Forty years ago this season, the Miami Dolphins did something no team had ever done, and something no team has done since; the 1972 Undefeated Season stands as the only time in NFL history a franchise has finished a season unbeaten and untied. That team was honored Sunday at the Dolphins' home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
During halftime, the members of the 1972 team were welcomed to the field at Sun Life Stadium. There were Dolphins legends and Hall of Famers like quarterback Bob Griese, running back Larry Csonka, and linebacker Nick Buoniconti. While the ceremony let the fans see the entire 1972 team back out on a field the Dolphins call home, it was also a chance for some of the current Dolphins players to meet the legends.
"It was good to see those guys out there today and I think it was even more special for us to get that win today while we were honoring that '72 team," current Dolphins running back
The ceremony also meant something to that 1972 team, and especially to Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula, who rode around in a golf cart shaking hands with his former players. "To be able to put together such a special season we needed special players, and we had them in all three phases of the game," Shula told The Palm Beach Post''s Tom D'Angelo.
"The weekend to me is seeing the smile on coach Shula's face," former linebacker Nick Buoniconti said, according to D'Angelo. "From year to year he gets a chance to see some of the guys, but he doesn't get a chance to see a lot of them. To have the whole team come back is pretty memorable. This is a great tribute to coach Shula because everybody wants to be here."
Although seeing the 1972 team gathered together was not enough for fans, though, there was more. The organization inducted defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger into the Ring of Honor during the halftime ceremony. D'Angelo reported that Buoniconti called Arnsparger ""probably the greatest defensive coach that ever coached in the NFL. He took a bunch of no-names and made them into the best defensive team, probably, in the history of the game."
Coach Arnsparger was unable to attend the ceremony, due to health reasons, so his son Dave spoke on his behalf. "This is very special because his name will always be on the stadium; I'll always be able to show my kids," the younger Arnsparger said. "They'll always know what their grandfather did."
As for how the '72 team sees the '12 team, Buoniconti told D'Angelo, "There's no illusions that this is a good football team. There are certain aspects of the team that are really solid. You're not going to fool [head coach Joe Philbin] and you're not going to fool [general manager] Jeff Ireland and you're not going to fool [owner] Steve Ross. They're going to make the changes that are needed and this team will come back as winners."
The team did come out as winners, at least at the end of the day Sunday. Just as the Dolphins did for the 30th Anniversary celebration and the 35th Anniversary, the team came away victorious on the day, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-3 Sunday. Maybe the most memorable Dolphins win in recent history came on the 35th Anniversary celebration weekend, when the Dolphins beat the Baltimore Ravens in overtime for their only win of the 2007 season.
The 6&8 Dolphins face their AFC East rival Buffalo Bills this upcoming Sunday in the team's home finale for 2012. Miami travels to New England for their season finale in two weeks.