|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.|
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.
A look back: Even then, Woodley shrank from spotlight
Commentary by DAVE HYDE
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted May 7 2003
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 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.
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
The level of play?
Miami Orange Bowl: The End Of
on November 12, 2007
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A day noted for romance brought a
bittersweet breakup for
According to his agent, Drew
Rosenhaus, Thomas is healthy and cleared to play, and his goal is to latch
on with a contender.
He arrived as a nobody from Pampa,
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:
Fifth-rounder-turned-star gets plaudits
South Florida Sun-Sentinel|
When then Dolphins coach
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
Posted on Monday, 10.06.08
DOLPHINS 17, CHARGERS 10
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.'
By JEFF DARLINGTON
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.
A HUGE STOP
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).
BACK IN THE PICTURE
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
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.
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
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.
Bring on the Jets -- Dolphins put Chiefs on ice
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Cornerback
André Goodman couldn't feel his toes or face. Defensive end
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.
"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.''
By Harvey Fialkov | SunSentinel.com 12:50 AM EST, December 29, 2008
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - All week long
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
"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.''
Former Dolphins tight end Jim
Mandich, who broadcasts games for WQAM (560-AM), offers his thoughts:
A Dolphins in Depth
'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 www.newsday.com enjoy:
Twas the Night before
Christmas, and all through NJ,
Fans wrote angry emails,
and lashed out on the air,
The Jets faithful
tossed, and turned in their beds,
A promising year had
fallen off track,
As his job circled the
toilet, along with our season,
So I, in my Chrebet
jersey, and my ‘98 Division Champs cap,
When up on my roof there
arose such a clatter,
I heard him yell out to
his reindeer by name,
He bellowed aloud, “Come
Kotite! Come Groh!”
“On, Herm! On, Coslet!
On, Carroll! On, Hackett!”
Then down came a thud
through my chimney, what is it???
There in my living room
stood Eric Mangini,
I asked him and begged
him, implored him and pleaded,
And then he responded,
and ruined my life
“You’ve got it all
wrong, I’m not Jolly St. Nick!”
"Forget the division you
thought we would clinch,
I didn’t bring presents,
I don’t drive a sleigh,
I stood there in shock,
crushed and dejected.
And the fat man
exclaimed, as he reached for a biscuit,
Fans Rally, Show Dol-Fan Spirit At Bokamper'sJanuary 3, 2009
By Andy Kent
'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.
"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."
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.
LIFE AFTER MARINO
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.''
A LEADER WALKS IN
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. JOE RIMKUS JR. / STAFF PHOTO
By GREG COTE
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.
A CLOSE SECOND
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.
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
who were supposed to be his next opponent if the
Dolphins had gotten
Baltimore Ravens on
Best airline chat of yearDuring 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 heroRunning 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 PatsiesGoing 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 BessUndrafted 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 awardThat 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 ErnestThe 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 yearTuna 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 BellSure, 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-SMarching 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 listAfter 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."
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
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.
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.
There's Nothing We Can't Accomplish
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
Dwyane Wade and
Bon Jovi, the
true believers kept hoping, even as the
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
threw another interception late in the third quarter.
Poor Ending Can't Dampen Remarkable JourneyAndy 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
Yes. Sort of.
statistics were equally staggering, considering the clock was running
continuously and mercifully, in many second halves.
Naturally, it was.
Instead, several Dolphins
served as pallbearers in what Clayton calls "a little country place." Two
thousand people packed an auditorium designed to hold 600.
her one and only love,"
Greg Camarillo shows injury no concern
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 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
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 NFL.com 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 Sun-Sentinel.com
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."
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
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 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 TheFinsiders.com 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.
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
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 tearsBy Dave Hyde, Sun Sentinel
11:19 p.m. EST, January 1, 2012 MIAMI GARDENSknew 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.
COACH PHILBIN OFFICIALLY ANNOUNCED AS HEAD COACH TODAY!!!! (1-21-12)
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
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.
2013--Yesterday the Dolphins beat New England, 24-20!! The article
below appeared on CNNSI this morning and I love it:
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.
Greg Cote: Legendary Miami Dolphin Garo Yepremian faces biggest battle
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
Joe Robbie’s political, Hollywood ties helped
secure Dolphins franchise
Joe Robbie falling flat in his first try for high-profile executive authority is as good a place to start as any.
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.
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.