr. was the coach and pulled his quarterback son when the score demanded. Some guys from the neighborhood asked Dan Sr. to put his son back in. They'd put money on the game, unbeknown to the coach. There was a point spread to cover.

"He said he put me back in," the son said, laughing at this thought.

He never made it back from New York to his father's side Saturday before the cancer took him. But there's one more trip to go. Back to Pittsburgh. Back for the burial. Back to the old neighborhood that made the Marinos, father and son, and made them a story you don't hear enough in sports today.

Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino escorts his mother, Veronica Marino, out of St. Bonaventure Catholic Church as they follow his father's, Daniel C. Marino Sr. 71, casket after his funeral ceremony at the Davie Church. Marino, 71, died of cancer on December 6, 2008.

Bring on the Jets -- Dolphins put Chiefs on ice

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Cornerback André Goodman couldn't feel his toes or face. Defensive end Vonnie Holliday, a former Chief who also played in the frozen tundra of Green Bay, said he was in pain and chided the sun for taking the day off.

On a bone-chilling frigid Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium that started at 10 degrees with a wind-chill factor of minus-12, it seemed as if the
Dolphins' defense took most off the day off after not allowing a touchdown in the previous three games.

Never fear. Quarterback
Chad Pennington, as he has done in six other wins this season, calmly directed a fourth-quarter scoring march that lifted the Dolphins to a wild 38-31 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the coldest game in franchise history.

The more significant milestone had to do with the Dolphins (10-5) authoring the greatest single-season turnaround by a 1-15 team in
NFL history, surpassing the 1997 Bill Parcells-led Jets and '92 Colts.

"The most important thing was focusing on number 10 and making history,'' said Pennington, whose frozen torso was still beet red 30 minutes later. "We couldn't get to next week until we took care of this week.''

"We found a way to win all season whether it's the defense coming up with big stops at the end of games or when the offense is needed to drive and seal the deal.''

The "next week" Pennington referred to is the game that seem destined from the second the Jets traded for Packers legend
Brett Favre and discarded Pennington, who was gobbled up by Parcells - the man who drafted him in 2000 - two days later.

"It's the only way fate would have it right?'' Pennington said.

For the rampaging Dolphins, winners of eight of their past nine, their best shot at their first postseason berth since 2001 is by defeating their archrival Jets (9-6) Sunday at The Meadowlands. A tie against the Jets coupled with a loss by the
Patriots (10-5) would also turn the trick.

"One more to go. It doesn't set up any better for the division, for the playoffs and all the drama with Chad,'' said Goodman, who had one of the Dolphins' three interceptions. "It doesn't get any bigger or better than this.''

The bend-but-don't break, Channing Crowder-less defense fell apart like a melting snowman on the icy-slick field, giving up a season-high 492 yards and seven plays for 25 or more yards to the Chiefs' 26th-ranked offense.

The frozen Dolphins made unheralded quarterback Tyler Thigpen look like the second coming of
Joe Montana with two touchdown passes and a TD run in the first half as the Chiefs fought back from a lightning-quick 10-0 deficit to take a 28-24 lead at halftime.

But on a day that benchwarmer took on different meaning, the Dolphins 'D' stiffened in the second half, allowing only a Connor Barth field goal.

The Dolphins forged a 31-31 tie in the third quarter with the help of a tweaked Wildcat. With Pennington on the sideline, Ronnie Brown reversed it to Patrick Cobbs, who romped for 44 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by
Ricky Williams.

"Every time we gave up a score our offense answered,'' said linebacker
Joey Porter, who didn't even crack the stat sheet. "The better team won.''

It took another trademark, 8:33 fourth-quarter drive by Pennington as he completed 7 of 7 passes for 65 yards to five different receivers. From the 14, tight end Anthony Fasano snagged a ball thrown behind him and dragged 306-pound defensive tackle Tank Tyler and cornerback Brandon Flowers into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 4:08 left.

"It was miserable,'' said Fasano, who had two of Pennington's three touchdown tosses. "I put my hands in the warmer every chance I got. But when you're winning and your offense is called on to make plays, it feels like 80 degrees back home.''

When the mobile Thigpen attempted a naked bootleg on a fourth-and-1 from his own 26, there was Matt Roth waiting for the 6-yard sack.

A rare Williams fumble gave the Chiefs one more visible last breath, but safety
Renaldo Hill iced the victory with an interception, making for a joyous jet ride home with one more task to tackle.

"Absolutely, I'm very proud of them,'' GM Jeff Ireland said. "One more to go. We got to finish this off.''

Coach Tony Sparano said he began thinking about win No. 11 and the Jets, "after I shook [Chiefs coach Herm Edwards'] hands,'' at midfield.

Shaking everyone's hands as they walked off the airplane when it landed in Fort Lauderdale at about 10:30 p.m., was exuberant co-owner H. Wayne Huizenga.

"Good job,'' Huizenga repeated over and over.

Worst to first: Dolphins are AFC East Champs

By Harvey Fialkov | 12:50 AM EST, December 29, 2008

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - All week long Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington dodged using the word revenge, as adroitly as he avoids pass rushers, but his teammates knew better, just by his demeanor and the expression on his face.

Even in the raucous post-game locker room in which Pennington was handed the game ball by his teammates and coach Tony Sparano after leading the Dolphins to a 24-17 victory over the New York Jets Sunday to clinch their first AFC East title since 2000, the former Rhodes Scholar candidate held his emotions intact.

Sparano said Pennington was burning the midnight oil on Christmas and Christmas Eve, preparing for the Jets, who discarded him last August after eight seasons of quality service as soon as legendary Brett Favre became available.

"It s not the revenge factor, it really isn't,'' said Pennington, who was 22 of 30 for 200 yards with two touchdowns to finish the season with a franchise-record 67.4 completion percentage, bettering Dan Marino's 64.2 percent in 1984.

"It was much different than the first week which was extremely emotional because it was so fresh. This being the 17th week of the season it was strictly about focusing on winning a championship. ? It so happen it had to come through New York.''

But several of his teammates weren't as controlled after watching their poised leader outplay Favre all season and again Sunday. Favre, 39, who may have played his final game, added to his league-leading interception total with three more (22), while Pennington added to his classy resume as the conductor who directed a 1-15 team to 11-5, tying the 1999 Colts for greatest single season turnaround in NFL history.

"Chad never would say it but that's how he feels. He was coming out yelling, 'Defense!' all game,'' said linebacker Channing Crowder, who proudly wore his AFC East Champion t-shirt. "He wanted to beat these guys because it was a division game for the playoffs against a team that released him to bring in someone else. Chad beat the hell out of them in front of people that booed him. In his mind, he was saying he kicked their butts.''

The ''butt-kicking'' wasn't easy despite the Jets knowing that the 11-5 Patriots had already beaten the Bills and the 11-5 Ravens were hammering the Jaguars 24-7 at halftime, all but eliminating the tail-spinning Jets (9-7) from playoff contention even if they beat the Dolphins.

The Dolphins, who tied the 2008 Giants for the fewest turnovers in NFL history Sunday with 13, played a sloppy first half, with even Pennington committing his first lost fumble of the season to set up a 13-yard touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles. A botched snap kept it at 6-0, and as usual Pennington answered a few minutes later when he pulled off one of his patented Houdini escapes from the rush, only to hit Anthony Fasano on a key third-down conversion.

Two plays later, Pennington, who for years was bashed for his lack of arm strength, lofted a 27-yard strike to Ted Ginn Jr. in the corner of the end zone.

"We knew what it meant to him,'' Ginn said. "Words weren't going to explain anything. We knew in his face.''

Less than 15 seconds later, Favre lofted a screen pass that rookie defensive end Phillip Merling snared, and showing off his high school tight end moves, rumbled into the end zone from 25 yards out.

Defensive end Vonnie Holliday couldn't hold back tears after the game speaking of his little brothers like Merling, who he compared to his son, "taking his first step.''

"All I've gone through in Green Bay and Kansas City, then Nick Saban, Cam Cameron, 1-15. It doesn't get much better, but it does,'' Holliday said. "The end of this story hasn't been written. Why not us?''

The Jets, who didn't see the Wildcat in their season-opening 20-14 victory over the Dolphins, got both barrels, with the best a fleaflicker that resulted in a 44-yard connection from Pennington to Ginn. Five plays later Pennington placed the ball perfectly over Fasano's shoulder for a 20-yard TD and a 21-17 lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Pennington basically iced the Dolphins first trip to the playoffs - a Sunday 1 p.m rematch at home with the Ravens, when he made the 4th-and-1 to help maintain possession until 17 seconds were left.

"I just wanted it,'' Pennington said. "I felt like I could get it.''

Pennington's got it all season, and he too, isn't ready fort this most remarkable season to end.

"I'm proud of what we've been able to do but I don't think we're satisfied,'' he said. "I feel like there's some unfinished business.''

Jim Mandich's take: 'Anything is possible'

By Jim Mandich |
  • 8:53 PM EST, December 28, 2008
  • Former Dolphins tight end Jim Mandich, who broadcasts games for WQAM (560-AM), offers his thoughts:

    Today we witnessed the culmination of the most improbable season I've ever seen for the
    Dolphins. The contributors continue to amaze me. Just go down the roster - Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano made as good as catch as you'll ever see, Ted Ginn delivered.

    They threw from a Wildcat formation, base, flea-flickers. It was a very creative offense. The defensive pick-six by rookie Philip Merling was a huge play. One of these days teams will figure out you can't throw in his direction. Just a monumental win.

    In conclusion, one of the classiest guys we've ever known as a Miami Dolphin is
    Chad Pennington. He never spoke of a grudge but you know he's got to be deeply satisfied. He came to the Meadowlands, played against the team that dumped him, outplayed Brett Favre on the season and in the game. We're heading to the playoffs and with this team anything is possible.

    Two Different Christmas Poems Written in December of 2008--first is from a Dolphins' fan perspective, second is from a hated Wets' fan

    A Dolphins in Depth Christmas greeting
    This Christmas poem was written by Michael J. Franza and sent to me by his dad, Mike. I thinks it's appropriate for today and this week:

    'Twas Week 17 and all through the land, Miami was flowing with excited Fish fans.

    The stage was set in the meadowland air, in hope that St. Pennington soon would be there.

    The Jets fans were worried, alone in their beds, while nightmares of Wildcats danced through their heads.

    Chad in his jersey and Sparano with cap, they just couldn't wait for that Sunday first snap.

    From one and 15 arose such a clatter, I sprang off the couch to see what's the matter.

    Wearing number 10, not to be outdone, I knew it was him, our St. Pen-ing-ton.

    Now Ricky, now Ronnie, now Polite and Mar-tin , on Cobbs, on Bess, on Fasano and Ginn.

    Chad sprang to the huddle, Joey Porter gave cheer, and onward they went, like a new team, a new year.

    But then I heard Chad exclaim, as the team drove out of sight, Merry Christmas to all, and to Jets fans good night!

    Great Christmas poem. The following was posted on the Jets blog on enjoy:

    Twas the Night before Christmas, and all through NJ,
    Postseason wishes were fading away.

    Fans wrote angry emails, and lashed out on the air,
    In hopes that a better coach soon would be there.

    The Jets faithful tossed, and turned in their beds,
    As memories of 8-3 weighed on their heads.

    A promising year had fallen off track,
    Yet still, Coach was grinning, like a fat clown on crack,

    As his job circled the toilet, along with our season,
    Mangini stayed calm, defying all reason.

    So I, in my Chrebet jersey, and my ‘98 Division Champs cap,
    Had just settled down for a booze-induced nap.

    When up on my roof there arose such a clatter,
    It sounded like Rosie O’Donnell, but fatter.

    I heard him yell out to his reindeer by name,
    One after another, a Jets Hall of Shame!

    He bellowed aloud, “Come Kotite! Come Groh!”
    I couldn’t believe it! How could it be so?

    “On, Herm! On, Coslet! On, Carroll! On, Hackett!”
    How fat was this man? He made such a racket!

    Then down came a thud through my chimney, what is it???
    Santa Mangenius was here for a visit!

    There in my living room stood Eric Mangini,
    With the football IQ of a moldy zucchini.

    I asked him and begged him, implored him and pleaded,
    “Please give me the playoffs, I feel so defeated.

    And then he responded, and ruined my life
    In typical Jet fashion, he twisted the knife.

    “You’ve got it all wrong, I’m not Jolly St. Nick!”
    (at your own 20 yard line, even Santa knows to kick!)

    "Forget the division you thought we would clinch,
    See I’m tubby like Santa, but I’m really The Grinch,

    I didn’t bring presents, I don’t drive a sleigh,
    And I’m stealing your Christmas playoff wishes away.”

    I stood there in shock, crushed and dejected.
    his coach simply wasn’t what we all expected.

    And the fat man exclaimed, as he reached for a biscuit,
    “You’re a Jet fan, so you should be used to this s**t!”

    Fans Rally, Show Dol-Fan Spirit At Bokamper's

    January 3, 2009

    By Andy Kent

    Seven years of waiting led to a high volume of bottled up emotions for South Florida Dol-fans, and a hastily put together pep rally today at Bokamper's Sports Bar and Grill celebrating Sunday's first-round playoff game between the Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens served as the perfect release for those emotions.

    The idea was hatched by Miami's flagship radio station, 560-WQAM, the day after the Dolphins clinched the AFC East championship with a 24-17 win on the road over the New York Jets. They called former Dolphins linebacker and current host of Dolphins Tonight, Kim Bokamper, to see if his restaurant could host the event. Bokamper rallied his management and staff and once they all figured out it was doable, he called WQAM back at around 4 p.m. on Tuesday and the pep rally was being promoted on the radio an hour later.

    "They've done a good job with the Dolphins this year and I think they wanted to allow the fans to have a place to come and enjoy it so I've got to give WQAM all the credit for it," Bokamper said. "We had to make sure we had enough staff, but the one good thing is we're a sports bar and we're a restaurant so all we had to do was open the doors and let's go."

    Even though the pep rally didn't officially start until 3:30 p.m., with a live radio broadcast on WQAM going up until 7 p.m., the parking lot was full well ahead of time and fans sporting Dolphins apparel streamed in constantly throughout the day. There were raffle drawings for club level seats to the game and T-shirts among other prizes and the crowd had a chance to get up close and personal with Bokamper, Dolphins wide receiver Greg Camarillo, offensive lineman Justin Smiley, former Dolphins tight end and radio color analyst Jim Mandich and Dolphins pre-game radio analyst Danny Kanell.

    Camarillo and Smiley were vital to Miami's resurgence this season, but both players suffered season-ending leg injuries a week apart in late November and are on injured reserve. Smiley arrived before Camarillo on crutches as he is recovering from a broken leg and severe ankle that happened on the road at St. Louis, and he sat down for a radio interview before signing autographs and posing for pictures. His wife, Missy, and their toddler son, Justin, Jr., accompanied Smiley and Missy has been taken aback by how much the fans have taken to Justin.

    "In San Francisco it was never like that and this is how we imagined it, being somewhere where he's appreciated," she said. "So it's just like watching a dream come true and I'm really happy for him."

    Miami's fan base has been known to reach far outside the borders of South Florida, and Tony Gomez of Lakeland is living proof. A season ticket holder since 1999, Gomez and his 5-year-old son, Austin, arrived at Bokamper's a full 90 minutes before the pep rally started so they could get a good table and have time to hang their unique banner out in front of the entrance. It was near the special truck carrying a giant video board that was sent over by the Dolphins.

    Gomez, whose wife passed away following a bout with cancer in August of 2006, sits high above the field in Section 431 and he and some of the other section occupants got creative after the "Wildcat" formation was unveiled at New England in Week 3. They dreamed up the equation, "Wildcat Formula: Ronnie Brown (23) + Ricky Williams (34) = Ricky Brown (squared)." Some of Gomez's friends in the section come from as far away as Ocala and Orlando and they made it to every regular-season game this year, so they have caught the playoff fever.

    "To be able to beat the Jets last weekend and to see the Jets and the Patriots at home, that's my Super Bowl," Gomez said. "Of course I'd like to see us win on Sunday and I think it's going to be a close game and a tough game. I'd like to see the Dolphins win by something like 20-6, but I think it'll be something like 9-6 or 13-10. I just love Coach (Tony) Sparano and everything about this team and this season has brought life back into me and helped bring me closer to my kids since my wife died. I'm not a football nut but it's given me something to smile about."

    Camarillo was remembered prior to this season for providing the only positive memory of last year by catching the 64-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Cleo Lemon in overtime against the Baltimore Ravens to give the Dolphins a 22-16 victory, their lone win of 2007. He picked up where he left off by earning a starting spot opposite Ted Ginn, Jr. and becoming quarterback Chad Pennington's favorite target until his knee injury, so it came as no surprise to see him get mobbed by fans upon his arrival.

    Sans the crutches, unlike Smiley, Camarillo managed to make it through his radio appearance and then maneuvered through the crowd as he signed and posed on his way to a waiting table, where his girlfriend, Sharon, already had escaped. A few autograph seekers still managed to coax Camarillo into signing as he soaked in the atmosphere and reflected on how special a season his team has put together.

    "We have I think the best fans in the NFL and it's because of the history of this team," he said. "Everyone celebrates the undefeated season but we still had fans when we were 1-15 and that speaks a lot about their character. And then to immediately turn around so we can reward all of the fans for their loyalty, it makes it that much more fun and I know tomorrow's going to be a great opportunity. I think it'll be another tough one and I think it's going to come down to the fourth quarter, but we have full confidence that in the fourth quarter we can pull out a victory."

    Camarillo and Smiley will be watching the game from the stands along with rookie right guard Donald Thomas, who also is on injured reserve, so they will be able to share in the emotions.

    Mandich, as he is always apt to do, summed up the moment best.

    "This is great and it's wonderful and our fans are championship starved and success starved and you can feel it," said Mandich, who was a member of the 1972 team that finished 17-0 and won the Super Bowl. "But there are no better fans in the world, honestly, and it's huge. The beauty of this time of year is the stakes are high. You win, you move on and you lose and you're going to sit in the locker room and there's this emptiness that, 'Where do we go tomorrow? What time's the meeting?' and it's not there. The season is over, so we're hoping for the best."

    'IR Crew' misses playoffs, puts on Smiley face

    Arrive early Sunday. You might stumble upon two significant contributors to this remarkable 2008 season, before you even enter Dolphin Stadium to watch the rest of the team take that season into 2009.

    "Tell the fans to come by and say hello," Justin Smiley says. "I'll probably have a couple of beers and then go enjoy the game. I'm so excited. I'll be tailgating with Greg [Camarillo]. Donald [Thomas] is going to come with us, too. It will be the IR Crew."

    Don't be afraid to ask that crew for a brew. Then you can toast the role of Smiley and Camarillo in this fairy tale that continues without them, one that has made them both "very proud."

    "Their determination and heart has been amazing," Smiley said.

    "The team doesn't bat its eyes," Camarillo said. "They keep fighting, keep going, no matter who is out there. It's really impressive to watch."

    Camarillo and Smiley were impressive to watch for the first 11 (Camarillo) and 12 (Smiley) games this season. Camarillo emerged from the fringe to catch 55 passes before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Smiley established himself as the
    Dolphins' most consistent lineman before fracturing his right leg and ankle. But in the NFL, time — and a quality team — always marches on. Like crashed cars, injured players are simply towed to the side, out of the way, so traffic can keep moving.

    Davone Bess stepped into Camarillo's spot and caught 30 passes over the final five games. Andy Alleman started the final four games in Smiley's left guard spot.

    The Dolphins haven't lost since.

    Still, for Camarillo and Smiley, it has been tough to accept the opportunity lost.

    "The first couple of weeks were really difficult, because you don't feel as much a part of the team as you did before you got hurt," Camarillo says.

    "To be that close to the playoffs …," Smiley says. "And I never had the chance to go to the playoffs in San Francisco."

    Smiley, a free-agent addition, felt he was playing at the highest level of his five-year career and was hoping to attract Pro Bowl consideration.

    "Then something freakish takes it away in an instant," he says. "That's life, I guess."

    In the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Smiley felt his ankle pop, and at halftime, he felt the bone high in his leg wasn't moving right. He might have returned in a couple of weeks from a broken fibula, but the ankle surgery shelved him for the duration.

    "And I hate it, because I went on IR the last two seasons," Smiley says. "And I want the fans to understand that I wish my luck would change."

    He has watched the rest of the Dolphins' games from home, sometimes with his wife, Missy, and young son, Justin Jr. He has turned down game-day invitations from friends, wanting to protect his leg, and also because "I like to watch by myself. Everybody might not care as much as I do. I can focus on what Andy is doing, on what Jake [Long] is doing."

    And he has greeted the team late at night at the airport after trips.

    Camarillo has watched from home, too, though his address has changed. His parents recently visited from California to help him move from an apartment to a new Davie house, one that his new contract (signed two days before the injury) helped him afford.

    "I obviously can't move boxes," he says.

    The knee is healing enough to use a stationary bike. So is his psyche. He reflects upon the season as a "great ride," even though he'll be in the backseat Sunday, rather than driving. He won't even be on the sidelines, and understands the reason — coach Tony Sparano prefers to eliminate any distractions.

    "I'll be sitting with all the rest of the fans," says Camarillo, who will attend with his brother Jeff, the latter likely wearing a replica 83 jersey. "This is the first time I will attend an NFL game and sit in the stands in God knows how many years."

    He'll be cheering.

    Perhaps even cheering up.

    Chad Pennington's arrival was a 'savior moment' for Miami Dolphins

    Although quarterback Chad Pennington's numbers were among the best in his career, it was his leadership as much as anything that helped raise the level of the Dolphins' play.Dolphins playoffs: Hottest ticket in town!

    Miami Herald Staff--January 2, 2009--DAVID J. NEAL

    Offensive tackle Vernon Carey, whose career had coincided with the worst four-season stretch in Dolphins history, remembers when he realized the Dolphins had a different brand of leader at quarterback.

    It was a preseason practice, a day or two after the team had signed Chad Pennington, just dumped by the New York Jets, whom he had led to three playoff appearances in his six seasons as a starter.

    'Coach [Tony Sparano] was like, `Come on! Come on! Come on!' and Chad just said, 'Calm down, coach. We got it,' '' Carey recalled. ``You sit there and, wow, somebody who just stood up to the coach. Like, `Hey, man, we've got this.'

    ``I guess Coach respected him for that, and all the players respected him for that.''

    ''Leadership'' tops the short list of the few NFL assets not quantified by any clock, tape or Byzantine formula.

    But it's the quality -- above a rocket arm, pinpoint accuracy or Second City improvisational ability -- that coaches and scouts consider a requisite in quarterbacks. It's why Bobby Layne is in the Hall of Fame and Jeff George, whose passing talent still gets scouts misty-eyed, couldn't keep a starting job.

    It's what the Dolphins instantly knew they had with Pennington.


    From 1983-99, the Dolphins had Dan Marino, one of the few quarterbacks with George's talent and Layne's leadership skills. Since Marino's retirement, it has been Jay Fiedler, who bore many similarities to Pennington but was unappreciated by fans because he bore few physical similarities to Marino; A.J. Feeley, a backup miscast as a starter when team veterans preferred Fiedler; and Gus Frerotte, a nomadic fill-in throughout his career.

    That was through 2005, and the post-Marino nadir still had not been reached. In 2006 came Daunte Culpepper, a single-knee Salvation Army store version of the All-Pro he had been two years earlier; Joey Harrington, already tagged as a flop in Detroit; Trent Green, a good leader but once and soon again concussed; Cleo Lemon, a career third-string quarterback; and John Beck, a rookie.

    The 2008 draft revealed what the new Dolphins brain trust thought of Beck's leadership presence. After the Dolphins spent a second-round pick on Chad Henne, general manager Jeff Ireland listed among Henne's attractive qualities: ``He's a great leader. He's got an aura about him that you like about a quarterback.''


    Yet another reason the Dolphins figured Pennington would be a perfect mentor for Henne.

    ''I think once we saw Chad [Pennington] come into our locker room that preseason game, when he actually entered our locker room, the atmosphere felt different,'' cornerback Andre' Goodman said. ``It's kind of like you can see a leader walk in.''

    Goodman then spread his arms with a beatific expression: 'It's kind of like, `Ah-ah-ahhh,' that savior moment,'' he said. ``He's been that guy for us all year, a guy who doesn't make mistakes and got a competitive energy that fills the room. When guys see him out there, we know we have a chance.''

    Sparano credits Pennington's leadership with helping raise the level of the receivers and the offensive line, with whom Pennington meets regularly in extra get-togethers.

    ''His work ethic is pretty contagious, and I think that when they see a guy has been in the league eight, nine, 10 years, and this guy is doing what he's doing, I think that all of a sudden these guys figure out that this has got to be the right way,'' Sparano said.


    Carey noticed how Pennington ``came in and put in the extra hours with the offensive line. Every Thursday, we watch film with him. We watch different blitzes, discuss how we're going to pick up things. That's the first time I've done that since I've been here.''

    Asked about the culture change among the Dolphins, Goodman pointed upstairs, to vice president of football operations Bill Parcells and Sparano. But the first player he named was Pennington, and he cited Sunday's play against the Jets that saw Pennington escape a rapidly shrinking pocket and throw back across his body to Anthony Fasano for a first down.

    ''When the whole team sees that, attitude changes,'' Goodman said. ``It just does. Attitude is a lot when it comes to playing this game.''

    An attitude the Dolphins haven't had for several years.

    This Miami Dolphins team has restored pride to fans

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano's leadership has allowed for veteran quarterback Chad Pennington, left, to be reborn into a star.

    Dolphins coach Tony Sparano's leadership has allowed for veteran quarterback Chad Pennington, left, to be reborn into a star.   JOE RIMKUS JR. / STAFF PHOTO


    If you are too close to something, sometimes it is harder to see it. Stand too close to an oil painting and all you notice is color and brushstrokes. You must step back from it to see the masterpiece.

    So what have we got here in this 2008-into-2009 Miami Dolphins season?

    What are we seeing? What will we be hearing this afternoon when Dolfans, long starved but now sated, pride restored, stand and roar thanks for this season that feels like a gift? Like a joy ride we don't want to end.

    We are in the maelstrom, right in it, and it isn't finished yet (in and of itself a story Ripley wouldn't believe), so must we wait to place this in some sort of context?

    No. We have seen enough. These Dolphins have done enough. No matter the result of the playoff game against Baltimore at Dolphin Stadium, this unlikeliest of teams and seasons have earned their place.

    We hereby nominate this season as the most stunning and surreally unexpected, the most welcome and delightful, in the history of sports in South Florida.


    Only for the sake of modesty did I add ''in South Florida.'' Because surely this season -- not much short of a sporting miracle -- would merit consideration if the topic were greatest turnarounds of all-time. Any sport. Any time. Anywhere.

    Miami has become the first team in the NFL's 89 years to catapult from a one-win season to the playoffs in a single year. Start there.

    A 1-15 record shames you. It literally is embarrassing. It makes a fan want to cut eyeholes into a paper bag. It has pretty much the same effect on the players working so hard only to be scorned or, worse, laughed at.

    ''It was hard to go out,'' defensive end Vonnie Holliday said of last season. ``It was hard to come out of the house.''

    Now order is restored. Chins lift and chests inflate. The seven-year playoff drought has ended and the patron ghosts of Shula and Marino can smile again.

    Now, where once there was chaos and futility, we see the calm guiding hand of personnel guru Bill Parcells. We see the relentless Tony Sparano, pit bull of head coaches. We see veteran quarterback Chad Pennington, reborn. We see defensive playmakers, all over the field.

    We see a foundation. A plan. We see something special, in and of itself, let alone in the framework of the mess so recent.

    A year ago, remember how beating Baltimore felt? It merely staved off historic futility, a winless season. The cheering dripped with derision. Or was it sarcasm?

    What this team has done, with a holy mess as a starting point, I mark as the greatest season we have seen in terms of magic and surprise, and I don't do so lightly. I have witnessed them all. A brief chronology:

    I was a teenager, a fan, cheering the 1972 Dolphins who rose to be our greatest champions, whose 17-0 Perfect Season remains unique in NFL history. But I also know that Miami had finished 12-4-1 (including playoffs) and reached the Super Bowl the year before. Don Shula had himself a budding juggernaut. There was greatness in what those '72-73 Dolphins did. But there was not surprise.

    Anybody remember the 1977 Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old North American Soccer League? They materialized in ugly bumble bee uniforms, Ray Hudson and his ''lads'' filling Lockhart Stadium, going 19-7 and making the playoffs, creating some of that same magic-carpet feeling as these Dolphins, though on such a smaller scale.

    What the Miami Hurricanes football team did in 1983 has some kinship with what the '08 Dolphins managed. There was that sense of wonder, of disbelief. UM's later champions would have accrued the bad-boy swagger, the reputation. That first championship team was a bunch of kids coming out of nowhere, led by pipe-puffing, suit-wearing, erudite Howard Schnellenberger.

    Beating mighty Nebraska in a 31-30 thriller on the home turf of the still-vibrant Orange Bowl that quarter-century ago fixed a gold star onto South Florida. Miami was on the national map in college football. Again, though, UM had been a decent team, 7-4 the year before. There was serendipity in the way the Canes became champions, the way teams ranked higher all fell, the way Kenny Calhoun's fingertip grazed that pass. But there was not that complete, from-the-gutter-up reversal of fortunes.


    The 1996 Florida Panthers might have been closer, still, to these comeback Dolphins. Hockey was new here. We were a third-year NHL franchise that had never been to the playoffs when, in 1996, the Cats somehow managed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. It hardly mattered that they were swept out in four games. This little team of journeymen and overachievers rose to win our imagination in a sea of rubber rats.

    The last Finals game was lost at home, 1-0, in triple overtime, and it was something I'll not forget. I have never seen an athlete more heroic in defeat than goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, nor heard fans more appreciative with hearts broken.

    The Marlins' first World Series win, in 1997, was not a huge shock; a team of stars had been assembled as quickly as it would later be dismantled. The club's 2003 championship had more of the quality of delightful surprise we see in these Dolphins, youthful Marlins coalescing under the wise hand of cigar-chomping old man manager Jack McKeon.

    In basketball, the 2006 champion Heat was hard-pressed to claim an underdog quality, led by future Hall of Famers Pat Riley, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade. Miami had reached the conference finals the season before.

    That season was a great story, but it wasn't Cinderella in sneakers. This current Heat season is much closer to that, closer to the '08 Dolphins, the way the team has gone from worst in the league to credible in one short year.

    Sparano talked following the AFC East-clinching victory against the Jets about ''a new set of goals'' now.

    A year earlier, the goal was one measly win to avoid a permanent stain of shame.

    Now one more win puts Miami within two of playing in a Super Bowl.

    Impossible, right?

    So was getting this far.

    Taking a last look back at 2008's magical ride

    Coach Tony Sparano woke up startled at 3:30 a.m. and began thinking of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were supposed to be his next opponent if the Dolphins had gotten past the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
    Instead, Sparano and his bosses, General Manager Jeff Ireland and vice president of football operations Bill Parcells, will soon begin their offseason evaluation of personnel so that the franchise can take the next step from AFC East champs into
    Super Bowl contenders.
    "To do it over again and again that's what makes you elite," Sparano said. "The Lakers were elite. Yankees were elite even though I'm a Met fan. That's another body blow."
    Free agents need to be re-signed or found. A trip to the Senior Bowl in Mobile and then the
    NFL Combine in Indianapolis must be made to check out the nation's elite draft-eligible collegians. Then it's April and the draft before the minicamps start rolling around.
    But first, let's take a look back at one of the Dolphins' most amazing seasons.

    Best airline chat of year
    During the long trip back home following a 31-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals and an 0-2 start, quarterbacks coach David Lee and Sparano came up with their own version of an offensive formation used at the University of Arkansas. The idea was to get running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams more touches. The conversation spawned the Wildcat and the imaginative offense spread through the league like wildfire.
    Unsung hero
    Running back Patrick Cobbs beat out two rookie running backs and became a vital cog in the Wildcat and the offense, while leading the special-teams units.
    No longer Patsies
    Going into Foxborough and hammering the Tom Brady-less Patriots 38-13 with the unveiling of the Wildcat and Brown turning in one of the great performances during the NFL season was tough to top.
    Simply the Bess
    Undrafted receiver Davone Bess proved that Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense can transfer to the NFL as the happy-go-lucky dreadlocked kid from Oakland blossomed.
    Michael Jordan un-retirement award
    That has to go to former Packers legend Brett Favre for un-retiring and getting traded to the Jets, which in turn led to the Dolphins snatching up a discarded Chad Pennington, who became the NFL Comeback Player of the Year for his leadership, class and exceptional quarterback play.
    Thursdays with Ernest
    The Dolphins' brass couldn't hit a home run on all the offseason signings and acquisitions, but they really whiffed on receiver Ernest Wilford, who only would speak to the media on Thursdays. Unfortunately, Wilford couldn't get much done on the field on Sundays as the $6 million man finished with three catches for 25 yards in nine games.
    Steal of the year
    Tuna and Co. traded a 2008 fourth-round pick to Dallas for linebacker Akin Ayodele and tight end Anthony Fasano, two integral parts of a record-tying 10-game turnaround.
    Who needs J.T. ?
    While twinkle toes Jason Taylor and his Washington Redskins sat out the postseason dance, Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter took over J.T.'s sack attack with a career-high 17.5. His stream-of-consciousness media sessions including controversial opinions on Pit Bulls, guns, a Jaguars player's drug deals and inequities of the league's disciplinary policies were fascinating, but on the field J-Peezy provided fiery leadership and a one-man pressure-applying service.
    Saved by the Bell
    Sure, Pennington deservedly got the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award and Brown would have been a worthy choice too after coming back from knee surgery. But this space is reserved for strong safety Yeremiah Bell for recovering from a torn Achilles' and proving that when healthy he's a keeper.
    Shooting down the J-E-T-S
    Marching into the Meadowlands with Pennington and beating the hated Jets, who dumped him for Brett Favre, to get into the playoffs and capture the AFC East title after a 1-15 campaign was icing on the cake that should leave a sweet aftertaste all offseason.
    Post-Christmas shopping list
    After watching how the Ravens D-line manhandled Miami's O-line, expect Parcells' grocery list to include more beefy linemen, especially guards where they were dreadfully thin after rookie Donald Thomas went down in the season opener.

    Tony Sparano's final thoughts on 2008 season

    South Florida Sun-Sentinel 11:33 AM EST, January 7, 2009

    (On how it feels the day after the playoff loss to Baltimore) � "It doesn't feel great. I don't think any of us really expected this. It's not something you can practice for. We came in here today and I woke up at 3:30 this morning kind of thinking about Pittsburgh. It's just the way it goes. Our guys, they fought hard all year, put themselves in this position and that ain't the way we wanted to end this thing, but unfortunately it's the way it went."

    (On what he said to the guys in the last team meeting) � "In the locker room afterwards, I did tell them that I was proud of them in the locker room afterwards, but that really wasn't the place. In the locker room afterwards, you need to make sure that, in my mind at that point, you say as little as possible and you knew that you'd try to get to some of that today because anything you were going to say yesterday wasn't going to matter one way or the other. It wouldn't have mattered to me and wouldn't have mattered to them. Today, I did tell them that we were really proud of them. I did tell them that a long time ago when we walked in here, we talked about changing the culture and to a lot of people, that's lip service. To this group of people, it wasn't lip service. I said, 'How do you think you did?' We drove in here this morning, these players drove in here this morning, there are fans outside waiting for them. We get back from the airport from New York last week, there are fans out there. There are fans all over the place outside the stadium as they were driving out yesterday. All of a sudden nationally, people know a little bit about you and what we are all about and where we're headed. So how did you do?' I think they understand that they really have changed the culture here and it's not an easy thing to do. All of a sudden, the bar is raised and there are expectations that come with that and that's something that we can look forward to."

    (On if he has received any vote of confidence from incoming owner Stephen Ross that football operations will be maintained the way they are right now) � "I haven't even scratched the surface with any of that stuff. I've just been so worried about football. That's really all I'm worried about. That's not my business right now."

    (On his vision of where this team is headed) � "My vision on where this team is headed would be to win one of those ballgames like we were in yesterday. If we put ourselves back in that position, and to win one of those ballgames like we were in yesterday, to be better prepared, to be bigger, to be stronger, to be faster and all of those things when we arrive at that point next time. I think, when you come in here and you're a new staff, the players don't know your expectations, they're not aware of what you're looking for and all of a sudden now, they really are aware of what this thing is all about and they do know our expectations and how we expect to get to where we're going to be. They do know that we won't rest until we get this thing right one way or the other. I think that there's a little bit clearer picture, or an awful lot clearer picture for them when they do come back. For us, we've just won our division, we won 11 ballgames and now you've got to say to yourself, 'you set your sights on being better than that'. You have a bar up there, you've got to try to go after that thing. That's easier said than done and you can't take for granted what just happened because it doesn't always happen that way.

     (On if Chad Pennington will be the starting quarterback next year) � "Yeah. There are a lot of issues that go on out there during the course of the ballgame that can lead to throwing interceptions, fumbling the ball, giving up sacks. Normal things when you give up sacks, it's the line's fault; well you don't really know that. It can be the backs, it can be the receivers not running the site adjust, it can be a bunch of different things. There are a lot of things that went into why we didn't play well enough yesterday, particularly on that side of the ball. That quarterback has played very well for us the entire year. I think the guy is just an outstanding player."

    (On not having a two month gap between the end of the season and when he gets back here) � "That's what we just talked about. We did talk about that, we just talked about the fact that, 'I don't want to be starting over again when we get here', we already had to do that once. When we got here, with some of the people that were here, we had to trim body fat, we had to do all of those kind of things, there is no time for that. This business is not a nine month business, it's really not, it's year round. You've got to keep yourself in shape, that's what we talked about. You've got to come in here in a situation where we're not having to go back to go forward. We want to hit the ground running when we do come back in here. They're all pretty aware of that right now."

    (On how different his routine was this morning) � "Honestly, I just told the team this. I told them that at some point in the next couple days, they're probably going to wake up and feel what I felt today, which was, 'What the hell do I do now?' Right now, for them, they probably got a million things going on, but that's exactly what happened to me this morning. I woke up at 3:30, expected to come in here and go to work and play Pittsburgh. Now, I'm in here at 3:30, I'm going through the film and I'm done with that and now it's, 'Okay, where do we go from here', but I have so many things that I need to do right now. There is so much left out here right now that we have to dive into that you never really wanted to get into. Certainly, you didn't want to think about that. I knew there had to be an exit strategy and I actually said that to Jeff Ireland a couple weeks ago, or not a couple weeks ago, but the week of the Jets game. You're preparing for the Jets game and you can win the division, but you could also be going home and you have to prepare for an exit strategy. I couldn't bring myself to do that and I told Jeff that. I said, 'Look, I apologize, but I'm not going to be prepared for that. I'm can't bring myself to do that'. Now we're here so we've got evaluations that need to go on with players. We need to get this whole season cleaned up, evaluate our players right now, making sure that we're doing that, start to head down the road and get to the Senior Bowls and all of those things that need to take place, so there's an awful lot of work here; players, coaches, system, evaluate the systems on both sides of the ball, do all of those things. We need to get some things squared away right now, then I need to get these coaches out of here for a little while and let them take a little bit of a break."

    (On what this team needs to improve going into 2009) � "Until I really sit back and go through all of the tape, I can't pinpoint one area and say to you, 'this is where'. I would say to you that the philosophy is that you always want to continue to improve in the lines. We made great strides there this year. A guy that played outstanding in that ballgame yesterday was Kendall Langford. This guy really played a good football game yesterday out there. When you see a young guy like that play that kind of game in that kind of game, it lends you to feel pretty good about some of these young guys that you bring in. Jake Long really had a good game out there yesterday. He gave up one (sack) yesterday on a Twist, but other than that, I think the guy played really a good game. When you're looking at those kind of things, you're saying, from my end, 'The lines are always the area that you never get enough of them. You're finding that out, you're down two guards. You just never get enough of them. You never get enough secondary people'. There are several areas we have to take a long look at where we are right now and know where we're heading."

    (On how you force yourself to appreciate the season despite being so disappointed) � "It's kind of the way I'm built I guess. It's probably the bad thing about this business is just that the wins, (Bill) Parcells used to tell me this, he just used to say, 'The wins last so much less than the losses do. The losses can last for a long time and the wins fly by'. There's 11 of them and you just keep thinking of the next one and the next one and the next one and the next one and ah, that loss. Enjoying it, I love what I do, I love what I do with that team and I think they are a tremendous bunch of guys to be around, I really do. They are an inspiration to me, I give them all of the credit in the world, but we'll get through it. I give myself a 24 hour rule, too. We'll get back at it."

    (On if Bill Parcells has said anything about coming back next season) � "I haven't really discussed that with him."

    (On how close the core of players that he has is to where he wants it to be) � "Without going through the whole thing and really analyzing it, which we will do and we will go through long and hard, we won 11 games, you have to feel closer. You don't want to let that cloud your vision though. What I mean is, you can't just say, 'Well, you won 11 games, leave it alone. Everything is good'. You can't let that cloud your vision. The teams that do let that cloud their vision probably don't get a lot better. We can't let that cloud our vision, we have to continue to try to get better here which we will continue to do. The one thing that our players learned, you people have learned is that, we're going to leave no stone unturned right now to try to make this football team better."

    (On what is more difficult; going from where this team was to respectability or from respectability to elite status) � "That's a good question. What we just did is pretty difficult to do. I really believe in my heart that that next jump is a really hard jump, it really is. You have to give all the credit in the world to the teams like the Patriots and the Giants and those kind of teams that do it and have done it consistently. From our end, again, I take nothing away from our players and what we've just accomplished, that's a heck of a thing we just accomplished, it really is. To do it over and over and over again, that's what makes you elite in my mind. The Lakers were elite, the Yankees were elite even though I'm a Mets fan. Another body blow today."

    (On where he stands with the playmakers on both sides of the ball on this team) - "I can't really comment on the personnel that way without going through the whole thing and really sitting down and going through everything. From my end, I just know that some positions you can never get enough of and I've learned that this year. I was always told that. There was a point where I was just a pig headed line coach sitting in there wanting every offensive linemen. Then I used to get hit in head and they used to tell me, 'Look, you've got to think of the big picture. You've got to think of the big picture and there's some positions you just can't get enough of', and I'm aware of that now, I really am."

    (On if he liked the feeling of the crowd when he got on the field yesterday) - "I sure did. You couldn't help it. Yesterday, the fans, they were tremendous, they really were. We didn't give them many reasons during the course of that thing, but it was outstanding. For our players to come out there like that, in that kind of situation and see that kind of support out there, it's exactly what you wanted. We said a long time ago that we have to give them reason to come out. I think we gave them reason to come out. I hope that they're proud of this group of guys because I sure as heck am."

    (On if he can look back and be proud of the job that he's done because he earned the respect of the whole team) - "For me, that's the greatest deal you can have, it really is, to have the respect of your team. All that other stuff doesn't really matter to me, it really doesn't. I don't do this for those things; I do it for the players respect in that room. I think that that's the pay day, it really is. For me, I appreciate that, but those guys are the real reason why, they really are."

    (On if the locker room after the Jets game would be the defining moment for him this season) - "Yeah, that would be it for me, that would be it. I think that was just a tremendous feeling at the end of that thing knowing that your back was to the wall every single game for five, six games. You just can't even put it into words what that's like out there. You know to have to go out there and have to win one every single week like that and have no margin for error, then to see it all come down to one of those games on the road like that. I think people want to say, 'you've got to win the hard games'. Well, they won a hard game there, they really did. They won a hard game down there, in their place, to win a division and it put themselves in this position. That would be the defining moment for me."

    (Final comment to the media members) - "I do appreciate you guys, I really do. Your professionalism I think has been outstanding and sometimes we don't always agree, but I want to thank you for everything you did and the way you covered our guys. So thanks."

    Dolphins still rate among South Florida's most surprising teams of all time

    Dave Hyde | 8:10 PM EST, January 4, 2009 MIAMI GARDENS

    They sat at their lockers with faces of stone, their emotions in cement, their egos under repair. "Disappointment," was the word many kept coming back to, coaches and players, rookies and veterans.

    "There's not another word for what happened,'' safety Yeremiah Bell said.

    He put his head down.

    "Maybe 'sickening,'.'' he said after the
    Dolphins' 27-9 playoff loss to Baltimore.

    Across the way, quarterback Chad Pennington still sat at his locker in his sweat-soaked T-shirt, staring straight ahead. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning was making rounds to players 30 minutes after the final play, as he does after every game, giving a pat on the back or a word of encouragement.

    "It ends quick in this league,'' Bell said. "That's what hurts the most."

    It shouldn't feel like this by today. Not with this team forgetting what it did across 16 Sundays this season. Not with it falling so hard. This final game, well, that's one thing how it played out, starting with Pennington throwing as many interceptions (four) in one game as his previous nine games combined.

    But this season? Seasons like this don't get obituaries. They get parades. They're reminders of why we all fell in love with sports, once upon a time, cheering a team worth cheering.

    The surprise is always the best story in sports, and this team rates with the '83 Hurricanes, '96 Panthers or '03
    Marlins among the biggest of South Florida surprises. From 1-15 to 11-6? From the layoffs to playoffs?

    "Who picked us to get here?" defensive tackle
    Vonnie Holliday said. "Anyone except the guys in this locker room?"

    He tried a smile that didn't quite make it. "What hurts is we expected to get further, be a big surprise, not a little one," he said.

    Sunday said this team had run out of surprises. There's no shame in that. Baltimore had some magic of its own, with a rookie coach and rookie quarterback. But what they mostly had was a bullet-proof defense, starting with safety
    Ed Reed, who had two of Pennington's four interceptions.

    "Three of those interceptions, I felt really good about when I threw it,'' Pennington said. "I really did."

    He was asked if the one he felt bad about was the deep pass that that sailed like a balloon toward Ted Ginn Jr. near the end of the first half. Ginn tripped. Reed returned that one 64 yards for a touchdown to put the
    Ravens up 10-3.

    "No, I felt good about that one,'' Pennington said. "The one to Davone [Bess] at the start of the second half. I'd like to have that one back."

    That didn't end in a Baltimore score. But on the next possession Patrick Cobbs fumbled, Baltimore recovered at the Miami 19 and four plays later it had another touchdown.

    So much of this season the script was about how far they've come. Sunday it was about how far they still have to go. And it's quite a ways. Everyone understood they were a better story than a football team.

    For instance, they only dressed three receivers Sunday. When Bess went out for a while with a thumb injury, three became two. And one of them was Brandon London, a special-teamer cut by the
    Giants in August who had three catches on the season.

    Have you heard of any playoff team like this? Or one that never studied the long odds?

    "Even in the fourth quarter, we were like, 'We can do it,'.'' Holliday said. "It didn't really hit home until
    Willis McGahee had that long run late in the game. We knew we were in a bad predicament then."

    Even Sunday brought some good news. Bill Parcells is staying, team owner
    H. Wayne Huizenga said, to be the linchpin or backstop to the franchise's decision-making. However it has worked under Parcells, the point is it does.

    Huizenga, meanwhile, left the locker room after the game and walked down the corridor under
    Dolphin Stadium probably for the last time as the team's majority owner. The end of the season looked heavy on him, too. But Huizenga has lived enough bad endings in his 19 years as an owner to know how to frame this one properly.

    "It wasn't a great day,'' he said. "But it was a great season."

    There's Nothing We Can't Accomplish

    January 2009
    Tony Sparano leaned back in his office chair Friday morning and thought about everything that is happening. Nine victories in the last 10 regular season games. An AFC East title. A home playoff game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. It has been quite an experience for the first-year head coach and Sparano talks about a variety of topics in this exclusive column for Dolphin Digest Online.

    Q. It was reported that you told the players after the Jets game, "Don't let anybody tell you you can't do something." Can you elaborate on that?

    TS: I just think through this whole process we've learned an awful lot of what we can do. These guys have overcome an awful lot of odds to get where we are right now and to put themselves in this position. We want to continue to do that. There are bigger obstacles for us now, but we can't look at them as big obstacles. We've got to know what we can do and take pride in the fact that we believe there isn't anything we can't accomplish.

    Q. Can you describe what the feeling was like in that locker room right after the Jets game as AFC East champions?

    TS: It was a tremendous feeling. To see the players' faces and the owners and everyone involved in this organization was so gratifying. For five weeks we had been going at this thing pretty good and we had to keep winning games just to get to that game. Once we got to that game, the feeling of winning it was something very special. It's also special knowing we can now set our sights on other things.

    Q. Nine victories in the last 10 regular season games. When you think about that, isn't a little hard to fathom?

    TS: Yes, it is a little hard to fathom. When you get into this thing, you talk about getting on runs. To get on a run like that one where you win nine out of 10 and win the last four out of five on the road and where you have to fight weather and different circumstances to do it, I think it says an awful lot. When you look at it, you think that was a tall mountain to climb what these players have been able to do.

    Q. So many different players stepped up in the win over the Jets. Hasn't that been the story of this team?

    TS: Yes, that's been the story. It hasn't been the same guys every week. We've done it with Joey Porter getting a bunch of sacks and then with Joey not having a lot of sacks. We've done it with Chad Pennington having a tremendous day and then we've done it with our defense having to carry us. Our special teams have risen to the occasion. It's always been a different unit, a different person, a different something. It could be Patrick Cobbs. It could be Davone Bess. It could be Andre' Goodman. So many people have stepped up on this football team.

    Q. Earlier in the season you saw empty seats at Dolphin Stadium. Now, this game became a sellout the first day tickets were available. How does that make you feel about the support these players have?

    TS: It makes me feel great. Our fans have been outstanding all year long. As I said before, we had to give them something to come out for. I understand the process. I think we've done that. I think they have responded. It has been better and better every week. The crowds have been loud and supportive. It has turned into what I had hoped it would be, a real home-field advantage.

    Q. How specifically can that crowd be a factor on Sunday?

    TS: It can be a big factor, no doubt about it. I have been in some places in playoff games, having to go to Carolina and Seattle, and those places are very loud and it's tough. Sometimes you can do things as the home team that you haven't done all year when you've got a crowd behind you like that. It can be really outstanding for us and for a team coming in here it can be a little bit difficult.

    Q. What has happened to Andre' Goodman in the past 6-8 games; he seems like a completely different player?

    TS: What Andre' has done in the last several weeks is he's gone back to basics and has gotten better fundamentally. He has taken that to another level. He has worked on his tools so well. He is also playing with a confident swagger now and at that position you need to have a short memory. It's kind of like a pitcher in baseball. You've got to let that last pitch go, and Andre' has been able to do that pretty well.

    Q. Talk about the challenge of preparing to face the Ravens for a second time?

    TS: It's a little easier preparing for the second time because it's kind of like a division game and we've prepared for a second division game all season. You know a little bit more about each other. When we played way back then, neither of us really knew a whole lot about each other. Now we do. When you are preparing for a team like this you better prepare for a physical game because they are physical on both sides of the ball. The last time we played them they had the ball for an awful long time, and that wasn't good. We have to match how physical they are and that could very well be the key to this game.

    Q. Nobody seems to run the ball effectively on them? Is it a waste to even try; what can you hope to accomplish in that area?

    TS: It's not a waste to try. When you look at their last 10 losses, people have run the ball for at least 100 yards against them, so that's the challenge. You have to go after that. You have to be in that ballgame. In their last 10 wins, on the other hand, they have held the opponent to about 68 yards rushing. In our last loss to them, we had 71 yards rushing, so you need more rushing yards. I don't think you're going to beat them by going out and throwing the ball 50 times.

    Q. This will be Tony Sparano's first playoff game. What kind of emotions will you be feeling?

    TS: It will be business as usual for me. What will be special is knowing that this franchise is in that situation on game day. I'll take a minute to think about that. More importantly, it will be business as usual and I'll think about the other things when this is all over with.

    Q. Will you coach any differently, given that it's a playoff game?

    TS: I don't think so. I don't think you can. One of the things we've tried to do here clearly is to keep the routine the same for the players. Game-plan-wise, you don't do more for this game. We've been aggressive in nature to get to this point, so we have to keep being aggressive. We can't go backward in any area. We have to be ourselves, coach the way we've coached, and we have to do the things that helped get us to this point. I know my team pretty well by now.

    Q. While all of your coaches have a great effect on this team, it seems like your two coordinators have had the most visible effect. Can you talk specifically about Paul Pasqualoni and Dan Henning and what they have brought to this team?

    TS: Every coach here has had a huge impact. I want to make that very clear. My defensive coordinator (Pasqualoni), my offensive coordinator (Henning) and my special teams coordinator (John Bonamego) have all done a tremendous job. To have to organize what they've had to organize, to have to deal with me on a regular basis, to have to do all the things that their job requires is a difficult task and they all do it very, very well. The way they have gotten the players to respond and the way they've used our personnel and adjusted to all the new players we have brought in, and not be married to the bottom of the roster, has really been something special. They are professionals and I really appreciate that.

    Dolphins fans upbeat after loss

    MIAMI GARDENS - Up in the 400 section, far above the posh seats filled with celebrities such as Michael Phelps, Dwyane Wade and Jon Bon Jovi, the true believers kept hoping, even as the Dolphins season began slipping away.  They saw eight consecutive completions push the ball to the Baltimore 13-yard line, and suddenly even a 20-3 deficit didn't seem too daunting. Then Chad Pennington threw another interception late in the third quarter.

    "Game over," said a Miami Gardens police officer as he turned away in disgust and headed down the long exit ramp. And soon it was, the
    Ravens defeating the Dolphins 27-9.
    Thousands of fans eventually headed out, but not with the same sense of disappointment. They had watched an awful team become a division champion — beating the hated
    Jets and Patriots along the way — in just one season, and one playoff loss would not make that disappear.

    "I didn't care whether they won or lost, honestly, because they have had a great season and it will only get better," said Richard Meccariello of
    Boca Raton. "They've got a great coach, good players and it's going to be a good future."  Even as Meccariello headed home, the thrills continued for those who stayed behind. But every good play that got Dolphin Stadium rocking was quickly followed by a bad one.  "I'm feeling better now," Veronica Nieto of Miami said after a long pass put the Dolphins on the verge of a score. She wore a No. 99 jersey, a reminder of former Dolphin Jason Taylor.  Not far from Nieto, in seat 22, row two of the upper deck, Michael Harmon, 61, quietly soaked in the Ravens' good fortune. Wearing a white Don Lunas tequila hat that shielded his head from the sun ["I found it out there"] the U.S. Army veteran and cancer patient said he had walked out of Walter Reed Hospital the day before."I'm staying at Homestead [Air Base] tonight, then heading back tomorrow or the next day," said Harmon, who is fighting prostate and bladder cancer. "Who knows what's in the future, so I'm going to enjoy this. I got the ticket for $100 on the Internet. I was surprised how easy it was."

    So were ticket scalpers who took a pounding outside the stadium before the game.  Minutes before kickoff, some looked like auto executives desperately looking for anyone to bail them out of their financial mess. They offered buy two, get one free specials, dangled prime seats for face value and roamed parking lots hoping to unload tickets.  Those with tickets tossed footballs, drank beer and celebrated an astounding season and a marvelous sunny Sunday afternoon.
      David Zalka, a season-ticket holder from Parkland, honored his team's first playoff game in seven years by having a Dolphin "D" shaved into the side of his head and covering his Mohawk with orange and aqua hair gel. He painted his eyebrows aqua, too.   "My name's David, it's the Dolphins," Zalka said. "I wanted to do the entire emblem, but there wasn't room."  Bill Median, 75, drove with his family from Hutchinson Island.  "I've been watching from their first season, through the
    Super Bowl years, and it's good to see this again," he said.

    Poor Ending Can't Dampen Remarkable Journey

    Andy Cohen  DOLPHIN DIGEST January 1, 2009
    The magical season ended with a whimper instead of a wallop. It ended on a sunny day at Dolphin Stadium with a packed house that came to see if the most shocking season in team history could somehow live on. But it wasn't meant to be. Not on this day, not against this Baltimore Ravens team, not with the Dolphins falling so short in so many areas.

    Baltimore 27, Miami 9. I'm not sure which was more difficult to accept, that the Dolphins were no match for the Ravens or that this unbelievable season had to come to an end. Both hit hard. Both were difficult to swallow.

    I know it is the easy way out to say this season was a huge success despite the way it ended. I know if a team gets this far - wins its division and hosts a playoff game - you have every reason to dream big. But let's be realistic here. These Dolphins accomplished something that no team in the history of the NFL had, going from one win a season before to 11 wins and a division championship the next year.

    As much as the loss to the Ravens stung hard, you can't lose sight of the big picture. These Dolphins grew up before our disbelieving eyes. They mattered once again. In one season, this franchise went from a laughing stock to a soaring stock. There have been many great seasons before. But no season in the 43-year history of this organization came close to duplicating this one.

    It will have its own unique place in the team's trophy case. So memorable in so many ways.

    That the Dolphins didn't advance further is a legitimate disappointment. But you have to feel a real sense of accomplishment for what these Dolphins did. Who could have imagined an AFC East title? Who would have predicted a season like this for Chad Pennington? Who could have seen so many of the important pieces falling neatly into place so quickly? Who could have thought this team would play into January?

    If the Dolphins were looking for a building block, this season is exactly what they needed.

    What went wrong against the Ravens?

    Well, the story of this game was too much defense for the Ravens and not enough offense for the Dolphins.

    As much as we would have liked to paint a scenario where Pennington had success, where Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams would gain their share of yards, where the receivers would come up with a few big plays, wasn't that really wishful thinking?

    The Dolphins, as we have seen all season, have some serious flaws on offense, most notably the absence of a big-time playmaker. The Ravens, on the other hand, have no serious flaws on defense.

    For the Dolphins to have been successful, they needed a few more turnovers from the defense and a couple of lucky breaks on offense. They got neither. Pennington forced more throws in one game than he had forced the entire regular season. The result was four interceptions. That was more than half of his entire regular season total of seven.

    All told, the Dolphins turned it over five times. You simply can't do that against a team as talented as the Ravens � or any team, for that matter.

    Sure, they had their chances. They had the ball at the Ravens 1-yard line early on and had to settle for a field goal. Not what you're looking for. They had cut the deficit in the fourth quarter to 20-9 and had the ball in Ravens territory with plenty of time left. But the offense could do no more and the Ravens iced it with a late touchdown, and the result was a crowd that quickly began filing out.

    Those who stayed cheered, as they should have.

    As Tony Sparano walked off the field for the final time this season, he tipped his cap toward the fans in the end zone. It was a brief gesture before he disappeared into the tunnel. But it was meaningful nonetheless.

    Tip your hat to this team. To all the players who overachieved. To that victory in New England and the one over the Chargers, and the two over the Bills and that season-ending beauty at the Jets.

    "We didn't come here to finish second," Sparano said in his postgame press conference. "We did things against the Ravens that were uncharacteristic of us. But I told the players in the locker room that they should walk away with their heads held high. I'm proud of what they accomplished this season."

    And who wouldn't be? One playoff loss can't change that, shouldn't change that. The Dolphins were stepping up in class against the Ravens and they simply couldn't find the answers. These things happen in a very competitive league.

    What doesn't happen, and had never happened before, was the journey these Dolphins took to get here. That is how this season will be remembered, not for one game or one moment as much as the sums of all the parts.

    The Dolphins stand tall today. And that alone says all you need to know about the 2008 season.

    His son, teammates and coaches remember David Overstreet
    Promising Dolphins running back was killed 25 years ago this week
    Ethan J. Skolnick | South Florida Sun-Sentinel  
           June 19, 2009

    Over and over. Year after year. He kept hearing the same thing. From his mother Johnnie Mae. From his sister's godfather, the great Billy Sims. That they looked alike, sounded alike, acted alike, even ran alike.

    Others didn't know the story. So they stared. Like the time he ran at the Nike Invitational Camp.

    "You got a good name," he was told. "That's a good football name."

    Did he know David Overstreet?

    Yes. Sort of.

    After all, he was only 13 months old on the morning of June 25, 1984.

    That's when a driver fell asleep. When a Mercedes struck a row of gas pumps, then exploded. When a man, just 25, was identified by the teeth he flashed in so many photos. When a wife took a call about her childhood sweetheart, the one who courted her by impersonating Michael Jackson on the school bus. When an NFL franchise tragically lost a player for the third time in four offseasons.

    So, no, David Overstreet II didn't get to know his father as well as he would have wanted.

    Neither did Dolphins fans.


    David Overstreet made the Dolphins wait. They were willing. They knew his history.

    "David was always a special athlete," says Lovie Smith, coach of the Chicago Bears.

    Smith and David Overstreet were born four months apart, two big fish in a small country pond called Big Sandy. They won three state football titles before graduating together in a class of 34. In 1975, Big Sandy outscored opponents 824-15.

    Overstreet's rushing statistics were equally staggering, considering the clock was running continuously and mercifully, in many second halves.

    "Every time he touched the ball, the odds were that he would score," Smith says. "Not that he might score. You were surprised when he didn't."

    No one was surprised when Oklahoma University's Barry Switzer chased Texas' latest gifted tailback. "I tried to recruit every damn one of them," Switzer says.

    This one finished his career third on the state's all-time rushing list. Switzer viewed him as "a unique package," smart, coachable, personable and driven: "He knew where he was going."

    Freshmen had contributed for Switzer before. But rarely one from a such a small school, and rarely at such a loaded position. Switzer already had future pros Sims, Kenny King and Elvis Peacock, yet there Overstreet was, ripping off runs against Ohio State in front of 88,000 Buckeyes.

    At Oklahoma, Overstreet scored 16 touchdowns and gained 1,702 yards on a 5.8 average.

    The Dolphins took him 13th overall in the 1981 NFL draft. After a contract dispute, he signed with the Montreal Alouettes to play with American stars Vince Ferragamo and Billy "White Shoes" Johnson. He led the CFL with 952 yards rushing, but also fumbled 16 times, including once in the playoffs. In 1982, he rushed for just 190 yards for the renamed Montreal Concordes before going on injured reserve.

    He finally signed with the Dolphins in 1983, the same year Don Shula drafted quarterback Dan Marino. Yet, in a Sports Illustrated story, the Dolphins coach said that, for the upcoming season, "the keys are David Overstreet and Dan Johnson."

    Why Overstreet?

    "We've had 15-play, 80-yard drives," Shula continued, "but I'd like some 60-yard runs."


    While defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, Lovie Smith attended a Missouri practice. Smith entered the stadium and heard a loud voice. No face. No number. Just someone acting like the life of the party. Smith turned to his own son. "Miles, that's Overstreet's son," he said.

    Naturally, it was.

    So Smith chuckles at the characterization by many former Dolphins, such as receiver Jimmy Cefalo, of Overstreet as "extraordinarily quiet."

    "Oh no," Smith says. "Are we talking about the same guy?"

    Maybe Overstreet was just selectively outgoing here. Mark Clayton saw the playful side. He was also an NFL rookie in 1983, and they lived in the same apartment complex.

    Overstreet was always talking about the son he called "DayDay" and the daughter he dubbed "Fatty." Often, he talked about his skills. Like cooking. At one practice, Overstreet invited Clayton and Fulton Walker over for a culinary feast.

    Everything was boxed. Nothing from scratch.

    "My goodness, it was horrible," Clayton says. "I just had to let him know. 'You told me you could cook!' He said, 'I told you I could cook, I didn't say I was a good cook.'"

    They went out to eat.

    "Dude could run that ball, though," Clayton says. "I had watched him at Oklahoma, and I was really in awe. Couldn't catch a cold in 50 below. But, as a runner, he had what it


    After a slow start as a rookie, Overstreet rushed for 179 yards on 27 carries in the final two games.

    "Every team is always looking for the big play, the guy who can hit the home run," former teammate Nat Moore says. "You saw that in him."

    So did Shula:

    "Just saw him having a great future with us."

    So they never saw this coming. They had been through enough. In 1981, linebacker Rusty Chambers died in a car accident. In 1983, linebacker Larry Gordon collapsed and died while jogging. Now Overstreet.

    "We were all so shocked," Cefalo says.

    An autopsy showed Overstreet had a blood-alcohol level of .12, over the.10 legal limit. He was just seven miles from Tyler, driving back after a night with Sims. The former Sooners had been celebrating the news: that Overstreet would be a starter when Dolphins training camp opened.

    Instead, several Dolphins served as pallbearers in what Clayton calls "a little country place." Two thousand people packed an auditorium designed to hold 600.

    That was 25 years ago.

    "Time flies," Shula says.

    Not for everyone.


    One day, while completing his career as an all-conference Missouri safety, David Overstreet II got a call from Switzer.

    "I knew he had never seen father play," Switzer says.

    So Switzer sent a DVD featuring footage of every game Overstreet played at Oklahoma, and quite a few interviews, too.

    "He does sound like me," the son realized.

    Dayetta Overstreet watched the video too, but not for long.

    She couldn't stop screaming.

    She was three years older than her brother. She was a Daddy's girl. She remembers everything, from watching her father's Montreal games to their house in Miami. She has post-traumatic stress disorder. She can't stop re-living the funeral. She can't stop replaying the last thing she heard her father say:

    "Help your mother take care of your brother."

    Dayetta's mother Johnnie Mae lives in Tyler, and suffers depression every June, even in years she's not recovering from her own car accident, as she has been lately. "Daddy was

    her one and only love," Dayetta says.

    Dayetta's son Quincis, 16, is a star prep safety in Dallas. Oklahoma, after missing out on David II, now wants her son. She wants her son to know about her father, his charitable deeds off the field as well as his exploits on it.

    She still sees her father. In her brother.

    "It is just so spooky," Dayetta says. "It is like looking at a ghost."

    David Overstreet II owns a marketing company in San Antonio. Smith gave him a shot with the Bears, but he wasn't recovered from microfracture knee surgery. So he moved on. But he's never run from his legacy. In fourth grade, he read a poem at the Texas High School Hall of Fame in Waco, dedicated to a man he hardly knew.

    "But my Mom always made sure that I knew what kind of person he was," he says. "That's why I always use David Overstreet II. That's who I am. I never want to tarnish that name. I talked to my fiancée about it, and there's no argument. When I have a son, he will be David Overstreet III."

    A good football name.

    Miami Dolphin Greg Camarillo shows injury no concern
    By Omar Kelly South Florida Sun-Sentinel
    August 29, 2009
    Sometimes getting past season-ending injuries has more to do with the mind than the area of the body that was hurt.

    That is the challenge for
    Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo, who is 10 months into rehabilitating the left knee he injured in a Nov. 23 loss to the Patriots.

    Camarillo has pushed the surgically repaired knee to its limit to get back onto the field, where he's working to regain his starting spot.

    In one play during Thursday night's 10-6 exhibition victory over Tampa Bay, he showed off his toughness by turning an 8-yard out route into a 52-yard gain in the fourth quarter.

    The run-after-catch moves proved to the former Stanford walk-on he's still in possession of the limited speed he did have, which helped him have 55 receptions for 613 yards and two touchdowns in 11 starts last season.

    "It's been a long time since I'd been in the open field," Camarillo said. "It's been a long road back, and I'm still not there. But I'm getting there."

    Camarillo said he didn't think about heading for sideline after making the catch. He has made a name for himself by turning those types of passes inside, going up field and fighting for extra yards.

    "My knee is not an excuse. The way I play is the way I play," Camarillo said. "The game of football I play is a representation of me 100 percent, and I won't make any excuses or back down."

    Even though the Dolphins are built to be a ball-control offense, coach Tony Sparano knows big plays such as Camarillo's and the 54-yarder by rookie receiver
    Brian Hartline are needed.

    "It can't take us 15 plays to score every touchdown," Sparano said. "We have to be able to get some chunk yards."

    Chad Pennington, who missed a large portion of two seasons because of shoulder problems, admits the mental challenge is the toughest part of a comeback.

    Pennington said in the early stages of his comebacks, every time he made certain throws, or got hit a certain way, he found himself subconsciously making sure "my shoulder stayed on my body."

    That's why Pennington is confident Camarillo's big play will be good for his psyche.

    "You could tell in his eyes when he was coming off the field he was pumped up about it, excited about it," Pennington said. "When you are going through a major injury, and in the recovery [stage], you've got to have plays like that to assure yourself, build the confidence. You know you can do it but your body has to prove itself to you that I can still do it."

    These days all Camarillo is focused on is proving he deserves to remain a starter, holding off Davone Bess, who replaced his last season, and Hartline, who started his second consecutive exhibition game.

    But Camarillo says the worst thing he could do is worry about the competition because it'll hinder his focus. He's aware the same can be said about the knee.

    Ronnie Brown completes a pass to TE Anthony Fasano in the Fins' 31-27 MNF victory over the hated NY wets on 10-12-09.
    Andy Cohen: A Magical Night, An Important Night


    Great Dolphins-Jets games? Put this one right up there, way high on the shelf with the best of them. But more than a great game, which it clearly was, this was a huge victory for the Miami Dolphins for many important reasons.

    Huge because Chad Henne stepped forward and stepped up. Huge because Ted Ginn Jr. finally made the big play we have been waiting for. Huge because so many other players came to the forefront, from Anthony Fasano to Greg Camarillo, to Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to an offensive line that seemed determined to keep Henne's jersey clean.

    But, more than individuals, this was huge because it propelled the Dolphins back into the conversation in the AFC East. That 0-3 start now seems like so long ago. Reality now is a 2-0 record in the AFC East and a real sense that, if this team can build on what it did against the Jets, the possibilities are there for another successful season.

    No, this is not anywhere close to a finished product. The defense has some legitimate concerns, the special teams needs significant improvement and there have been far too many penalties. But how can you not enjoy what the Dolphins accomplished on this magical night at Land Shark Stadium, how can you not savor this win the way Tony Sparano savored it running off the field, his arms raised high, saluting a wildly appreciative orange-clad crowd?

    Come to think of it, for the first time in a while, I don't remember seeing many Jets fans in the stadium. I know they were there, but they were hidden by the orange and the cheers of the Dolphins faithful.

    Lasting memories of a memorable game?

    • **Henne hitting Ginn on that beautiful 53-yard bomb against the Jets top cornerback in Darrell Revis. Did any of us see that coming? The Jets certainly didn't.
    • Ronnie Brown running the Wildcat so flawlessly and efficiently. This guy has now elevated his game to another level. And with six seconds left, Brown capped an unforgettable evening with a 2-yard burst up the middle. Did anyone really think he was going to be denied? Not Ronnie. Not on this night. Show me a team that boasts a player better suited to running the Wildcat. There are none.
    • **Camarillo making two great third down catches on the game-winning drive. Didn't he just have reconstructive knee surgery less than a year ago? You wouldn't have known it. Were the catches better than the throws? Call it a dead heat. Both were magnificent.
    • **Ricky Williams taking that screen pass and racing across the field for a 59-yard gain, out-running much of the Jets secondary in the process. At 31 years old, this guy continues to amaze me. He is the perfect complement for Brown, perhaps as good a one-two punch at running back as the Dolphins have had since the early 1970s.
    • **The look of total joy as this football team left the field. The victory over the Buffalo the week before was nice. But this was validation in so many ways. The Dolphins were underdogs; the Jets and the Patriots were supposed to be the teams to beat in the AFC East. Now, it is wide open. Now, everything seems to have changed.
    • **The sounds in the parking lot an hour after the game. Horns honking, fans cheering. It is one o'clock in the morning, but nobody seems to care.
    • **Finally, and most importantly, the memory of this game that will remain most vivid was the play of Henne. While it is far too early to anoint Henne the next Dan Marino, how can you ignore the manner in which he guided the Dolphins on three second-half scoring drives, overcoming deficits each time?

    Henne was brilliant. He was so poised, so accurate, that it was hard to believe this was only his second start. He showed zip. He showed touch. He showed a presence in the pocket against a complicated pass rush that screamed of a player who now belonged.

    I have said for years that the Dolphins will not have truly turned things around until they find a quarterback who can lead them for years to come. They may very well have found that quarterback on Monday night. This was no fluke. Henne could have faltered so many times. Instead, he made plays. The throw to Ginn. The throws to Camarillo. A touchdown to Anthony Fasano. No sacks, no interceptions. Now, it is important for Henne to do it again, to show consistency and to prove that, when bad things happen – and they will – that he can overcome that with the same poise he showed against the Jets.

    Where does this football team go from here? While some might disagree, I believe the bye comes at a great time. The first five games seemed like an eternity. The entire team needs to take a deep breath and re-charge their batteries. The coaches need to carefully examine the things that went wrong and build upon the things that went right.

    There is a difficult three-game stretch awaiting after the bye: the Saints at home followed by road games against the Jets and Patriots. It will be midseason and the Dolphins better be in midseason form.

    But that's for another day. For now, for today, there is a Monday night victory that deserves some enjoyment and many individual efforts that deserve our admiration.

    The Dolphins saw a season on the verge of slipping away and did something about it. They added another chapter to a great rivalry, a chapter that saw a team and its players grow up in so many different ways. Only in the weeks to come will we truly find out the significance of this memorable Monday night.

    December 17, 2009 -- JOE ROSE -- Sun-Sentinel
    Miami Dolphins fullback Lousaka Polite is undoubtedly having a Pro Bowl season. I don't know what else to say.

    He's knocking people down. He's getting first downs. He's a lead blocker on one of the top running games in the NFL. We need YOU to get out and vote on to get him some well-deserved Pro Bowl votes. He's been that good.

    I've never seen so many defenders blown up with his blocking. It's getting to the point where guys are diving to the ground when they see him coming. He's become such a critical part of the Dolphins' offense. He's 12-for-12 on third and fourth downs.

    "I'm just happy I got another opportunity to get back in the league and get on a team where I fit in well," Polite said on the show this morning. "It was frustrating getting cut, but I still had such a desire to play I wasn't going to give up. . . . You appreciate things more when you're an underdog."

    What stands out most to me is the block he had against Carolina when he hit their linebacker up high, and not only did he go down, but he didn't get back up. He said that was one of the best blocks he's ever had.

    Polite also said his goal is to be a complete player, which he's quickly becoming. Man did he give Chad Henne a nice target as he was rolling out to get a first down by the goal line, setting up a touchdown.

    "Anytime my number is called, whether it is a pass, run or block, I want to be reliable. The big plays come when you do all the little things."

    Polite's name suits him. He's really a good guy and very humble.

    The Dolphins signed Polite off waivers after the Chicago Bears cut him in training camp during the 2008 offseason. The former Pittsburgh standout broke in with the Dallas Cowboys and the current Dolphins regime of coach Tony Sparano, Vice President of Football Operations Bill Parcells and General Manager Jeff Ireland as an undrafted free agent in 2004.

    Give those guys some credit as well.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010 South Florida

    Jake Scott and Don Shula start again with a hug

    Two Dolphins legends end feud, talk again after decades apart

    By Dave Hyde

    5:51 PM EDT, May 8, 2010

    There was no plan. No script. Nothing but the sight of Don Shula across the room that made Jake Scott walk over, smile at his old coach and say, "I've missed you so much."

    He hugged Shula.

    And Shula hugged him back.

    And in the moment of that embrace, as friends watched in silence, a wall that stood for decades tumbled down. Hearts opened. Eyes misted.

    "You're taller than I remember,'' Shula said, smiling at Scott.

    They laughed. It was nearly three decades since they'd last talked in an Orange Bowl elevator, if you can call what happened then talking. It was closer to four decades ago they shouted at each other in the Dolphins' locker room in a way that still echoed inside the organization.

    But here, at a Virginia memorabilia show in March, as they waited to sign pictures of how they once looked, they finally stood together again. Scott asked about Shula's sons, Mike and Dave. Shula asked about Scott's life in Hawaii.

    It was a brief conversation. Five minutes. Maybe 10. But that small talk represented a big step to the onlooking Boys of '72, those Perfect Season Dolphins who wondered if this day would ever come.

    "I've got to see this,'' Manny Fernandez said, walking closer.

    "Get a picture,'' someone else said.

    Dick Anderson pulled out a camera. Scott threw an arm around Shula. Click. Hall of Famers Larry Little and Jim Langer stepped in with them. Click. Mercury Morris joined in. Bob Griese. Everyone laughed. Click. Click. Click.

    There are bonds you are born with in life, and bonds you select, and bonds forged like theirs through sweat, blood and unity of purpose on some sports field, however distant, that you can't break. Even when you try. Especially then.

    "The hell with it, it'd been too many years,'' Scott was saying now, back home in Hawaii. "No sense in holding a grudge with Shula for 112 years."

    "I knew he was going to be there,'' Shula was saying now, home in Miami. "I was hoping we'd say hello and get the other thing out of the way."

    The other thing. To understand what this embrace meant, you have to understand this other thing. Not to relive it. Not to pick at it like a sore. Just to see why it's hung over this team's golden memories in a way that made all warmed by this embrace.

    You have to see Shula in the 1970s. He'd practice four times a day, led his coaches in calisthentics so they'd teach players properly, once chased after a referee who told him to relax over a 5-yard preseason penalty — "Five yards is my life!" Shula yelled — and was, in one word, his word, "obsessed." How do you think he won so much?

    You have to see Scott, too. He's the most unique of those Dolphins. A person so loyal that, later in life, he would travel halfway around the world to see a college teammate on his deathbed. A player so feared even as a rookie that veterans didn't ask him to sing his college fight song in training camp like the other rookies.

    And tough? Forget his Most Valuable Player award of that Perfect Season's Super Bowl. Scott played the first Super Bowl of that era, the loss to Dallas, with two broken wrists. They were put in casts after the game. He joked that when he went to the bathroom, "I find out who my true friends are."

    These unbendable personas collided in the 1976 preseason. A team doctor didn't think Scott's shoulder was as hurt as badly as Scott said. A shot was ordered to numb the shoulder. Scott balked. Shula backed the doctor.

    Scott was livid. Hadn't he proved his toughness through the years? Now he was ordered to take a needle to mask a bad shoulder? For some preseason game?

    Their relationship had deteriorated over the previous couple of years. Once, the Shula family had spent an offseason day with Scott at his mountain home in Vail, Co. And David Shula wore No. 13 in Scott's honor through high school and college.

    But this 1976 preseason moment opened their relationship like a wound. They began yelling in the locker room. What was said isn't as important as what happened the next day, when Scott was traded to Washington for peanuts.

    If Scott could love deeply — and his teammates still felt it through the ensuing years — he could hate deeply, too. He tried to make things right with Shula at the 1982 reunion of the Perfect Season. Shula, he says, cursed him in an elevator. Shula doesn't remember it. But that was that.

    Through all these years of the '72 reunions and banquets and good times, Scott stayed away. He didn't need the public cheers. He met teammates on his own.

    He created a dream life on the island of Kauai, fishing, golfing and having a drink with friends. He still lives that way.

    "Taking the boat out this afternoon,'' he said Friday.

    But if there's a benefit of age, it's perspective in what matters most. Shula and Scott have lost friends and family. They've had personal ups and downs. Their faces have loosened and some hard opinions have, too.

    "There's no sense to have a grudge with Shula,'' Scott says.

    "It's silly we haven't seen each other all this time," Shula says. "The big thing was I got to say how I felt about him, how much he's always meant to me."

    For years, '72 teammates have wondered how to make peace between them. Turns out they did fine on their own. At one point as they talked that day, Shula said, "You and Dick [Anderson] were the best safety combination ever in football."

    "I wish you'd said that when I was negotiating my contract,'' Scott said.

    They laughed at that, a good laugh on a good day to remember. And to forget. A wall tumbled down. And in its place, finally, thankfully, came laughter.

    I visited with Mickey Shuler (the old, hated New York Wet) while on our latest trip to Mankato.  Among the many topics we visited about, we talked about his son, Mickey, and what would happen if things didn't work out for him with the Vikings.  Well, this article just came up on the Internet a few days ago:

    Shuler loss doesn't sit well

    Posted by Judd Zulgad---Minneapolis Star Tribune

    Last update: September 23, 2010 - 10:16 PM

    The Vikings' decision to sign wide receiver Hank Baskett on Wednesday meant they had to trim a player from their 53-man roster.

    It's likely the two position groups they considered were tight end (they had four) and defensive line (they had 10). Seventh-round tight end Mickey Shuler was placed on waivers and then the Vikings held their breath. The hope was Shuler would clear waivers at 3 p.m. today and then be signed to the practice squad.

    It didn't happen.

    The Dolphins, Giants and Colts all put in waiver claims on Shuler. He was awarded to the Dolphins because until the end of this month claims will be awarded based on the record a team had in 2009.

    It sounds as if Vikings officials weren't happy at all about losing Shuler. It was a surprise when the Penn State product made the 53-man roster out of training camp but that showed just how much the Vikings thought about him. That show of faith probably didn't help the Vikings' cause when they tried to get him through waivers.

    Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the Vikings show any interest in reacquiring offensive tackle Patrick Brown, who was waived by the Jets on Thursday. Brown was let go by the Vikings in final cuts and coach Brad Childress said at the time he would have liked to have signed him to the practice squad.

    If Brown passes through waivers and isn't put on a team's 53-man roster, there is a chance he could land back in Minnesota on the practice squad after all.

    Jim Mandich, the ultimate Miami Dolphin, was a fighter until the end
    by: Mike Berardino April 27th, 2011
    The Miami Dolphins family and Dolfans in general had almost 15 months to prepare for Jim Mandich’s passing since he was diagnosed with bile-duct cancer in February 2010.

    But that hasn’t made it any easier to accept the former player and broadcaster’s death Tuesday evening at age 62.

    There is never a good time or a good way to lose a loved one, and make no mistake: That’s what Mandich was (and will always remain) to everyone that cares about the Dolphins or is associated with the team in any way.

    Just pay a visit to his Facebook page to see what I mean.
    Dave Hyde’s column in today’s Sun Sentinel also captures that sense of loss we’re all feeling today.

    Just the fact that Mandich insisted on traveling to every Dolphins away game for his radio broadcast duties last season (2010) said so much about him. Even amid regular chemotherapy treatments, even when he clearly could have used some rest, he would get on that team charter and fly halfway across the country and back.

    I’ll never forget stepping onto the  elevator with him at the team hotel in downtown Minneapolis last September. It was Saturday evening, and I was headed out to meet up with a group of fellow writers for dinner.

    Jim looked tired.

    A day or two earlier, Jim had made a special appearance as a guest on and Finsiders Radio (940-AM). Sitting in with the hosts, I had asked him a rather convoluted question (had to eat up about 30 seconds of his time) about the Dolphins’ lack of production at tight end.

    Jim answered it without missing a beat on the air, and now, standing there in the otherwise empty elevator, I thanked him for “putting up with my babbling” that day.

    Professorial and kind, as always, Mandich smiled slightly from beneath his checkered, Ben Hogan-style flat cap.

    “Nice night for a stroll, huh?” Jim said in that famous clipped voice, the one Dolfans loved to imitate.  

    The doors opened and we stepped outside into the cold Midwestern air, the kind of air Mandich grew up smelling as a boy in northern Ohio and as a college star in Ann Arbor, Mich. The sun was setting and he was bundled up against the elements, but his head was held high and there was no mistaking the dignity he exuded or the sense of peace he maintained.

    I said good night, turned left and headed to dinner.

    Jim turned right and headed out for his evening stroll.

    Walk on, Mad Dog.

    Walk on.

    Joe Robbie - the man behind the honored statue

    By Staff Writer Dave Hyde on September 10, 2011

    Who was Joe Robbie? Dolphins owner Steve Ross, CEO Mike Dee and the new-regime Dolphins take a lot of flak for some things they've done. But one thing they should be saluted for is how they've honored some of the team's tradition. Last year, they brought safety Jake Scott back into the fold after decades away to join the Ring of Honor. Now they're bringing former owner Joe Robbie's statue out of cold storage where it's sat under the stadium, for some reason, for several years as today's Sun-Sentinel story tells..

    This tells you how unique Robbie remains even in death. How many people get two dedications of the same statue?

    So who was Joe Robbie?

    He's the greatest success story of American sports owners. How's that for an over-the-top line? But look why it's true. Robbie wasn't the son of a tycoon or someone who made a fortune outside sports. He was a Minneapolis lawyer who never made more than $27,000 a year, had 11 children to support and whose only window to pro football was as a Vikings season-ticket holder when he managed to buy the expansion AFL franchise in Miami in 1965.

    The franchise fee was $7.5 million.

    He put up $100,000 - everything he had, even signing over the mortgage to his home. Actor/producer Danny Thomas put up $25,000 more.

    In other words, for $125,000, Robbie was in The Club. If he could somehow make the financing work.

    "We've got a problem in Miami,'' Al Davis said when he became AFL commissioner six months after Robbie took over and he looked at the team's ledger sheet.

    Through frugal means and a combative managerial style, Robbie made it work. He signed every check. He counted towels. He went through four business managers in the Dolphins first four years. Players raced each other to the bank with paychecks those first years because they weren't sure they'd all cash.

    "He's running a $2 million operation like a fruit stand,'' Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams said of Robbie.

    "The Man Who Fired Flipper,'' a Sports Illustrated cover story about Robbie read (It referred to an issue over who would pay for transportation costs of the famous dolphin to games, leading to the end of his attending games after the first season).

    That offers perspective on Robbie's grand accomplishment: Six years after the Dolphins first game, they had the league's only undefeated season, were making an impressive amount of money - perhaps the most in the league, according to former team and NFL executive Jim Steeg - and Robbie was a rags-to-riches success story.

    He was a controversial one, too. He drank heavily. He argued with media (and pretty much everyone else). He had the great sense to hire Don Shula, but then at the height of the glory years got in a shouting match with the coach at a team award's banquet. Shula ended the conversation with, "You ever raise your voice at me in public again, I'll knock you on your ass."

    His life is remembered most for staggering achievement. When the Orange Bowl began falling apart and no one would build him a stadium, Robbie did the unthinkable again. He built his own stadium. Imagine that in a world where every sports owner gets a stadium built for them with public money.

    That, of course, strained finances to the point his family sold a share of the franchise and stadium to H. Wayne Huizenga, which began the course to Huizenga buying the team.

    At Robbie's funeral in 1990, long-time Dolphins guard Bob Kuechenberg delivered the eulogy. He quoted T.E. Lawrence, saying, "All men are dreamers but not all men dream equally." He praised Robbie's stadium as, "the true miracle in Miami." He also remembered Robbie for having, "the worst PR of anybody I've ever encountered."

    "Kuechenberg finished: "It wasn't about public relations. It was about work. Joe did what wealthier men dared not to. He was not a Kennedy or a Rockefeller but a worker - against all odds."

    That's the man whom the Dolphins will re-honor before Monday's game.

    Miami Dolphins ride rivalry to an emotional victory
    Knocking New York Jets out of playoffs just as sweet as honoring Jason Taylor
    Mike Berardino Sun Sentinel Columnist   9:14 p.m. EST, January 1, 2012

    For a supposedly meaningless game, this one sure had plenty of
    Dolphins subplots.  No wonder Sean Smith, their young cornerback, said it felt "like a movie" at times during Sunday's 19-17 win over the Jets.  There was the Jason Taylor story line.  The Dolphins wanted to send their all-time greatest defensive player out on a winning note, and the final score certainly made that postgame ride on his teammates' shoulders that much more memorable.  There was the Todd Bowles story line.  Yes, the Dolphins' interim coach is an extreme longshot to be the long-term successor to Tony Sparano, but the players certainly made their case by going 2-1 on his behalf, all against division foes.  Then there was the rivalry angle.
    "Just End Their Season," read a sign one fan held aloft.  The first letters of each word were scrawled a little larger, spelling out J-E-T-S.  "No Playoffs For
    Rex Ryan," read another sign at Sun Life Stadium.  Even if they had pulled this one out, the Jets needed a lot of help to reach the postseason for a third straight season under their blustery coach.  They didn't get the Titans' loss in Houston they needed to keep hope alive.  They did get the Bengals' loss to the Ravens and the Broncos' loss to the Chiefs they needed.  However, before any of those games went final, the Dolphins did their part to extinguish the hopes of their fiercest rival.  They even had Santonio Holmes huffing his way out of the Jets' offensive huddle in frustration by the end.
    "Definitely a great feeling, bro," Dolphins defensive lineman
    Tony McDaniel said. "That was our motivation coming into the game, to knock our division rivals out of the playoffs. We got the deal done and kicked their butts, and we're excited about that."  Bowles had opened the week by laying out that very challenge for his battered team: Ground the Jets.  "They're playing us to make the playoffs," Bowles had said, via McDaniel. "It's all over ESPN. We need to go out there and kick their butts and finish the year with a win."
    For a few hours Sunday, that 0-7 start that torpedoed this Dolphins season didn't sting anymore.

    Miami knocks Jets out of playoff race, 19-17

    MIAMI (AP) --The New York Jets will sit out the playoffs, and that's guaranteed.

    The Jets failed to fulfill coach Rex Ryan's pledge to win a Super Bowl title, with Sunday's 19-17 loss at Miami eliminating them from the chase for an AFC wild-card berth.

    Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions, the last coming with the Jets threatening to take a late lead. They gave up six third-down conversions during the Dolphins' 21-play, 94-yard drive for their only touchdown.

    The Jets (8-8) came into the game needing a win along with losses by three other teams to reach the playoffs. Instead, they finished the season with three consecutive defeats, a big step backward for a team that reached the AFC championship game each of the past two years.

    Ryan said he didn't regret his guarantee, even if the Jets fell way short.

    "I'm always going to chase the Super Bowl," Ryan said. "I know I get criticized for it beyond belief, but if you don't, then you're probably a loser, OK? I'm not a loser."

    Soap opera fodder for the offseason came out of the Jets' final drive, when receiver and captain Santonio Holmes was benched. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson said teammates were unhappy with Holmes' effort, demeanor and body language.

    "It's tough for guys to follow a captain that kind of behaves in that manner," Tomlinson said. "You've got to lead by example, and you've got to play your tail off until the last play."

    Holmes was held without a catch for the first time in his 88-game career.

    NFL active sacks leader Jason Taylor , playing his final game, harried Sanchez into an interception and was carried off the field after the game.

    It was a rare moment of celebration for the Dolphins (6-10), who completed their third consecutive losing season, their longest such stretch since the 1960s. They fired coach Tony Sparano on Dec. 12 and have begun the search for a successor.

    "Obviously we wanted more Ws," quarterback Matt Moore said. "It's a time to learn from, and there were a lot of mistakes to go back and correct. But there are a lot of positive things as well. It's hard not to feel good after a win, especially against the Jets."

    Another small consolation: Miami tied the NFL record for most wins after a 0-7 start.

    The Jets again were victims of their own mistakes, with each interception leading to a field goal. They've given up 126 points off turnovers this year, the most in the league.

    Sanchez's final misfire came at the Miami 10 with 3 minutes left and the Jets trailing 16-10. Reserve linebacker Marvin Mitchell stepped in front of intended receiver Shonn Greene and rumbled 55 yards to set up a field goal.

    The 305-pound Starks came away with two interceptions.

    "The interceptions obviously were backbreakers," Ryan said.

    Taylor, who said Wednesday he would retire at the end of his 15th NFL season, sent the crowd into pandemonium when he scooped up a fumble and scored with 2 1/2 minutes left. However, a replay review negated the turnover, with the officials determining the ball carrier was down before the fumble.

    The Jets then scored with 1:15 to go on Sanchez's 10-yard pass to Patrick Turner , but Miami's Brandon Marshall recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win. Taylor played tailback in the Dolphins' victory formation as Moore twice took a knee to run out the clock.

    "It was a good way to end this thing - to beat your No. 1 rivals in your home stadium in your last game," Taylor said during an emotional postgame news conference. "I can't complain. I'm very, very happy and blessed to be where I am."

    The Dolphins took the lead for good in the fourth quarter with a drive that took 12 minutes and 29 seconds. Moore threw completions to convert all six third downs during the sequence, including on the final play when he hit Charles Clay with a 1-yard touchdown pass.

    The drive set franchise records for the number of plays and time of possession.


    Great goodbye for Jason Taylor

    Dolphins star retires after 15 years with a win and in tears

    By Dave Hyde, Sun Sentinel

    11:19 p.m. EST, January 1, 2012  MIAMI GARDENS

    Jason Taylor knew the whole time Sunday.  He knew when he arrived in the locker room, knew when he approached midfield for the coin toss, knew from the first tackle he made, knew when he saw Dan Marino wearing a No. 99 jersey on the scoreboard, knew when Vernon Carey asked for his shoes in the final huddle and knew when his teammates lifted him up and carried him off the field.
    "I asked them three or four time to put me down," he said after the Dolphins' 19-17 win against the
    New York Jets. "They wouldn't do it."  His eyes went wet and his voice grew thick. "It was great."
    All game, all day, Taylor knew this was his last time in a Dolphins uniform. That's what he kept reminding himself. It's what he told his young sons in the locker room afterward.  "This is the last time we do this," he said.  Isiah, 9, had his dad's helmet on and paraded around with it wobbling on his head. Mason, 8, compared his hand size with defensive tackle
    Kendall Langford's and laughed at how much bigger Langford's were.
    "Come on, guys, let's go in here," he said, leading his sons to the training room, where dad had to get one final round of repairs for his body.  Few great players get a perfect ending in sports, but Taylor came pretty close. He retired on his time. He retired with his team. He even retired on a day he could enjoy the moment, laughing on the sideline, joking with teammates, even having dozens of family and friends by his side afterward.
    "I'd like to introduce my dad," his 6-year-old daughter, Zoe, said to the assembled Taylor clan and media as he hugged her.
    Playing football was one thing, and he did that fine this last Sunday. He rushed New York Jets quarterback
    Mark Sanchez into an interception. He had a couple of tackles. He even returned a fumble for a touchdown before it was called back on replay.  "I wish they had the old rule where you line up quick and kick the extra point," he said.  This official goodbye was the harder part. Taylor prepared for this final moment in the way any football player would: He watched film. In this case, it was of his good friend Zach Thomas' farewell.  "He didn't say 10 words without crying," Taylor told his wife, Katina, who is Thomas' sister. "I'll never make it."  He made it through his mom, made it through his wife, his sisters, his nieces and nephews and then came to his brother, Noah, a football player at the California University of Pennsylvania.  His eyes started leaking. His voice wouldn't work.  "Why am I crying on my brother?" he said.
    So say goodbye to the greatest Dolphins defensive player. And maybe the last great Dolphin for a while. All day long, the scoreboard flashed videos of his career. A touchdown against the Bengals. A sack for a safety against Oakland. A win against the Jets.  He dried his tears enough afterward to tell the story of his start in football. He was in high school and mowing a lawn in his native Pittsburgh. A man stopped and asked if he played football. That man, George Novak, became his first coach.
    From the day he was drafted, he promised to do his best, and to do what's right. For these last 15 years, he did exactly that. Along the way, he got married, started a family and began a foundation that helps kids after school and, just recently, began sending some of those kids to college.  In the end, the Dolphins didn't just get a player moving toward the Hall of Fame. They got a person who made the community better. Who doesn't respect that?  "The one regret I have as I leave this locker room for the last time is that I didn't win a championship," he said.
    They all say that, Marino, Zach, now Jason Taylor. They also said what he did next:
    "It all went so fast," he said.
    Fifteen years, done. In a season known for losses, this was the biggest loss of them all.


    Joe Philbin envisions building an "aggressive and attacking" Miami Dolphins team

    New Dolphins coach Joe Philbin won't determine his schemes and approach until he hires his staff and evaluates the personnel

    By Omar Kelly, Staff Writer

    DAVIE –— 9:09 p.m. EST, January 21, 2012

    Joe Philbin dodged the question like a receiver trying to beat a defenders jam at the line of scrimmage.  It was a simple question directed at the Miami Dolphins' new head coach during his introductory press conference.  Philbin has spent the past five years building and orchestrating a high-octane west coast offense in Green Bay, so does he plan to bring that style of attack to Miami?
    "I've been in the west coast system for nine years and I'm still not sure what that means," Philbin said. "With that being said, I think it's a mistake to take the
    Green Bay Packers playbook and plop it on the table here in South Florida.  One of your responsibilities in coaching is to put your players in the best position to succeed. We have to learn more about our players and learn what they do well, and hide what they don't do well."
    Philbin said he'll formulate more of a plan – west coast or pro sets, 3-4, 4-3 or multiple front defensive schemes – once he puts together a staff of assistant, and after they examine the team's personnel.  General Manager
    Jeff Ireland acknowledged that Philbin has "100 percent" of control over the Dolphins coaching staff, and what type of offense or defense the team run. Ireland's role is to serve as "a scout" and find him talent.  Ireland's search, which begins this Monday in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, might begin with a few offensive upgrades to match Philbin's "aggressive and attacking" approach.  Owner Steve Ross said he hired Philbin because "he's smart," comes from a winning culture, and because Philbin has, and knows how to build a sexy, aggressive offense.
    "He not only has a history of developing a productive offense, but developing players to work within that system," Ross said.
    The Dolphins already have most of the pieces a west coast offense needs.
    Reggie Bush is the quick, shifty tailback who can produce yards running the ball, or catching passes out of the backfield. West coast offenses usually use a fullback and Charles Clay contributed 233 yards and three touchdowns on 16 catches his rookie season, but he wasn't used as a lead blocker.
    Brandon Marshall says he "was raised in a west coast offense," referring to his Denver days playing for Mike Shanahan. Davone Bess and Brian Hartline have both been productive in two different offenses. All the team's missing is a stretch the field receiver, and that could be found in free agency (DeSean Jackson or Donald Driver), or the draft. It also might already be on the roster in Clyde Gates, Marlon Moore or Roberto Wallace.All that's missing is the quarterback to execute it, and Ross wanted one thing to be clarified to his fan base.
    "I'm looking for a franchise quarterback," Ross said with an emphatic tone. "That's the highest thing on our agenda!"
    Matt Moore, who produced a 87.1 quarterback rating in his 12 starts last season, is an option, despite the fact he's never played in a west coast scheme. But the Dolphins intend to double down, hedging their bets, possibly by pursuing Peyton Manning, who might become available if Indianapolis releases him, or signing Aaron Rodger's understudy, Matt Flynn, whom Philbin groomed in Green Bay.
    Philbin said his goal is to get the 11 best players on the field based on the situation, down and distance, and field position.
    "We're going to strive to be a balanced offensive attack. Doesn't mean 50 percent of our yards are coming from the run game, and 50 percent from the pass game. We want to be balanced from a run-pass ratio, a formation ratio, a personnel ratio. We want to be multiple formation, multiple motion, multiple personnel (team)," he said.
    "We want to take advantage of what the defense gives us. We want to be a take what they give us team. If they are going to be playing bump and press, we'll take some shots on them. If they are playing off and soft we'll work underneath. We're going to be a sound, all purpose team that runs clean plays."


    Dolphins tab Philbin as new coach

    The Dolphins will hire Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as coach

    Philbin has been with Green Bay since 2003 and offensive coordinator since '07

    Philbin's son drowned in a Wisconsin river less than two weeks ago

    Joe Philbin
    Joe Philbin is the seventh coach in the last eight years for the Dolphins.
    Mike Roemer/AP

    MIAMI (AP) -- A month of wrenching emotion for Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin took another turn Friday when he landed the Miami Dolphins' head coaching job.

    The deal was sealed less than two weeks after Philbin's 21-year-old son drowned in an icy Wisconsin river. The Dolphins confirmed the hiring in a news release and plan a news conference Saturday.

    Philbin, who has never been a head coach, first interviewed with Miami on Jan. 7. The body of son Michael, one of Philbin's six children, was recovered the next day in Oshkosh.

    After spending a week away from the Packers, Philbin rejoined the team last Sunday for its divisional playoff loss to the New York Giants.

    Philbin has been with Green Bay since 2003, serving as offensive coordinator since 2007. Coach Mike McCarthy called the plays, but Philbin put together the game plan for one of the NFL's most prolific offenses.

    The Dolphins' top choice, Jeff Fisher, turned them down a week ago to become coach of the St. Louis Rams. Miami owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland then conducted a second round of interviews this week with Philbin, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Todd Bowles, the Dolphins' interim coach at the end of the season.

    "Joe has all the attributes that we were looking for when we started this process," Ross said in a statement. "Jeff Ireland and I felt Joe was the right choice to bring the Dolphins back to the success we enjoyed in the past."

    The Dolphins are coming off a third consecutive losing season, their longest such stretch since the 1960s. Even so, Philbin called them "one of the premier franchises in professional sports."

    "The Dolphins have a strong nucleus to build around," he said in a statement. "And working with everyone in the organization, I know that together we will return the team to its winning tradition."

    Ross fired Tony Sparano last month with three games to go in his fourth year as the Dolphins' coach. When the search for a new coach began, Ross said he would like to give the franchise much-needed stability by hiring "a young Don Shula."

    Instead he chose the 50-year-old Philbin, who has 28 years of coaching experience, including 19 years in college.

    With Philbin's help, the Packers have ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in yardage each of the past five seasons, including third in 2011. A year ago they won the Super Bowl.

    "A huge congratulations to Joe Philbin," Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley tweeted. "No one deserves it more than this guy. The Pack will miss him!"

    The hiring might give the Dolphins an edge if they decide to pursue Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who becomes a free agent this offseason. Flynn set Packers records with 480 yards passing and six touchdowns in their regular-season finale. Philbin played a major role in the development of Flynn and Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    "Worked five years with Joe Philbin," former Packers executive Andrew Brandt tweeted. "Calm, cerebral, humble and a skilled offensive mind. His style will resonate with players."

    Assistants becoming first-time NFL head coaches have had mixed results in recent years. The group includes the Ravens' John Harbaugh, the Saints' Sean Peyton and the Steelers' Mike Tomlin, but also three coaches recently fired - Jim Caldwell by the Colts, Todd Haley by the Chiefs and Steve Spagnuolo by the Rams.

    Before joining the Packers, Philbin was Iowa's offensive line coach for four years. The former small-college tight end has been an offensive coordinator at Harvard, Northeastern and Allegheny College.

    Philbin becomes the seventh coach in the past eight years for the Dolphins, who went 6-10 this season and missed the playoffs for the ninth time in the past decade. It has been 19 years since they reached the AFC championship game, 27 years since they reached the Super Bowl and 38 years since they won an NFL title.

    Perhaps mindful of the drought, former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson offered this tweet: "Joe Philbin new Dolphin coach..good luck!"

    Philbin will now begin assembling a staff. Bowles might remain as a replacement for defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, who took the same job this week with the Atlanta Falcons.

    December 16, 2013--Yesterday the Dolphins beat New England, 24-20!!  The article below appeared on CNNSI this morning and I love it:
    Miami snapped the schneid against the Pats. A guy some Dolphins don’t know was key.

    Last Monday morning, San Francisco practice squad safety Michael Thomas was sleeping in on a victory Monday for the Niners. A day off, other than getting a lift and a workout in at some point during the day. At 10:20 a.m., late for Thomas, he finally paid attention to the vibrating phone and sat up. He’d missed four calls from his agent, Christina Phillips, and a text that said, “WAKE UP! There’s a team that wants you. If you don’t wake up soon they’re going to move on.” Thomas called, and the team was Miami. There was no time to think. Miami was offering a spot on the 53-man roster, the Holy Grail for practice squad players, and seeing that Thomas had spent all 22 game weeks last year and all 14 weeks so far this year on the San Francisco practice squad, he figured he’d better grab an active-roster spot. There was a flight at 2:30 from San Francisco to Miami, and he had to be on it. He made it, not even bothering to close down his Bay Area apartment. “No time,” he said. “I was just like, ‘Holy crap! I gotta go!’ ”

    Thomas began to get schooled Tuesday by Dolphins assistant defensive backs coach Blue Adams, but all week he got the sense that the more immediate focus would be on playing special teams against the Patriots Sunday. “I was going to start on the punt-return team, I knew that,” Thomas said Sunday afternoon from the Miami locker room. He took no defensive snaps all week.

    The night before the game, Thomas heard about its importance: Miami hadn’t beaten New England in the last seven tries. If the Dolphins wanted to have a good shot at being a wild card team, this game was the big one. So on Sunday, Thomas went in and played his part, running down on two special teams units, making a tackle on one punt play. But by the fourth quarter, corners Nolan Carroll and Brent Grimes were down. Thomas is a safety. He played the position at Stanford and in practice for the Niners. But right now, in the last five minutes, Miami didn’t need a safety. The Dolphins had to have a corner.

    “You want your opportunity?” Adams said. “It’s time.”

    “I’m not gonna lie,” Thomas said by phone from the locker room Sunday afternoon, when it was over. “I was pretty emotional. I was going out there knowing Tom Brady was coming after me.”

    On the first snap of the last New England series, Brady found Thomas. Brady threw to Danny Amendola for 11. On the second snap, he found Thomas. Brady threw to Shane Vereen for two. “I was out there, getting help from [safety] Reshad Jones,” said Thomas. “He’d basically tell me what to do on most plays, like where to go and who to cover.”

    Brady got to the Miami 19, with 27 seconds left. First down. The defense broke the huddle and saw the spread New England formation. Jones nodded over to Amendola, split right. “You got no help,” Jones said to Thomas.

    No help. A safety playing cornerback in his first NFL game, in his first NFL quarter, against Tom Brady, in single coverage against one of Brady’s favorite targets. Thomas ran with Amendola.

    “Then there it was,” Thomas said. “Tom Brady throwing at me.”

    The ball was over Thomas’ head, bound for Amendola’s hands. All Thomas could think of was the lesson he’d learned as a defensive back long ago. Play through his hands. As a trailer on the play, Thomas knew to do everything he could to disrupt the ball in Amendola’s hands, and he did. Thomas knocked the ball away. No touchdown. Huge play.

    Three plays later. Fourth-and-5 from the 14. Likely the last chance for Brady. This time Thomas would be in the slot, determined not to let a Patriots receiver get behind him with any cushion. Again Brady threw at Thomas, for Austin Collie, with another Dolphin also in coverage. The ball never got to Collie. Thomas jumped and picked it off.

    The players he barely knew now were jumping on him, slapping him, celebrating. “Mama, I did it! I did it!” Thomas yelled over and over, but no one could hear him. No one could hear anything, because the stadium was so loud. And after the game, he cried. In Joe Philbin’s post-game press conference, the coach seemed not to remember the name of the hero who broke up one touchdown pass in the end zone and then intercepted another. “We had a player in there that I think got into the building on Tuesday,” Philbin said. That just added to the lore.

    “I am overwhelmed,” said Thomas. “It is so much to realize, how my life has changed and how this happened—Tom Brady throwing at me, and I answered the call. The only thing I can say is I am blessed.”

    Next time you hear some coach say, “It takes all 53 to win,” think of Michael Thomas. Imagine if he’d slept a couple more hours last Monday. Maybe Miami would be on an eight-game losing streak to New England right now instead of a one-game winning streak.

    July 2, 2014 * mIAMI herald

    We mostly forget about our distant sports stars, don’t we? They were such a big a part of our past, they entertained us, we cheered them sometimes for years, but then when it’s time they don’t so much retire as disappear. They are replaced. Faded by degrees. Gone.

    So much has happened to Garabed Sarko Yepremian when no one was watching.So much of it has been awful.None of it has broken his spirit or will. The latest round of chemotherapy has just ended.

    “It’s a gorgeous day,” Garo says.

    This is a story about dealing with what life hands you. Plenty of good folks do the same, everywhere, every day. This one just happens to be one of the most unusual, memorable, iconic figures in Miami Dolphins franchise history. Make that in all of South Florida’s sports history. It seems like a couple of lifetimes ago, but Garo remembers when he was best known for an attempted pass that went ridiculously awry in a Super Bowl. He played the lovable goat on America’s biggest sport stage. Johnny Carson even made fun of him in a monologue. It was Jan. 14, 1973. A Dolphins field-goal attempt is botched, the football winds up in the kicker’s small hands, and large men are chasing him. Panicked, he tries to throw the ball but it slips and he watches as Washington’s Mike Bass returns his fumble 49 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown.

    Suddenly Miami’s lead isn’t so safe and the Perfect Season is thrown into doubt. That the Dolphins won allowed Garo’s faux pas to be reconfigured as the stuff of good-natured ribbing and comic legend, but until the Dolphins won it was shame and infamy that cloaked him.

    “I honestly felt as if my life was over,” he recalls now, more than 40 years later. He chuckles softly. “Imagine. That was the worst thing!”

    That would no longer qualify as the worst thing in his life. We spoke twice this week, Garo and I. He sounded tired the second time, his voice a whisper. He had a reason. He had just been through his second of three chemotherapy treatments, chemicals seeping intravenously through a port in his chest.

    “It doesn’t bother you during,” he says. “But it takes a lot out of you.”

    Garo turned 70 on June 2. There is a photograph that shows him lifting a forkful of birthday cake. There is a wide scar on his forehead, above his left eyebrow, that the Band-Aid doesn’t cover. It is a still-fresh surgical scar. Unseen in the photo is a tube running from a shunt in the back of his head, to remove fluids and relieve swelling. Garo had a brain tumor. It was the result of adrenal cancer. Surgery and radiation took care of the tumor, they hope. The chemo is attacking the cancer, they hope. All of this just occurred, as spring burned into summer. It is all happening right now.

    Yepremian is reaching out to make public what is intensely private because he wants Dolfans who might remember him to know. His Miami years were the best. It wasn’t only the nine seasons here that included the club’s halcyon, championship days, and included his Christmas Day kick that ended “The Longest Game” and put Miami in the AFC Championship Game for the first time. He also met his future wife here. Maritza, a University of Miami graduate, had gone to a fast-food restaurant in North Miami in late 1970 because Garo, Mercury Morris and Larry Little were there giving out autographs for free.

    “The chain is closed now,” Garo said. “It was a Chicken Unlimited.”

    Their 43rd anniversary was the other day, her at his side at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, an hour or so from where they have lived the past 13 years. It’s funny, how life is. Garo, barely 5-8, was the epitome of the kicker teammates made fun of for having it easy, for never getting his uniform dirty. And for his funny accent, too, remember? Born on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean to Armenian parents, Garo’s accent was thick and his knowledge of American football thin. Premature baldness made him seem gnome-like. He was the perfect comic relief. He played in the first NFL game he ever saw. As a rookie in Detroit, he kicked an extra point and was celebrating when teammate Alex Karras scolded him, asking why he was so happy when the Lions were losing so badly.

    “Because I just keeked a touchdown!” he said. Well, maybe he did or it could be apocryphal; in either case it is part of the lore. (Carson had fun with that one, too).

    A couple of lifetimes later, though, it is the little player we had fun laughing at, the one who couldn’t even throw a pass, who has something to teach us about strength.

    “Today is a wonderful day,” he says, even chemotherapy-weak. “It could be raining or cloudy or snowing out. It’s still a gorgeous day.”

    Nausea and lack of appetite have been byproducts of the chemo. He has lost 20 pounds.

    “A heck of a diet,” he volunteers.

    Religious faith has helped Yepremian deal with much. He has had six rotator cuff shoulder surgeries and multiple back surgeries. Eight years ago he had prostate cancer, resulting in an operation that left 28 staples on his stomach.

    “I thought that was my biggest challenge,” he says. “But this is much more.” So was this: Maritza — “She’s been my rock” — had a persistent fight with breast cancer.

    She waited 11 months ago in a hotel lobby in Washington, the day the 1972 Perfect Season Dolphins were being honored (finally) at the White House. She wore a necklace with two charms in the likeness of the Dolphins’ two Super Bowl rings. Garo had the charms specially made for her, a gift on the day of her double mastectomy.

    “I count my blessings every day,” Garo says. “Two sons, two grandsons, two granddaughters, my wife. All of the wonderful things that have happened, we cherish them.”

    He has become a prolific artist along the way, Garo has. He paints with acrylic oils in a basement studio in his home. The tragedy that shaped Yepremian’s life would happen in 1998. His youngest son’s girlfriend, Debby Lu, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Intrinsic brainstem glioma, they called it. Doctors gave her less than a year to live, so the two teens did what kids that age do. They married. To fight it together. Garo’s new daughter-in-law beat the dire predictions but succumbed in 2004. She had a degree in psychology. She played the piccolo. Inspired by her fight, he founded the Garo Yepremian Foundation in 2001. The nonprofit’s purpose was, and is, to raise funds for brain tumor research. You might never hear “cruel irony” referred to again without considering that the man who devoted himself to fighting brain tumors was himself afflicted by one. This is another reason why Garo wants his private story made public. Because he isn’t special just because he has championship rings or flared into a Johnny Carson monologue, once.

    “It doesn’t discriminate. It happens to anybody,” Garo said of brain tumors. “I couldn’t place anything like this in my family background. But I never thought, ‘Why me!’ I said let’s go for it. Let’s tackle this. Two days after being diagnosed I had surgery.”

    On May 6, not quite two months ago, Garo and Maritza headed out for dinner but were early for their reservation so they stopped at a T.J. Maxx department store. He grabbed a shopping cart.

    “My knees started shaking.”

    Soon after it happened again. They drove to a hospital, “and within a half hour they detected that I had a tumor in the brain and also a mass in my stomach.” He had adrenal cancer that doctors said had spread and caused the tumors. There had been few indications before the shaking knees. One was that the gregarious Garo had seemed more subdued.

    “I was not as animated when I talked,” he said. “You know, I’m a motormouth!”

    Stunned silence greeted the doctor’s words.

    “We were speechless,” says Maritza.

    “Brain tumor” is by itself one of the scariest phrases possible. But imagine hearing that if you, for more than a decade, had been giving your name and time to brain tumor research.

    “Probably once a day I let myself feel bad and cry,” Maritza says. “Other than that, I can’t. He notices when I’m sad.”

    That admission aside, the couple trusts their faith, and also the hopefulness of doctors.

    “They’re giving us indications that I will beat this,” Garo says. “Sometimes you have your doubts. But the doctors give me a good prognosis. And I’m fighting.”

    The old kicker couldn’t resist a final touch of football jargon likening his real-life battle to his old Dolphins days, and his tired voice lit with a small sparkle.

    “I’ve got to make the three points,” he said.

    9-5-15 Palm Beach Post (by Dave G.)

    Joe Robbie’s political, Hollywood ties helped secure Dolphins franchise
    Find the story below at this link:​
    What shall we put atop the long list of things that had to fall just right if Miami was going to be awarded a professional football franchise 50 years ago this month?

    Joe Robbie falling flat in his first try for high-profile executive authority is as good a place to start as any.

    Joe Robbie’s political, Hollywood ties helped secure Dolphins franchise photo

    Joe Robbie was the original owner of the Miami Dolphins and guided the franchise through its glory years. (File photo)

    He was 34, practicing law and serving in the South Dakota legislature when Democratic leaders pitched the idea of running for governor of the Mount Rushmore state. That’s where Robbie was born and where he might have stayed if that election way back in 1950 had gone his way.

    It didn’t. Sigurd Anderson, a Republican, won by a 21 percent margin, coasting home as members of his party had for seven previous gubernatorial elections.

    There’s an airport in Webster, S.D., named for Anderson today. Robbie went on to build a stadium with his name on it, and to win two Super Bowls as founding owner of the Miami Dolphins.

    Joe Robbie’s political, Hollywood ties helped secure Dolphins franchise photo

    A failed run for the governship of South Dakota played a key role in Joe Robbie becoming the original owner of the Miami Dolphins.

    Not that Robbie’s acceptance into the pro football family was automatic, of course, and not that Miami’s was, either.

    Ralph Wilson, a minority owner of the Detroit Lions, tried to plant a team in Miami in 1959 as part of the American Football League’s original lineup. He couldn’t reach a deal with the city over use of the Orange Bowl stadium, however, and settled on Buffalo instead. That’s how the Bills came to be, and how Miami’s candidacy was postponed.

    Robbie, meanwhile, had moved to Minneapolis, where he became a season-ticket holder for Minnesota Vikings games, following the new NFL expansion entry in town. He took his kids to watch the Minnesota Twins, too, and University of Minnesota basketball. All sports held his interest then, not just football, and other than a family vacation trip to Miami Beach around 1964, he had no special connection to South Florida.


    That’s when the dominoes began to fall again in this story of the Miami Dolphins’ birth.

    Ever the political animal, Robbie affiliated himself with Hubert H. Humphrey and worked in the Minnesota senator’s campaigns for the presidency. Robbie also kept close contact with Joe Foss, a former University of South Dakota classmate who gained fame as a World War II fighter ace, then was the two-term governor of South Dakota and, most important to this discussion, the original commissioner of the AFL.

    Oh, and Robbie was developing a relationship with comedian Danny Thomas, who shared his Lebanese ancestry.

    Thomas was the star of “Make Room for Daddy,” a hit situation comedy that was on the air from 1953-64, and his company produced other hits such as “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Gomer Pyle USMC” and “The Mod Squad.”

    Just about every night, Thomas and his television characters were a part of American life. Just about every day, however, the Hollywood powerhouse worked to drive his personal pet project, the establishment and advancement of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

    Robbie was on the St. Jude executive committee and worked as budget director with the project’s principals. That led to a visit from Thomas, as described recently by Joe’s son, Tim Robbie, 59.

    “I was a fifth-grader when Danny Thomas visited our house,” said Tim Robbie, who lives in Davie, not far from the Dolphins’ training facility. “We had a big reception at our house and, of course, it was a big deal. My parents invited people they knew so that Danny could make a pitch. He was going around the country basically tapping every Lebanese-American he could find to help raise the funds to build St. Jude’s.”

    OK, now we’re ready for the football part.

    A group of businessmen hired Robbie to represent them in their efforts to plant an AFL expansion team in Philadelphia. Couldn’t hurt, they figured, to have a friend of Foss, the league’s commissioner, on their side. Never mind that Philadelphia already had an established NFL team, the Eagles. Sharing a city with the rival league seemed safer to them than striking out in a new market.

    “So my dad approached Foss,” said Tim Robbie, “and Foss said ‘We’re not interested in Philly. We’re interested in Atlanta and Miami, but it looks like the NFL is going to put an expansion team in Atlanta so we’re focused on Miami.’

    “My dad reported back to his clients with that information and they said, ‘No, we’re not interested.’ So the wheels started turning in his head, how could he figure out a way to put together a group himself? He started with Danny Thomas and the same group of guys Danny had been recruiting. He was able to recruit the original group that purchased the team.”

    Remember that other connection Robbie had with Humphrey? That came in handy, too. Robert King High, the mayor of Miami, worked on an Orange Bowl partnership with Robbie in ways that city officials never did with Wilson years earlier. Danny Thomas’ cachet was probably part of that, but so was an endorsement of Robbie by Humphrey, the newly elected vice president of the United States.

    After overcoming some initial opposition from the University of Miami, which didn’t want its football team to have to share the stadium, Robbie and Thomas were able to secure an AFL expansion franchise on Aug. 16, 1965. That same summer the Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL as an expansion franchise.

    Immediately, in concert with South Florida media, Robbie announced a contest to name Miami’s new team. Of the 19,843 entries that were mailed in, 622 chose “Dolphins.”

    On Oct. 8, nearly two months after its birth and lacking players and a head coach, the franchise officially was branded with that name.

    “The dolphin is one of the fastest and smartest creatures of the sea,” Robbie said that day. “Dolphins can attack and kill a shark or a whale. Sailors say bad luck will come to anyone who harms one of them.”

    South Florida’s financial community, however, was Robbie’s true prey. Even with Thomas and the rest of his partners, raising the $7.5 million franchise free and setting the team’s organization in motion required a number of sizable loans.

    “My dad spent a lot of time with bankers,” Tim Robbie said. “A lawyer cussing bankers is always an interesting thing. Those stories about the early struggles the club had financially are all true.”

    So it was that the Minneapolis lawyer and his wife, Elizabeth, packed up their 11 children for a new life in Miami, but not without some initial hesitance about the level of commitment.

    In a Miami News interview on the day the franchise was awarded, Elizabeth Robbie said, “I really don’t know whether we’ll take an apartment in Miami or not. I don’t know how much time we’ll spend there.”

    Elizabeth identified the Twins as her favorite sports team, saying, “I’ve always followed baseball more closely than football but I guess my baseball days are numbered. It’s what he wants and it’s the type of thing he enjoys so I’m all for him.”

    Thomas didn’t stay with the project for long, but Robbie dug in his heels, gradually buying out his partners over the first four years to become majority owner of the team.

    He benefited greatly from the NFL-AFL merger, which timed out perfectly for the Dolphins. The new partnership was announced in principle in 1966, the Dolphins’ first season of competition, and took full effect in 1970.

    If the merger had come sooner, would the expansion fee have been higher, and maybe too high for Robbie to get into the game? Very possibly.

    If Wilson had gotten his foot in the door first in Miami, would South Florida’s pro football history be better or worse? No telling, but Robbie managed to hire Don Shula. Hard to imagine any other owner being that persuasive without a real fortune to back him.

    “It was sort of a confluence of circumstances so that things were able to happen the way they did,” Tim Robbie said in wrapping up the wedding of the Dolphins and Miami.

    Fifty years later, it’s still fascinating to think of how different it all might have been if another suitor had made the match.

    Sooner or later, Florida would have gotten in on the NFL action. Robbie, who died in 1990 at the age of 73, made it sooner, and splashier, than really seemed possible at the time.

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