Fins at 50: Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula reflects on ‘perfection’
There was no popping of champagne corks for the 1972 Dolphins on Sunday night after the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams lost to the New Orleans Saints, meaning the Dolphins will again maintain their distinction of being the only undefeated team in NFL history.
But there was a phone call.
Dick Anderson called buddy Nick Buoniconti after the game Sunday, and the two shared a moment of contentment and sense of accomplishment.
“He was happy; I was happy,” Anderson said. “Nick’s up in Connecticut. I said I watched the Rams game, he said he watched. [We said] another year” passes without an undefeated team.
In past years, when Anderson, Buoniconti and Bob Griese lived in the same neighborhood, they often got together on a night like this to open champagne. But with Griese having moved to Jupiter, and Buoniconti spending part of the year in the Northeast, that’s no longer possible.
Forty-six years have passed since the Dolphins went undefeated without another team doing it. But Anderson said there’s another milestone worth noting.
“It’s been 99 years and been done only once,” said Anderson, an All-Pro safety on that 1972 team. “The NFL started in 1920 and teams played fewer games and nobody went undefeated.”
Was Anderson rooting for the Saints on Sunday?
“Hell, yes,” he said. “People would say it would be nice if they joined us, but I don’t think we feel that way. If you have a record, you would like to keep it. You think Bob Beamon [who held the world record in the long jump from 1968 to 1991] wants someone to beat his record? It shows just how difficult it is to do.”
Meanwhile, in the small town of Ellaville, Georgia., former standout Dolphins defensive end and 1972 alum Manny Fernandez went deer hunting in the second and third quarters of the Rams-Saints game, but then came in to watch the Rams game and “quietly enjoy” them losing.
“I was rooting for New Orleans of course,” Fernandez, 72, said. “I would like to reach the century mark without anyone” achieving a perfect record.
Fernandez said he had “my usual one bourbon on the rocks as a nightcap,” but he does that every night anyway.
Several spouses and widows celebrated on social media on Monday, with comments such as “Perfectville — only one resident.”
Fernandez said he noticed Facebook posts from the wife of 1972 Dolphins offense tackle Doug Crusan and the widow of kicker Garo Yepremian.
Some of the 1972 alums will get together during the team’s alumni weekend to coincide with the Dec. 2 home game against Buffalo, but Anderson said get-togethers are more difficult now, because Mercury Morris, Larry Little, Larry Ball, Jim Kiick and Anderson are the only 1972 players living full time in Dade or Broward counties, with Charlie Babb in Naples and Griese in Jupiter. Ten members of the 1972 team are deceased.
One thing that bothered Anderson watching the Saints game Sunday was the fact New Orleans receiver Mike Thomas, after a touchdown, ran over to the goal post, lifted the padding, and whipped out a cellphone, recreating something former Saints receiver Joe Horn once did. That drew a penalty.
“Stupid, stupid,” Anderson said. “I think it was the dumbest thing a player could do.”
Adam Gase said there has been no change with Ryan Tannehill, who has missed four games with a capsule injury in his throwing shoulder and continues to experience discomfort on some throws.
“We’re going to see if he will throw the next two days or wait through the bye,” Gase said. “We’re trying to get to the point where he feels good throwing and we will go from there. It will be interesting to see what happens the next two days and when we make a decision, whatever it is, what the bye week does for us.”
The Dolphins say there’s no limit to the length of throws Tannehill can make.
“We’ve worked some different distances,” Gase said. “What’s weird is one time it’s good, one time it’s not, it doesn’t feel right.”
Gase said it’s not a question of how the throws look but how they feel.
“Everything is inconsistent,” Gase said when asked how he’s feeling with his throws. “We’re trying to get to point where he feels good throwing and we will go from there.”
Unless Tannehill makes a sudden recovery this week, Brock Osweiler very likely will start Sunday at Green Bay.
Gase said he hasn’t considered switching to David Fales, even though Osweiler has been inconsistent the past two games.
Gase said “there were two plays I wish we would have completed — the one to Danny [Amendola] and the one Jamal Adams batted down in the red zone. There were a lot of things [Osweiler] did well and there’s a lot of things he had no chance. It’s not on him.”
▪ Gase said he was still waiting to get test results on the knees of offensive tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James.
But NFL Network said James, after an MRI, has been diagnosed with a strained petallar tendon and it’s believed to be a minor injury and he has not been ruled out for the Green Bay game.
James returned to Sunday’s game after his knee injury; Tunsil did not but said after the game that his injury is not serious.
Gase said cornerback Bobby McCain, who was evaluated for a concussion during Sunday’s game, doesn’t have one and is not in concussion protocol.