In Super Bowl VI, the Miami Dolphins lost to the Dallas Cowboys in a game that featured Nick Buonuconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, and Paul Warfield, all future Hall of Fame players for the South Florida franchise (plus coach Don Shula). A year later, the Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII to complete the only perfect season in league history, with that same group of future Hall of Fame players. A year later, the Dolphins again won, this time Super Bowl VIII against the Minnesota Vikings, with the same group of future Hall of Famers.
That Cowboys team that beat the Dolphins had nine future Hall of Fame players, plus a Hall of Famer in the front office and another at head coach. The Redskins had three Hall of Fame players and one Hall of Fame coach. The Vikings had six Hall of Fame players, a Hall of Fame general manager, and a Hall of Fame coach.
The Dolphins - again the only team to complete a perfect season - have been stuck at six Hall of Fame players and one coach despite a seventh player clearly deserving induction into the Hall of Fame and recognition as one of the greatest players to play professional football.
Bob Kuechenberg joined the Dolphins as a free agent in 1970 after sitting out the 1969 season after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. He played 14 seasons for the Dolphins, retiring after the 1983 campaign. He set the team record for games played at 196, a record eventually broken by Dan Marino (and passed by Jason Taylor). He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1974, 1975, 1977, 1978, 1982, and 1983. He was a First-Team All-Pro selection by the Associated Press in 1978 and was a selection to the First-Team All-Pro by Pro Football Weekly in 1974, the Sporting News in 1975, and Pro Football Weekly and the Sporting News in 1978.
Kuechenberg passed away this past Saturday at the age of 71.
The Dolphins have appeared in the Super Bowl five times - Kuechenberg was playing for four of those. He was a stalwart at left guard for Miami, also played left tackle for when needed, including starting all 16 games for the team there in 1979, and served as the team’s backup center.
Kuechenberg dominated Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page - a 1988 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame - during Super Bowl VIII, a game in which Kuechenberg played with a broken arm.
He was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame for eight straight years, 2002 to 2009, but never received the votes to make it to Canton.
“He gave you everything he had every single snap, and that dependability extended throughout his career, missing only a few games during that time,” Shula said of Kuechenberg. “I’ve coached a lot of Hall of Fame players, including a number of offensive linemen, and Kooch was as good as any of them. I hope one day he gets that ultimate recognition by being enshrined in Canton—it’s an honor long overdue and one he certainly deserves.”
“Kooch, along with Larry Little and Jim Langer, were the three biggest reasons for my development and many others as better players,” former Dolphins defensive tackle Bob Baumhower said. “They were absolutely the best interior offensive line in the NFL. Kooch was a tough, talented and smart leader playing offensive guard. After practicing against Kooch everyday, playing in the games was a picnic. He made all of us better through his passion and ability to play the game AND HUMOR. We will miss him, I hope the Hall of Fame recognizes his greatness soon.”
“There is no question he deserves to be on the Hall of Fame,” Griese stated. “I think down the road he will be and I’m just sorry that he won’t be around when they finally let him in.”
There is no doubt that the Hall of Fame has shunned a deserving player from receiving the recognition he deserves. Bob Kuechenberg should have received his gold jacket and been on stage to unveil the bronze bust that would forever remain in Canton. The Pro Football Hall of Fame voters need to correct this error. Kooch will never be able to attend his induction, but his family can and they should see a great NFL player be honored like he should have been a long time ago.
Fix this, Hall of Fame. End one of the biggest snubs you have made.