In 1966, a new pro football team with a colorful uniform and interesting mascot was born. That fall, the Miami Dolphins played their first season in the American Football League. The franchise struggled to gain relevance during their inaugural seasons, winning just 15 games before Don Shula came to down before the start of the 1970 season.
Four years after Shula's arrival, the Dolphins were defending two-time Super Bowl champions and three-time AFC champions. And while they are still waiting for their third Vince Lombardi Trophy, Dolphins fans have been treated to several successful eras during the franchise's 54-year existence. Yes, the franchise has struggled to remain a competitive team in recent years, but the Dolphins' still own the sixth highest winning percentage in NFL history, a testament to the team's incredible consistency during Shula's time on the sideline.
Over the years, the Dolphins have had some of the best players in NFL history, players that set numerous NFL records while also helping Miami earn 23 playoff berths, five AFC titles and their back-to-back titles in the early 1970s. As part of CBS Sports' "Franchise Five" series, we've ranked the Dolphins' greatest coach, quarterback and three other players that make up the five most prominent figures in franchise history. Credit to Greg Cote, a longtime Dolphins beat reporter for the Miami Herald, for his input when creating this list.
And remember, "when you say Miami, you're talking Super Bowl."
Coach Don Shula
Shula's 328 regular-season wins and 347 total wins remain all-time records. In 33 seasons as an NFL head coach, Shula, who won an NFL title during his seven-year run as the Baltimore Colts' head coach before coming to Miami, posted a whopping 31 winning seasons. His 1972 Dolphins team remains the only team in NFL history to finish the season and playoffs with a perfect record.
During Shula's first six seasons in Miami, the Dolphins posted a 75-19-1 record that included three AFC titles and back-to-back Super Bowl titles. During that span, Miami became the first franchise to appear in three consecutive Super Bowls. During the '72 and '73 seasons, the Dolphins went a combined 32-2 while joining the 1960s Packers as the only two-time Super Bowl champions. The '74 Dolphins were in pursuit of a third straight title before falling victim to a miracle touchdown during a playoff loss to the Raiders.
Shula's Dolphins continued to be a force to be reckoned with heading into the 1980s, as Miami represented the AFC in Super Bowls XVII and XIX. And after primarily winning using a punishing rushing attack during the early '70s, Shula unleashed a prolific passing attack in the '80s, led by Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.
Shula is credited with helping modernize the game. In 1978, as head of the NFL's Competition Committee, Shula inspired several rule changes that helped make it easier for offenses to have success in the passing game. The result was a higher-scoring, more-entertaining brand of football that helped pro football replace baseball as America's No. 1 pastime heading into the 1980s.
QB Dan Marino
The Dolphins struck gold when they were able to acquire Dan Marino -- who inexplicably fell to the 27th overall pick -- in the 1983 draft. A Pro Bowler during his rookie season, Marino rewrote the NFL record books during his second season. That year, Marino set then NFL records with 5,084 passing yards and 48 touchdowns while helping Miami reach the Super Bowl for the fifth time in franchise history. And even in defeat, Marino still put up record numbers in Miami's loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, completing a then Super Bowl record 29 passes for 318 yards.
While the Dolphins never made it back to the Super Bowl with Marino, they remained one of the NFL's most consistent clubs during the quarterback's 17-year run in Miami. During that span, the Dolphins made the playoffs 10 times and won five division titles while posting a 155-103 record with Marino under center. Marino, whose favorite targets in Miami included Mark Duper, Mark Clayton, Irving Fryar and O.J. McDuffie, won four NFL passing titles while leading the league in passing touchdowns three times.
A nine-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and the 1984 MVP, Marino broke Fran Tarkenton's career passing record in 1995. He is not only considered the greatest player in Dolphins history, Marino is considered one of the greatest passers in NFL history. Marino is also considered one of the greatest athletes in any sport that was unable to win a championship.
RB Larry Csonka
The engine that powered the Dolphins' punishing rushing attack during the early 1970s, Csonka was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro from 1970-74. During that span, Csonka, who led the NFL in yards per carry average in 1971, helped Miami post a 65-15-1 record that included three AFC titles and back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Csonka led one of the greatest backfield trios in NFL history that also included Mercury Morris and Jim Kiick, who combined to rush for 2,638 yards and 23 touchdowns during the Dolphins' perfect 1972 regular season.
Csonka was leaned upon even more during the Dolphins' victories over Washington and Minnesota in Super Bowls VII and VIII. During those games, Csonka ran for a combined 257 yards and two touchdowns on 48 carries. In Super Bowl VIII, with quarterback Bob Griese throwing just seven passes (the Super Bowl record for fewest pass attempts by a quarterback), Csonka set then Super Bowls records with 33 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-7 rout of the Vikings.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Csonka is still the Dolphins' all-time career leading in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.
DE Jason Taylor
One of the greatest pass rushers of his era, Taylor, the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year, was a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro during his 13 seasons with the Dolphins. A third-round pick in the 1997 draft, Taylor is the franchise's all-time leader in sacks (131), forced fumbles (46), recovered fumbles (29) and fumble returns for touchdowns (six). Taylor, who recorded a career-high 18.5 sacks in 2002, filled up the stat sheet in 2006, tallying 13.5 sacks while also leading the league in forced fumbles (nine) and interceptions returned for touchdowns (two).
Taylor's success helped the Dolphins advance to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons with the team. With Taylor and linebacker Zach Thomas leading the way, the '98 Dolphins led the NFL in scoring defense, while the 2000 Dolphins finished third in scoring defense while helping Miami make the playoffs during the first year of the post-Dan Marino era.
Taylor, who is currently seventh all-time on the NFL's career sack list, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
LB Nick Buoniconti
The only member of the Dolphins' "No Name" defense that is currently enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Buoniconti, a perennial All-Pro linebacker for the Boston Patriots in the American Football League before joining the Dolphins in 1969, provided an instant spark for a Dolphins defense that would be one of the NFL's best by 1970.
With Buoniconti leading the way, Miami's "No Name" defense, a group that also included defensive lineman Manny Fernandez and Bill Stanfill and defensive backs Jake Scott and Dick Anderson, finished top five in the NFL in scoring defense each season from 1970-73. They boasted the league's top scoring defense in both 1972 and '73 while allowing just one touchdown in their Super Bowl victories over the Redskins and Vikings. In Super Bowl VII, Buoniconti's interception helped Miami become the first defense not to allow a point in Super Bowl competition.
Buoniconti, who retired with 32 career interceptions, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Hall of Fame guard Larry Little, an All-Pro each season from 1971-75, routinely opened up holes for Csonka, Morris and Kiick during Miami's heyday during the early 1970s. Hall of Fame center Dwight Stephenson was the anchor on a Dolphins offensive line that appeared in two Super Bowls during the early '80s. Stephenson was tabbed as an All-Pro during each of his final four NFL seasons.
Linebacker Zach Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro during his dozen seasons in Miami, is the franchise's all-time leader with 1,735 tackles. Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield was Miami's top receiving threat during the team's Super Bowl runs from 1971-73.