The New England Patriots travel to Miami this Monday night to play the Dolphins in a Week 1 divisional matchup. Other than maybe the Dallas Cowboys, there aren't many teams that have the connection to the Dolphins that the Patriots do. These two teams steal players from each all the time.
Remember after Super Bowl XXXVI, when the Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams? Former Dolphins turned Patriots linebacker Larry Izzo, quarterback Damon Huard, guard Grey Ruegamer, and cornerback Terrell Buckley all were on that team. And, they reminded the Dolphins of their connection - sending a picture of the four player displaying their Super Bowl ring on their middle finger to some of the Miami players.
While, it was overblown in the media and was intended to be, as Izzo explained, "some friendly banter," it demonstrates how often there are connections between the Dolphins and the Pats.
This year is no different.
Wes Welker, WR, New England - This is the most obvious of the connections. Welker was an undrafted free agent out of college, and after being cut by the San Diego Chargers following Week 1 of the 2004 season, he joined the Dolphins. In his rookie year, Welker torched the Patriots, becoming only the second player in NFL history to return a kickoff and a punt, kick an extra point and a field goal, and make a tackle in one game (first Phins/Pats game), along with returning a punt for a touchdown in the second match-up. Over the next two years, Welker continued to develop, moving up the Dolphins depth chart, and, eventually, leading the team in receptions in 2006. During the offseason, before the 2007 season, the Dolphins tendered Welker at a second-round draft choice restricted free agent level. The Patriots planned to sign the wide receiver, and threatened to use a "poison pill" - meaning his salary would suddenly become exponentially high if he played a certain number of games in Florida. Miami eventually traded Welker to New England for a second and seventh round draft choice. Since going to New England, Welker has had 3 Pro Bowl selections, led the NFL in receptions twice, 1 First Team All-Pro selection, and 2 Second Team All-Pro selections.
Rob Ninkovich, LB, New England - Ninkovich appeared in four games for the Dolphins in 2007, and spent most of 2008 on the team's practice squad. He did appear in one game in 2008, being activated on November 15th, playing November 16th, and being cut November 20th and returning to the practice squad. San Diego eventually plucked Ninkovich off of the Dolphins practice squad before the end of the 2008 season. He then signed with the Patriots in the 2009 preseason, playing in 15 games, gaining 23 tackles and 1 sack, that year. In 2010, Ninkoich started 10 of the 16 games in which he appeared, finishing the year with 62 tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 interceptions (both in the Pats Week 4 match-up with Miami).
Bryan Cox, Pass Rush Coach, Miami Dolphins - Cox was a 5th round draft choice for the Dolphins in 1991. He started all 77 games in which he appeared for the Dolphins, accumulating 31.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, and 529 tackles. He was also selected to three Pro Bowls during the 5 years he was in Miami, along with being name a First Team All-Pro in 1992. After three years in New York with the Jets, and two years as a Bear, Cox played for a a single year in New England, where he played in 11 games (7 starts), making 49 tackles, along with 1 pass defensed and 1 fumble recovered - winning his lone Super Bowl that year. After his playing career ended in 2002 (one year with the Saints), Cox transitioned to a TV analyst position, before being hired by Eric Mangini as an assistant defensive line coach with the Jets, and, subsequently, the defensive line coach under Mangini in Cleveland. Cox moved to the Dolphins this year as the team's pass rush coach.
Brian Daboll, Offensive Coordinator, Miami Dolphins - Daboll started his coaching career with The College of William and Mary as a restricted earning coach. He then moved on to Michigan State as a graduate assistant, before the NFL called. Of course, it called in the form of the New England Patriots, where he served as the Defensive Coaching Assistant from 2000-2001, and then the Wide Receivers Coach from 2002-2006. After his tenure in New England, he moved on to another division rival, this time the New York Jets, where he was the Quarterbacks coach for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Like Bryan Cox, Daboll moved with Eric Mangini from the Jets to the Cleveland Browns, where he was their Offensive Coordinator for 2009-2010, before coming to Miami to fill the same role.
Scott O'Brien, Special Teams Coach, New England Patriots - O'Brien enetered coaching as an assistant coach with his alma mater, Wisconsin-Superior from 1980-1982. In 1983, he moved on to UNLV, where he served as the Linebakers Coach and the Special Teams Coach from 1983-1985. After a year at Rice, filling the same jobs, he went to Pittsburgh for a four year stint as the Panthers' Special Teams Coach. The Cleveland Browns brought him to the NFL ranks, hiring him as their special teams coach from 1991-1995, moving with Art Modell to Baltimore as the Ravens franchise, from 1996-1998. He once again became a Panthers coach, this time with the Carolina NFL team, where he was the Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams coach from 1999-2004. He then moved to South Beach, serving as the Dolphins' Coordinator of Football Operations and Assistant to the Head Coach for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. He then served as the Special Teams coach in Denver from 2007-2008, and has been the Patriots' Special Teams Coach since 2009.
A.J. Edds - Edds was the 2010 4th round pick of the Miami Dolphins, but spent all of last year on the IR. He was released this preseason, and subsequently picked up by the Patriots.
Besides the players that played for both teams, there are several players and coaches that have ties to the other city or players through being college or NFL teammates else where:
Vince Wilfork, NT, New England Patriots - Boynton Beach, Florida native; Attended University of Miami
Reggie Bush, RB, MIami Dolphins - Besides having been a former Dolphin, Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich is Bush's former teammate in New Orleans.
Jason Taylor, LB, Miami Dolphins - Besides Welker and Ninkovich during their time in Miami, Taylor is former teammates with the Patriots' DE Andre Carter when both played for the Washington Redskins in 2008 and with S James Ihedigbo and DE Shaun Ellis when all three played for the Jets last year.
Tony Sparano, Head Coach, Miami Dolphins - Sparano is from the New England area, being born and raised in West Haven, Connecticut. He played for, and coached at the University of New Haven (o-line coach: 1984-1987). He took the job as the o-line coach/recruiting coordinator.academic liaison at Boston University from 1988-1989, and became their head coach in 1999 until 1993. In 1994, Sparano returned to the university of New Haven as their head coach, holding that job until 1998. He tehn transitioned to the NFL, serving as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns (1999-2000), the Washington Redskins (2001), and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2002), before moving to the Dallas Cowboys, where he was the offensive line coach and assistant head coach from 2003-2007. He then joined the Dolphins as their eighth head coach.