Support from the undefeated

'72 team witnesses to infamy averted

The 1972 Dolphins

Ravens Gameday

December 17, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

MIAMI -- The timing of yesterday's ceremony honoring the 1972 Miami Dolphins was interesting, and it came with some bittersweet irony for those being celebrated.

It took place at Dolphin Stadium during halftime of a dramatic 22-16 overtime win against the Ravens, a victory that prevented the current team from matching the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only modern NFL team not to win a game.

It also occurred during a season in which the New England Patriots are pursuing the '72 squad's place in the record book as the only team in modern history to finish unbeaten. The Patriots are 14-0, the same record the Dolphins had before going on to win the Super Bowl.

"If the Patriots go undefeated, you have to take your hat off to them," former Miami coach Don Shula said before the game. "It's quite an accomplishment. Give credit where credit is due."

Now that the current Dolphins won't claim a dubious place in history, the old Dolphins can keep hoping that the Patriots get upset. Shula caused a stir early this season - after the Patriots were caught spying on the New York Jets - by suggesting that New England's pursuit of perfection was tainted.

Shula kidded yesterday about the way he and his former players, in town over the weekend for their 35th reunion, have been portrayed whenever their place in history is challenged.

"We've been depicted as a bunch of grumpy old guys that just sit around and can't wait for that last undefeated team to lose, and when that last undefeated team loses, we all rush out and have a champagne toast," Shula said. "The last time that happened, Nick Buoniconti and Dick Anderson toasted each other, but they were too cheap to invite the rest of us to the party."

Turning a bit serious, Shula added: "If they [the Patriots] run the table, I'll be the first guy to congratulate Bill Belichick. I'm sure our players will call their players."

Don't expect Larry Csonka to be among the well-wishers.

Asked whether he felt that the Patriots hurt their legacy with the "Spygate" controversy, Csonka said: "You don't think it did them any good? I played for Shoes [Shula], and when he didn't like the way the rules were set up or things were going, he went to the NFL and got on the rules committee and changed them to his benefit. That's the way we worked. We played by the rules."

As for the plight of the current Dolphins, Csonka said he feels bad.

"It's going to take time," he said. "In '69, we were a little shaky, too. We were in a lot of games, like the same way they are today. In one year, we turned it around."

Former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese was hoping that the presence of Hall of Famers as honorary captains would inspire the current team, as happened here in 1985 when the Chicago Bears, en route to their Super Bowl championship, came in and lost their only game of the season.

But that was a 12-4 Dolphins team in the midst of a seven-game winning streak, not what is now a 1-13 team.

"It could be a better situation," Griese said. "It is what it is. It's not fun for the coaches, the players or the fans."

As hard as he tried to not criticize the Patriots, Shula couldn't help taking a subtle shot at the NFL's only unbeaten team.

"I'm trying not to say `asterisk,'" he said with a smile. "Things are dying down - I want to stir stuff up again."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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