The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers will meet in Santa Clara, California Sunday evening as the two conference champions kick off Super Bowl 50. The focus of the two-week build up to the game has focused primarily on Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, who potentially could be starting his last NFL game as he nears the end of his Hall of Fame career, and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who is likely going to be named the league's MVP at Saturday's NFL Honors show. There are, of course, a multitude of stories surrounding this game.
For Miami Dolphins fans, one of those stories includes the three former members of the South Florida franchise who are preparing for the final weekend of the 2015-2016 NFL season. Plus, one coach who has some important ties to the Dolphins.
Sam Brenner, center, Broncos
Brenner was a member of the Dolphins as recently as mid-November. Now, after Miami waived him and the Broncos claimed him, he finds himself the third center on the depth chart for the AFC Champions. Brenner initially joined the Dolphins in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of Utah. In two-and-a-half seasons with Miami, Brenner constantly seemed to be the 53rd member of a 53-man roster, routinely bouncing back and forth between the practice squad and the main roster. In three seasons in the league, Brenner has appeared in 10 games in his career, all with the Dolphins, including four starts in his rookie season.
Cortland Finnegan, cornerback, Panthers
Finnegan spent the 2014 season with the Dolphins, appearing in 12 games, all starts. He recorded 44 tackles with eight passes defensed, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He announced his retirement in March, appearing to end his career. At the end of November, however, the Panthers needed secondary help, and they signed Finnegan to a one-year contract. He played five regular season games for Carolina this year, recording 18 tackles with one pass defensed. He has added one interception, one pass defense, and eight tackles in two post-season games so far.
Ted Ginn, Jr., wide receiver, Panthers
Ginn was the Dolphins' first-round, ninth-overall, draft pick in 2007, a pick that was loudly criticized by fans and analysts alike. In three seasons with the Dolphins, Ginn appeared in all 48 games, with 35 starts. He caught 128 passes for 1,664 yards with five touchdowns. He also ran the ball 16 times for 124 yards with two scores, had 36 punt returns for an 8.7 yard return average with one touchdown, and 147 kick returns with a 23.0 yards per return average and two touchdowns. Miami traded Ginn to the San Francisco 49ers ahead of the 2010 season, where he spent the next three years. He then spent a year with the Panthers before a year with the Arizona Cardinals. He returned the Panthers this year, where he played in 15 regular season games with 13 starts, catching 44 passes for 739 yards with 10 touchdowns.
Mike Shula, offensive coordinator, Panthers
Shula spent the 1987 season as a quarterback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being a 12th round draft pick. He then moved to being an offensive assistant coach in 1988 with Tampa Bay, before moving to the Dolphins as a coach's assistant in 1991. Then then moved to the Chicago Bears in 1993 as a tight ends coach, getting his first offensive coordinator position in 1996 with the Buccaneers. He returned to the Dolphins in 2000 as the team's quarterbacks coach, where he stayed until becoming the head coach of Alabama in 2003. His next move was to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007 as the team's quarterbacks coach. He joined the Panthers in 2011 as the quarterbacks coach, then was promoted to the offensive coordinator position in 2013. Oh, and, he is the son of Dolphins legendary coach Don Shula, as well.