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Courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel, this is a pretty interesting list. For 30 years, mostly under the stern watch of head coach Don Shula, the Miami Dolphins were among the most successful franchises in the National Football League. Only two losing seasons. Two Super Bowl titles. Five Super Bowl appearances. A perfect 17-0 in 1972. But since 2000, the fortunes of one of the NFL’s marquee franchises have unraveled. In fact, since Miami’s 62-7 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Jan. 15, 2000, the Dolphins have been beset by blunders, bad luck, bad picks and black eyes. Here’s a look at the top 25 Dolphins disasters since 2000.
Jan, 15, 2000.
On that crisp and clear afternoon in Jacksonville, the Dolphins lost their AFC Divisional Playoff game to the Jaguars 62-7. It is the worst loss in franchise history and was the worst playoff loss in the NFL in 60 years. Hours later, head coach Jimmy Johnson quit. Three months later Dan Marino retired. In the years that followed, the Dolphins have been beset by blunders, bad luck, bad picks and black eyes. We’ve boiled them down to the Top 20 Dolphins disasters.
The Wannstedt era
It’s hard to believe that when the Dolphins last won a playoff game (Dec. 30, 2000: 23-17 in overtime over Indianapolis) the coach was Dave Wannstedt, Johnson’s long-time friend and heir apparent. Wannstedt took over the day after the debacle in Jacksonville and led Miami to consecutive 11-5 records and playoff appearances. On the surface, he had a respectable 42-31 (.575) record in Miami. But in the end the Wannstedt’s era would become a punch line, known more for bad personnel and coaching decisions and for leaving the franchise in disarray. On Nov. 4, 2004, with the Dolphins 1-8 and the roster in shambles, Wannstedt resigned. Jim Bates took over during the bye week and Miami finished 4-12. They’ve had two winning seasons since.
Consider the possibilities if the Miami Dolphins could have hung on to Ron Wolf as a consultant, or even executive. Wolf hired Mike Holmgren in Green Bay and traded for Brett Favre. The Packers were 92 – 52 under Wolf and won a Super Bowl. When the Dolphins were interviewing general manager candidates, Wolf recommended Seattle executive Ted Thompson, who worked under him in Green Bay. The Dolphins chose to promote Rick Spielman and hire Dan Marino as a senior vice president. Wolf took his services to Cleveland.
Marino comes and goes
Against Wolf’s recommendation, the Dolphins reached into their past and hired Dan Marino as their top football executive on Jan. 12 2004. His tenure lasted three weeks. After accepting the job as senior vice president of football operations, Marino surprised team owner H. Wayne Huizenga by announcing his resignation. Marino said he wasn’t prepared to make the “significant lifestyle change” that the position would require for him and his family, which includes six children.
Ricky Williams is among the greatest running backs in Dolphins history and he certainly contributed to more highlights than low lights since arriving in Miami in 2002. The enigmatic Williams failed multiple tests for marijuana, lived in a tent in Australia, studied holistic medicine and yoga in California and played an injury-shortened season with the CFL during his absences. After a season in Baltimore, Williams retired this year, reformed in the minds of Miami fans and forever a Dolphins favorite. But his sudden his retirement/suspension in the summer of 2004 contributed to the Dolphins horrific season. And his greatness only enhances the impact of his absences that season and during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
The Nick Saban era
Everyone knows how this ends. Nick Saban was hired in December 2004 after a successful college coaching career to rebuild and revitalize the Dolphins. After two seasons, a 15-17 record and multiple denials about leaving for South Florida for Alabama (“I’m not going to be the Alabama coach”), Saban did indeed leave for Tuscaloosa, where he has won two national titles with the Crimson Tide. Saban later apologized “for any professional mishandling that might have occurred.”
The Cam Cameron error
Cam Cameron lasted one season (2007), but less than one year as the Miami Dolphins head coach. Perhaps the beginning of Cameron’s downfall was the surprise selection of Ginn with the ninth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Cameron was soundly booed by restless fans when he appeared at a draft watch party to celebrate the pick. “Ted Ginn and his family will give us everything they have, I promise you that.” Cameron said above the jeers. “I think Ted Ginn is someone you’re going to enjoy watching play for a long, long time as a Miami Dolphin.” Ginn showed flashes as a return man, but was a bust as a receiver and was gone after three seasons. Cameron was fired after a 1-15 season. He was the first Dolphins coach fired in 37 years.
The Orange Carpet
“I know it’s about winning football games,” Steve Ross said after buying half the Dolphins in April 2008. But after taking full ownership of the team and stadium less than a year later, Ross seemed more focused on other ways to win the fans over. He rolled out the “Orange Carpet” at Sun Life Stadium and brought in celebrity owners and partners Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Buffett, Fergie and Venus and Serena Williams. But the Dolphins star-studded ownership has not translated to wins or fan support. Miami is 20-28 in the three seasons with Ross as the majority owner.
During a preseason game against Tampa Bay in August 2011, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and VP/Special Adviser Nat Moore, a Florida grad, announced the team would honor the 2009 National Champion Florida Gators at Sun Life Stadium. The well-meaning idea was met with outrage by fans of Miami’s pro and college football teams. Dolphins’ fans hated it because the team was waiting for Tim Tebow to come to town with the Broncos to hold the event. Hurricanes fans hated it because the hated Gators were to be honored on the ‘Canes home field. When Gator Day arrived two months later, Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer would take center stage in ways Dolphins fans could not imagine. After the awkward halftime ceremony honoring Meyer and the 2009 Gators, things began to unravel for the Dolphins. Tebow mounted a furious 15-point, fourth-quarter comeback to tie the game in regulation. The Broncos won in overtime. During the game, Ross was seen on the sidelines buddying up to Meyer, fueling speculation that he was working on Meyer to be the next coach of the Dolphins.
As the Dolphins plodded through their third straight losing season in 2011, it became more and more difficult to sell tickets. The Dolphins’ streak of regular season televised games remains at 108 and counting, but only because the team, sponsors and local television stations bought thousands of unsold tickets to ensure there would be no blackouts.
Peyton Manning goes elsewhere
Just hours after he announced he was parting ways with the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning ended up – where else – in South Florida. Manning’s arrival was chronicled by shaky, grainy video images of him stepping off a plane at Opa-Locka Airport. Later, his caravan was followed O.J.-style by hovering helicopters. All this set off speculation that Manning soon would be a Dolphin. But the Dolphins meeting with Manning never happened in South Florida. They were forced to meet him in Indianapolis. Manning signed with Denver and the Dolphins signed David Garrard and drafted Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
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