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 theDallas 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, 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 continue into our second day of building the depth chart by taking a look at the running back position.
First Team:Ricky Williams
Second Team: Jim Kiick
Third Team: Mercury Morris
Fourth Team: Ronnie Brown
[Note: This article was originally posted with Kiick listed as the first team halfback, followed by Morris, then Williams. The write-ups below were in the correct order as is listed above, which was the intended order for the four halfbacks.]
First Team: Larry Csonka
Williams joined the Dolphins after three seasons with the New Orleans Saints. He immediately made an impact, leading the league in carries (383), yards (1,853), and yards per game (115.8) in the 2002 season, then again leading the league in carries in 2003 (392). Everything then spiraled out of control for a couple of years as Williams began failing drug tests, retired (the first running back on our list to join a tradition of rushers who suddenly departed the team unexpectedly), returned, and was suspended for a year over a four year span that saw him just play the full 2005 season, as well as being injured just six carries into his 2007 return. He played three more years from 2008 to 2010 with Miami, splitting time with Brown from most of that span. During the seven seasons in which he saw the field during his Dolphins career, Williams reached 1,000 yard three times (2002, 2003, 2009), and was a First-Team All-Pro selection and Pro Bowl selection in 2002.
A fifth-round pick in 1968, Kiick played seven years for the Dolphins, earning two Pro Bowl selections in his first two seasons. He led the league in rushing touchdowns in 1969 with nine, and established himself as the starting halfback on the team immediately upon his arrival. Over his Dolphins career, Kiick ran for 3,644 yards on 997 carries, with 28 touchdowns. He added 2,210 receiving yards on 221 receptions with three touchdowns. Kiick also joins the running backs suddenly leaving the team tradition, in this case to spend a season in the World Football League in 1974.
Morris joined the team a year after Kiick, being selected in the third round of the Draft, and could be listed as the second-team running back just as easily as Kiick in this depth chart. In his own seven years with Miami, Morris earned three Pro Bowl trips. He gained 3,877 yards on 754 carries, along with 29 touchdowns. He added 491 yards on 46 receptions with one touchdown. He led the league in touchdowns in 1972 with 12, as well as that being the one season he reached the 1,000 yard rushing mark. He led the league in 1973 in yards per attempt, carrying the ball 149 times at a 6.4 yard per attempt average.
This position went back-and-forth between Tony Nathan and Brown, with the Dolphins' 2005 first round pick getting the spot due to his one Pro Bowl appearance. Nathan was a First-Team All-Pro selection as a rookie, but it was for his return duties, while Brown went to the Pro Bowl as a running back. After being selected second overall, Brown took his position as the starter and feature back, but he did lose playing time due to injuries, something that likely took away his opportunity to earn the starting position on the 50th Anniversary Depth Chart. In six years with Miami, Brown carried the ball 1,128 times for 4,815 yards with 36 touchdowns. He also added 1,491 receiving yards on 184 catches with two touchdowns. Brown was also the trigger man for the team's Wildcat Offense in 2008 and 2009, attempting 12 passes during that time, with four completion for 63 yards, connecting twice for touchdowns.
Csonka clearly is the top running back in Dolphins history, joining Dan Marino and Bob Griese as the only three players in team history with retired jerseys. Csonka was selected with the eighth overall pick in 1968, starting all but one of the 106 games in played in eight seasons with the Dolphins. Csonka was such a dominating, powerful runner that he was actually called for unnecessary roughness on a defender. Csonka is the third member of our trio of sudden running back departures, leaving to join the WFL in 1975. After a year there, he returned to the NFL, where he played with the New York Giants for three seasons before a return to the Dolphins for his final season in 1979. In eight years with Miami, Csonka ran for 6,767 yards on 1,506 carries with 64 touchdowns. He led the league in average yards per carry in 1971 (5.4) and was a five time Pro Bowl selection (1970-1974). He was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1971 and 1973, and was named the 1973 Super Bowl MVP and 1979 Comeback Player of the Year. Csonka was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.
Tomorrow, we will move on to the tight end position