Jim Mandich was an All-American tight end for the University of Michigan Wolverines. The Dolphins selected him with their second round pick of the 1970 NFL entry draft, 29th overall. He would wear number 88 throughout his Miami career.
Mandich appeared in all 14 regular season games in his rookie season. He and Larry Seiple backed up Marv Fleming through the season. He only caught one pass all season, a three yard touchdown pass in a week two road victory over the Houston Oilers, 20-10. The team went 10-4, making the playoffs but losing their first ever playoff matchup, 21-14 to the Oakland Raiders.
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In 1971, Mandich was slowed by injuries and appeared in 11 games. He caught three passes for 19 yards, including a week eight touchdown in a 34-0 victory over the Buffalo Bills. He also caught two passes for 13 yards in the playoffs. The Dolphins finished with a 10-3-1 record, ultimately falling in Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys, 24-3.
Mandich played in all 14 games in the Dolphins perfect 1972 season, backing up Marv Fleming. He caught 11 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns. In week eight, he caught a career high three passes for 39 yards and a touchdown in a 16-14 victory over Minnesota. He also caught two passes for 24 yards in the playoffs.
Mandich led Dolphin tight ends in 1973 with 24 catches for 302 yards and four touchdowns. In a week six victory over the Buffalo Bills, 27-6, he caught four passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns, all career game-highs. He also caught five passes for 49 yards in the playoffs, including a touchdown in the Divisional Playoff win over theCincinnati Bengals, 34-16. The Dolphins finished 15-2, winning their second consecutive Super Bowl.
Mandich was promoted on the depth chart for the 1974 season, starting 10 of the 14 games in which he appeared. He achieved career highs with 33 catches for 374 yards and six touchdowns. His 33 catches were good for second on the Dolphins. In week four he caught six passes for 61 yards and a touchdown in a 21-17 victory over the New York Jets. Miami was eventually eliminated from the playoffs in the famous "Sea of Hands" game to the Oakland Raiders, 28-26, finishing with a 11-3 record.
in 1975, Mandich again appeared in all 14 games, starting six. He caught 21 passes for 216 yards and four touchdowns. He equalled his career high with six catches in a week nine loss to the Houston Oilers, 20-19. His catches were good for 69 yards and a touchdown. The team finished with a 10-4 record, missing the playoffs for the first time since the AFL/NFL merger.
1976 would see Mandich relegated to backup, behind Andre Tillman. Although he was second on the depth chart, he led the Miami tight ends with 22 catches, 260 yards, and four touchdowns. Miami went 6-8, finishing below .500 for the first time since 1969, (and the last until 1988).
1977 was Mandich's last season with Miami. He caught six passes for 63 yards. He would sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the 1978 season as a blocking tight end.
Mandich totalled 121 catches for 1,406 yards and 23 touchdowns. His value to the Dolphins was not only his catches and yards, but his run blocking and on the field leadership. He went on the radio talk circuit after retirement, hosting a talk show and providing color commentary along with Jimmy Cefalo and Joe Rose on WIOD and WQAM. He passed away on April 26, 2011 of cholangiocarcinoma, or cancer of the bile duct. He was posthumously inducted into the Dolphins' Ring of Honor on December 4th of last year.