Good to see Miami back in the Super Bowl, isn’t it?
Miami is always in the Super Bowl, one way or another.
The city has either hosted or seen its Dolphins play in nearly one-third of the 51 SBs. Ten times the game has been held here, most recently after the 2010 season and next in 2020. (That’ll be Super Bowl LIV for all you Romans). And five times the Dolphins have reached the ultimate game, although not since 1984, when, if memory serves, I used a hammer and chisel to write my column onto a stone tablet.
But Miami somehow finds a way into every Super Bowl, even when the Dolphins don’t and the game is elsewhere, like this time.
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Miami and Fort Lauderdale ranked 1-2 nationally this season as hometowns with the most NFL players. More active players are from South Florida high schools than anywhere else. When you start with such a deep, wide pool and then add guys who played college football here or are former Dolphins you once cheered, well, yes, every Super Bowl as a piece of Miami in it.
That will include the 51st edition Feb. 5 in Houston. I researched the rosters and coaching staffs of the Atlanta Falcons and slightly favored New England Patriots, and the guys with local ties were jumping like salmon. Here they are, by team, listed in rough order of prominence:
FALCONS WITH S. FLORIDA TIES
Star Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman is from Miami Central High, a Rocket (Class of 2010) long before he was a Falcon.
Punter Matt Bosher is a former Miami Hurricane born in northern Palm Beach. (Atlanta led the league in scoring, so he doesn’t punt much!)
Defensive line coach Bryan Cox was a five-year Dolphins linebacker (1991-95) who you may recall once famously giving a middle finger salute to Bills fans. He also was a Fins assistant coach in 2011.
Backup linebacker Philip Wheeler played for the Dolphins in 2013-14.
Head coach Dan Quinn coached the Dolphins defensive line in 2005-06 under Nick Saban (and was being considered for Miami head coach after the ’14 season before owner Steve Ross decided to retain Joe Philbin).
Reserve safety Sharrod Neasman played for Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong filled that role with Dolphins in 2001-07, and was a UM assistant in 1988.
Defensive end Derrick Shelby was a four-year Dolphin (2012-15), but suffered a season-ending injury in October.
Safety Kemal Ishmael is Miami-born and from North Miami Beach High, though he was lost to a season-ending injury in December.
Secondary coach Marquand Manuel is a native Miamian and is from Miami Senior High.
And defensive coordinator Richard Smith held the same position with the Dolphins in 2005.
PATRIOTS WITH S. FLORIDA TIES
Starting right defensive end and second-leading sacker Jabaal Sheard was born in Fort Lauderdale and went to Hollywood Hills High.
Receiver Chris Hogan, who had nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, was with Dolphins in 2012 but was among last players cut. (You may recall a teammate nicknamed him “7-Eleven” because he was always open).
Starting middle linebacker Jonathan Freeny was born in Margate and is from Coconut Creek High.
Reserve running back James White is Fort Lauderdale-born and from St. Thomas Aquinas High (which is tied for the most active players, 11, of any high school in the United States).
Defensive end Rob Ninkovich was with the Dolphins in 2007-08, though he appeared in only four games.
Tight ends coach Brian Daboll was the Dolphins’ offensive doordinator in 2011.
Reserve quarterback Jacoby Brissett was born in West Palm Beach and is from Palm Beach Gardens High.
And the mellifluously named backup linebacker, Barkevious Mingo, was born in Belle Glade.
This Super Bowl’s bigger, national storylines have the next two weeks to be pounded so relentlessly by Your Friend the Media that you’ll be sick of them.
Start with the obvious: “Tom Brady vs. Roger Goodell.” Patriots fans want desperately to boo the NFL commissioner over Deflategate, but can only do so if Brady exacts his revenge by winning and being handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Perfect for those who like a little soap opera with their Super Bowl.
Another sure theme: Two seemingly unstoppable offenses mocking that old defense-wins-championships bromide. In fact the opening over/under on total points for this game, 59, is the highest in Super Bowl history.
The most overarching storyline might be the contrast of Brady and Bill Belichick trying to win a fifth Super Bowl together and cement their legacy as the greatest coach/QB combo ever, while Atlanta, which entered as an expansion team along with the Dolphins in 1966, tries to win its very first league title.
It’s a win-win for Miami fans. They get to root for the many guys with South Florida ties in this Super Bowl while surely rooting against the Dolphins’ arch-nemesis from Foxborough.