The Miami Dolphins will celebrate their 50th NFL season this year, spanning from 1966 to 2015. Thousands of players have hit the field for the team over that time, helping the team appear in five Super Bowls, winning two of them, including the only undefeated season in league history. Despite spending the last decade stuck in a purgatory of mediocrity, the Dolphins are still hold the fourth highest winning percentage in the NFL at .565, behind just the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers.
The team has eight Hall of Famer players, Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, Dan Marino, Don Shula, Dwight Stephenson, and Paul Warfield, plus one Hall of Fame coach Don Shula. Another three Hall of Famers, Cris Carter, Junior Seau, and Thurman Thomas, all had brief stints in aqua on their way to Canton.
As we all look forward to better days for the Dolphins from this rut that has been the franchise since the turn of the century, we can also look back at one of the premier franchises of the NFL as they turn 50. We will do that over the next few days as we build the Miami Dolphins' 50th Season Depth Chart.
We will start the depth chart at the top, with the most important position on the football field, quarterback.
This is also, really, the easiest of the depth chart.
First Team: Dan Marino
Second Team: Bob Griese
Third Team: Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins have two quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame, one of whom retired with nearly every passing record in the league. Is there any question as to the order of the first two spots on the Dolphins' depth chart for quarterbacks? Marino is considered among the best quarterbacks in the league, a ranking usually measured by Super Bowl rings, despite having never one a league championship.
Marino finished his 17-year career with a 147-93 career record, throwing for 61,361 yards on a 59.4-percent completion rate (4,967-for-8,358), with 420 career touchdown passes and 252 interceptions. He holds an 86.4 career passer rating. He led the league in season passing yards five times, including becoming the first quarterback to surpass 5,000 yards in a single season with 5,084 in 1984. He also lead the league in completions six times, attempts five times, touchdowns three times, and passer rating once. He was named the 1984 league MVP, the 1994 Comeback Player of the Year, and the 1998 Walter Payton Man of the Year, along with nine Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro selections. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
Griese spent 14 years in the NFL, and, like Marino, all of them were with the Dolphins. During that time, he was 92-56-3 as a starter, with 25,092 passing yards on a 56.2 percent completion rate (1,926-for-3,429), with 192 career touchdown passes and 172 interceptions. He has a 77.1 career passer rating. Griese led the league in completion percentage in 1978, at 63-percent, and led the league in touchdowns with 22 in 1977. He was selected to eight Pro Bowls during his career, and was a two-time First-Team All-Pro selection. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
The Dolphins had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks at the helm of the team for 31 of the team's 50 years. The other 19 seasons have featured a carousel of passers, though a few have stepped up. The top of the remaining group seems to be the current man under center, Tannehill. After being drafted in the first round, the first quarterback since Marino to have that distinction for the Dolphins, Tannehill started the first game of his rookie year, something no quarterback in team history had ever done, and he has started every game over the past three years. He has 11,252 passing yards in his career, with a 61.9-percent completion rate (1,029-for-1,662). Tannehill has 63 touchdown passes with 42 interceptions, and an 84.0 career passer rating. In three seasons, with 48 career starts, he has a 23-25 career record.
Not every position will have honorable mentions, but some positions will have players who, if this were just a countdown of great players in Dolphins history, would likely make the list somewhere. Instead, we a building this like it is a true depth chart, which means there will be limited slots at some positions. One of those is quarterback, where three other players could make a case of a spot on the depth chart. Earl Morrall, spent five years with the Dolphins at the end of his career, and recorded just 2,335 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions; it was his work in the 1972 season, however, that makes his argument for the third position, when he kept the team undefeated over nine starts when Griese broke his ankle, then carried the team into the AFC Championship game before Griese returned and finished the Perfect Season.
Chad Pennington spend just three seasons with the Dolphins, but immediately took a place among the top quarterbacks in team history when he led the 2008 team to an 11-5 record, a year after the team when 1-15. He unfortunately would only play in four games outside of that magical 2008 season for Miami, twice injuring his shoulder, which ultimately forced him to retire, but that one season earns him at least honorable mention among the Dolphins top quarterbacks. He threw for 4,085 yards with Miami, recording a 67.6-percent completion rate, including a 67.4-percent rate in 2008 which lead the league. He had 20 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions for Miami.
The third player in the honorable mention category is one who will drive a lot of fans crazy, but someone worth noting. Jay Fiedler had the un-enviable role of being the guy who replaced Marino, and the fans let him know he was not Marino. He did earn two playoff appearances for Miami in five seasons, and recorded a 36-23 record as a starter. He threw for 11,040 yards with the Dolphins, with 66 touchdowns. It was the 63 interceptions, however, that drove fans insane, as he always seemed to throw a pick at the worst possible moment. He was the last Dolphins quarterback to win a Playoff game, all the way back in 2000 when he led Miami to a 23-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts.
Tomorrow we will take a look at the running back position for the Dolphins' 50th Season Depth Chart.