Enough free agent and draft talk! I thought it would be fun to try and put together an all-time Miami Dolphins 53 man roster. 25 players on offense, 25 players on defense, and 3 special team players. I've been watching Dolphins football since the late 1970's (yes, I missed the Super Bowl years by a few years) so I've seen most of these players and probably watched 90%+ of the games since 1986 (when I went off to college and started watching weekly at sports bars rather than praying the Dolphins would be the Game-of-the-Week on NBC).
And...here we go!
Quarterbacks: Dan Marino, Bob Griese, Don Strock
Probably the easiest set of players to pick and they really need no introduction. Marino is one of the greatest QB's ever and Griese was the perfect QB for the great teams of the early 70's. Strock gets the nod over other Dolphins starters due to his longevity and great relationship with first Griese and then Marino. I suppose Fiedler or Pennington would be the next up.
Running Backs: Ricky Williams, Mercury Morris, Tony Nathan
This is a difficult position to pick because there are some good players that could slot in as the third back. Williams was the best RB ever to put on a Dolphins uniform despite his off the field issues. Despite all the missed time and suspensions he gained over 10k yards in his career and was a good teammate at the start and then the end of his time in Miami. Morris is the home run hitter and so dynamic and is a unique player in Dolphins history - the Dolphins have never had this type of back again. Nathan gets chosen ahead of Ronnie Brown and Jim Kiick because he was very good at everything - the perfect 3rd down RB. He could block, catch, and run.
Fullbacks: Larry Csonka, Andra Franklin
Csonka is a top 5 fullback of all time. Franklin was a force until his knee gave out (unfortunately just a few years before reconstructive surgery was perfected) and no other FB really comes close (maybe Woody Bennett?).
Wide Receivers: Paul Warfield, Mark Clayton, Mark Duper, Nat Moore, OJ McDuffie
Just a perfect compliment of WR's. Duper is the speed guy, Clayton is the underneath guy, and Warfield is the alpha dog that coverage gets rolled to. Nat Moore redefined himself late in his career as a slot receiver before there was such a thing as a slot receiver. McDuffie was all heart. Irving Fryer and Chris Chambers were probably the two best other WR's left off, with Fryer only really spending a few years on the Dolphins and Chambers just being nosed out by McDuffie.
Tight Ends: Bruce Hardy, Randy McMichael
This is one position the Dolphins have never really had a superstar. Hardy was a do-everything player that was good at a lot of things but not great at anything. McMichael was probably the best stretch TE the Dolphins have ever had, but I'm less sold on him than probably any player in the 53 listed here. Jim Mandich was a good player but Hardy was better and similar. Anthony Fasano, Troy Drayton, and Keith Jackson were also considered.
Offensive Line: Webb, Little, Stephenson, Keuchenberg, Long; and Norm Evans, Ed Newman, Jim Langer, Keith Sims, Roy Foster
The Dolphins have be very blessed with good OL players over the decades. All of the above 10 players made multiple Pro Bowls and most were All-Pro's at least one year, 3 are in the HOF and 3 more have a shot someday. The starting 5 are obvious and I don't think anyone would argue their place here. The second 5 I went with three guards and only one tackle - basically Foster got in ahead of Jon Giesler or Wayne Moore. He was a PB player and Giesler wasn't and he played longer for the Dolphins than Moore. Just great players all around.
Defensive Ends: Bill Stanfill, Doug Betters, Vern Den Herder, Trace Armstrong
Bill Stanfill was a beast and almost unblockable in the early 70's. Betters was really good at everything and had one incredible season to highlight the rest of his really good career. Herder was solid for over a decade, and Armstrong was the best 3rd down pass specialist the Dolphins ever had.
Defensive Tackles: Manny Fernandez, Bob Baumhower, Tim Bowens, Jeff Cross
Fernandez should be in the HOF and Baumhower helped define the nose tackle position and played it like no other (so tall!). Bowens was a quiet giant and force while he played. Cross is a little bit of a cheat - no other true DT really stood out for me, so I chose Jeff Cross as a DE that moved inside to rush the passer on 3rd down. Bob Heinz, Darryl Gardener, Randy Starks, and Paul Soliai are the other contenders.
I created this especially because of the new hybrid defenses so popular in the last decade. Taylor is a HOF and Wake is a monster in the few years he's been in the league. These guys are so athletic they can rush, they play the run, and can also drop back into coverage.
Linebackers: Zach Thomas, Nick Bounticonti, John Offerdahl, Bryan Cox, Bob Brudzinski, Bob Matheson, AJ Duhe
After the first three guys, there really is no depth at this position. Thomas was everywhere and did everything, the heart and soul of the Dolphins for over a decade. Bounticonti is a HOF and led the Dolphins defense in their glory years, and Offerdahl hit harder than any Dolphins player ever. Cox was an emotional leader and fierce player, Brudzinski was a steady OLB, and Matheson was instrumental in creating the 3-4 defense and was a precursor to players such as Taylor and Wake. Duhe is my last defensive player chosen and just beat out CB Gerald Small for the last slot. The Dolphins have had a lot of good not great other LB's - Larry Gordon, Doug Swift, Mike Kolen, Rusty Chambers, but none of them ever made that next step into being a great player.
It's funny how both sets of these players are paired together. Madison and Surtain were the best CB pair in the NFL for about a 5 year period. Foley and Johnson were paired together during the Dolphins SB years. Foley went on to play S for the Dolphins as well. Gerald Small, Don McNeal, Troy Vincent, and Terrell Buckley were other CB's considered, with Small barely missing out to AJ Duhe for the 25th defensive spot.
Safeties: Dick Anderson, Jake Scott, Glenn Blackwood, Louis Oliver
Anderson and Scott are maybe the greatest pair of safeties to play together. How they are not in the HOF I have no idea. Blackwood was the field leader of the Killer B's back in the early 80's dominant defenses. Oliver was a physical beast that could hit like a mack truck and had a flair for making big plays (except for one bad playoff game). Brock Marion would be next in line most likely.
Mare beats out Pete Stoyanovich barely. Barely. He invented the onside bounce kick-off that is so popular right now and had many great years for the Dolphins. Okay, probably the most difficult choice I had to make was leaving off Reggie Roby for Fields. But I think Fields is that great. He's been a top-5 player for the Dolphins over the past couple of years and is one of the best in the NFL right now. He's won a few games for the Dolphins in my opinion. Jensen is the perfect special teams player and wins out over Larry Izzo because Jensen can also play TE/RB and Izzo went to the Patriots (joking, just joking).
So there it is, my selections for the perfect 53 man all-time roster for the Miami Dolphins. I would say around 40 or so players wouldn't get any argument, but as typical of making any team, the last few guys on the roster are difficult choices. If it was a real roster, I'd probably have to take off one of the OL and one of the LB's to add another skill player on offense and DB on defense. Kuech can long snap, so no specialist needed there - he'd run a LS off the team as useless anyway. I'd take this team against any other all-time team that could be put together.