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Friday, May 4
'72 Dolphins excelled as underdogs

By Eddie Epstein
Special to

Editor's note: Our series on the greatest NFL teams of all time continues with its fifth installment and a look at the 1972 Dolphins. The greatest team ever will be revealed on Tuesday, May 15.

Don Shula
Don Shula played for Paul Brown and for Weeb Ewbank (head coach of the 1958 Colts), who coached under Brown.

Some of you may be thinking, "How can any team but the '72 Dolphins be the best team ever? They went undefeated and they won the Super Bowl? What else is there?"

Actually, those are very good points in favor of the 1972 Dolphins. The biggest negative on the '72 Dolphins' résumé is the strength, or lack thereof, of their schedule. While it's true that they could only play who was scheduled, it's also true that with an opponents' winning percentage of .396, the Dolphins' schedule was one of the easiest since 1950.

How easy? Basically, 99 percent of the teams since 1950 had a more difficult season schedule than the 1972 Dolphins. That is a very easy schedule.

I also think this team suffers from a bit of an image problem. They certainly weren't a flashy offensive team (in the Super Bowl they attempted 13 passes while running the ball 37 times) and their defense was more efficient than intimidating. This "lack" of an image, which leads to a relative lack of respect, is not an after-the-fact phenomenon. The Dolphins were actually underdogs in their Super Bowl game against the Redskins.

1972 Dolphins
  • Record: 14-0
  • Points scored/allowed: 385/171
  • Adjusted power index: +6.63
  • Opponents' record: 70-108-4 (.396)*
  • Record against teams with winning records: 2-0
  • Points scored/allowed against teams with winning records: 43/23
    *For all of these opponents' records, games against this team are excluded.
  • Some of you may know that the '72 Dolphins were the first team to have two players with at least 1,000 yards rushing -- Larry Csonka (1,117) and Eugene "Mercury" Morris (1,000). What some of you may not know is that Jim Kiick chipped in with 521 yards rushing, albeit with a much lower average per carry (3.8) than Csonka (5.2) or Morris (5.3). Kiick's total would have led three NFL teams in rushing that year including NFC West champ San Francisco.

    While it is true that the Dolphins did not throw the ball that much, it is true that their passing game was productive. Even though the TV networks still haven't figured this out, average yards per pass attempt is the most important passing statistic. The Dolphins led the league in this most important category, averaging 8.63 yards per pass attempt. The league average was 6.82.

    Eddie Epstein works as a consultant to major league baseball teams. He is the co-author, along with's Rob Neyer, of "Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time." He has been a regular contributor to's baseball coverage and is a huge football fan.

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