In today’s episode of This Day in Miami History, we talk to Marshall Jon Fisher, the author of Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972, and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season. On the 50th anniversary of the Miami Dolphins’ victory in Super Bowl VII and the completion of the only perfect season in major American professional sports, Fisher provides insights about the team and the city that formed them.

Buy the book from our friends at Books and Books!

Please make sure to subscribe to This Day in Miami History on your preferred podcast player (Apple, Spotify, Google, Stitcher, Amazon). Visit the This Day in Miami History shop for “Elect Ralph Renick for Governor” shirts, bumper stickers, and more! Have a comment? Find @thisdaymiamipod on your favorite social media platform. Like what you’ve heard? Leave a review, and tell a friend!


[00:01 Matthew Bunch]: It’s one of the best known idioms in the English language. Even James Bond said it in the 1965 film Thunderball.

[00:09 Fiona Volpe]: What a blow it must have been. You, having a failure.

[00:14 James Bond]: Well, you can’t win them all.

[00:17 Bunch]: You can’t win them all. The thing that every team tells themselves after a loss, the belief that losing is part of the process of winning. You got to get your losses out of the way. Learn your lessons before you’re able to climb the mountain top. Every team has to lose, right? Well, every team except one.

One team defied the laws of gravity. One team was able to navigate a perfect regular season and a perfect postseason. The 1972 Miami Dolphins.

[00:52 Lee Ofman]: Miami has the Dolphins, the greatest football team. We take the ball from goal to goal like no one’s ever seen.

[01:01 Bunch]: The 1972 Miami Dolphins didn’t just win a Super Bowl. They wrote their names in the history books of the NFL forever. And so we’re going to take a look at that team today through the eyes of a fan and an author, Marshall John Fisher.

His book, Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972 and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season, gives you a look inside the team and a look inside the city to better understand both, ultimately culminating with Super Bowl VII. Today, This Day in Miami history. January 14, 1973, 50 years ago today, when the Miami Dolphins won their first Super Bowl in a way that can never be duplicated.

[Intro Song: Miami Sunrise by King Elizabeth]

[02:06 Bunch]: All right. So, we are here today with author Marshall John Fisher. Mr. Fisher is the author of a number of books, most recently, obviously, the book that will be focusing on today is the book Seventeen and Oh, with a focus on the Miami Dolphins, obviously, of the 1972 season, the champions of the 1973 Super Bowl. Mr. Fisher, how are you doing today?

[02:29 Marshall Jon Fisher]: Good. How are you, Matthew?

[02:30 Bunch]: I’m doing very well, thank you. So obviously, this book is focused on and around the Dolphins and you do rather extensive work, really going week by week, day by day, in the story of the 1972 Dolphins, the perfect Dolphins. But it’s an interesting book because it’s not just that. It’s part, you know, game by game report, part memoir, part like intersectional history of what’s going on in that time. What inspired you to write this specific kind of book?

[03:02 Fisher]: Well, well, first of all, I’d always intended to write a book about this team in this season, having grown up in Miami, I was a nine year old kid during the season and made a big impression on me, as I think I did on everyone who was there at the time. And I finally got around to writing it for the 50th anniversary, and I in some ways took the structural model of a previous book I wrote called The Terrible Splendor, which was about three different tennis players in the 1930s, and it was about a match between the U.S. and Germany right before the war. So in that book, I incorporated a lot of different things. I thought a lot of different stories at the same time, both personal about the players and also about the history of the time and what was going on. And I interwove those all together.

So I kind of want to do the same thing with this book. I wanted to I wanted to write about not just about the football team and the football season, although I did want to write about that in detail. And I wanted to do it in more detail than it had been done before. But I also wanted to weave in the stories of what was going on in 1972, which was a very interesting year, and particularly in Miami.

Miami was kind of a focal point for a lot of what was going on in society and around the country, politically and socially with the Vietnam War and the Watergate investigation getting started. President Nixon was in Miami a lot of the time on Key Biscayne. And, you know, all this stuff was going on, the women’s movement and the civil rights and just a lot of stuff going on. And I wanted to kind of weave that into the story.

[04:35 Bunch]: Yeah. When you when you look at Miami, particularly in that time in 71, 72, 73, it is not yet the metropolis that we kind of are familiar with today.

[04:47 Fisher]: Right.

[04:48 Bunch]: It become really central to a lot of what was going on in that particular time. You mentioned President Nixon in his time on Key Biscayne. Hosting both of the political conventions that year, the Democrats kind of learning the lesson of the GOP in 68 and realizing Miami might be more hospitable than Chicago. It’s just interesting that all these forces kind of combine and in the center of it becomes this football team, which didn’t even exist, you know, nine years before.

So you decide you want to tackle this this project, writing about this team that’s so important to you and so significant to the history of the town and the sport. What’s the process like, because you decide on this unique style? It seems very hard to organize — as someone who’s done a little bit of writing at the level that you have at length that you have — It seems very hard to organize. How do you go about doing that?

[05:36 Fisher]: Well, you outline. You know, just like it’s really you know, it’s the same skills I learned in high school. Really. When you write in a paper, you get your information. The outline in this case is a very long, detailed outline. I know. So before I start actually writing, I know I have a hole. I know what’s going into each chapter with each week and each game.

In this case, you know, it was structured around each game being one week. And I put in, you know, what was going on that week, but also I wanted to tell about a bunch of different players stories. So I had to decide which particular to talk about this guy, you know, which week I’ll talk about Bill Stanfill, which week I’ll fill in, you know, Mercury Morris, or whatever. You know, sometimes it depended on if they had had a great game that week. And other times, you know, it was more complicated.

So, I wanted to make sure I got everybody in and not all at the same time, you know, and just basically make an outline. And then by the time you start writing, you know, where everything’s going to go. Although of course, things change while you’re writing. You can’t be too rigid, but you have to have a good idea before you start.

[06:38 Bunch]: So as you’re working through this book, there are a few themes that I guess I hit on that I kind of wanted to explore a little bit more. Starting at the top with Coach Shula, a word that gets thrown around a lot with him and a concept that gets echoed a lot is “The Winning Edge.” It’s something that players mentioned that Shula had mentioned, that it’s just this kind of this Shula mentality. How do you define — Again, you hit on it throughout the book — but if you had to kind of encapsulated, it’s like a thesis statement for a cult — or maybe it was a cult in 72 for the Dolphins — What is the winning edge?

[07:16 Fisher]: Well, yeah, I think it’s a phrase. I think he came up with that himself and he used it throughout his career. And there’s a title of his autobiography as well. You know, I would say attention to detail. You know, he didn’t let anything get by him, Any little thing he could come up with to work on that would give them an advantage over the other team, all within bounds of fair play, of course. He was extremely ethical about sports. I think about everything. But, you know, he would not do anything — There was one time where someone found a playbook of the opposing team and left it in the field or something, you know, a practice field, and he refused to even look at it that way. I don’t want to see it, you know, because that would violate the sense of fair play.

But Shula worked, he was you know, you call him a workaholic, but he just loved he loved coaching so much and he just did everything you could do to prepare his team and give them that little edge. And the players all talked about it. You know, it might be the way they practiced in the heat in the Miami summer, you know, that would give them an edge over teams coming in. It could be anything. But he tried to leave no stone unturned. There was one big little stone he did leave unturned that led to the most famous play in the Super Bowl with Garo Yepremian. And I can talk about that later. But there was something he overlooked there. But in general, he overlooked nothing. And that was what gave him the winning edge, I think.

[08:44 Bunch]: So when you look at the players who are kind of adopting this mentality, something else that I kind of see throughout the book is a belief that — and I think in some cases it’s true and in some cases it might be a little bit of false humility coming out — But the outcast, the player left aside, the player ignored, players that don’t believe they had the physical gifts, but they adopted the edge. They’re able to manifest it. How much of that do you think among those players — and again, I know it’s kind of a player-by-player basis — but how much of that do you think is legitimate and how much do you think that’s kind of taking on a belief that manifested into reality?

[09:23 Fisher]: Yeah, it’s interesting. It really was something that I encountered over and over again. I mean, first of all, it was true that the team was made up largely of players that had been cut by other teams are just not drafted. You know, they came down as free agents, a number of them. That’s why they were the “No-Name Defense.” You know, players like Doug Swift, who played for Amherst, you know, Division III College. And of course, there’s no way he was going to play in the NFL. But through a connection, he got a tryout in Miami and ended up being their starter for six years. And other players, you know, Manny Fernandez, just one of the greatest players, wasn’t even drafted. And on offense too! They had a number of players like that.

So, I think that was maybe a psychological help to them or they used it as such. But the other thing you alluded to is how a lot of them would say when you talk to them in or in interviews, they’d say, “Oh, I wasn’t good enough. I mean, I just, you know, I got the most out of what I had or I was highly motivated.” But in the end, you know, it’s funny because, I mean, they were incredible athletes. Yeah, some of them were not as big or as fast as that NFL position normally warranted. But it doesn’t mean they weren’t great athletes. You know, you can be you can be smaller and maybe not as fast, but you have other athletic attributes, you know, like Nick Buoniconti, that’s not supposed to be able to play in the NFL because he was too small and too slow, which that could be the team’s motto, you know, too small, too slow.

So many of them said that about themselves or it was said about them. But Buoniconti, he had tremendous athletic mental ability that’s athletic, an athletic quality to his clutch play. And being smart on the field. And, you know, of course, he hit very hard. He was very strong. And he was just very athletically gifted, just not with size and speed compared to other NFL players.

And that was true of other guys like Tim Foley. Howard Twilley on offense, just a whole bunch of them, you know, even Bob Griese said in interviews, I really wasn’t the greatest athlete. And this is a guy who was, you know, he was All-State in three sports in high school. He went to Purdue. He played all three of those sports for Purdue at least the first couple of years. And, you know, he was one of the he’s in the Hall of Fame in the NFL. So that’s a pretty good athlete. But they like to think of themselves that way.

[11:42 Bunch]: I guess I feel like a lot of great athletes have to really convince themselves that no one believes in them, even though they’re actually quite good at the sport.

[11:51 Fisher]: Well, it can definitely give you a mental edge. Yeah. People don’t think you’re great and makes you try harder. Yeah.

[11:58 Bunch]: So this team is put together and they go to the Super Bowl in 71 into the 72 Super Bowl and lose. And it’s kind of the opposite side of the winning edge. That kind of the edge that is created in that loss. I contrast with a team that was familiar to Coach Shula, which is the Colts in Super Bowl III.

Growing up in Baltimore, I’m a little bit more familiar with the Baltimore football history than Miami football history. I’m taking it on now as I’ve been here for long enough. But that team lost in Super Bowl III and then won in Super Bowl V. And a lot of those players and obviously Shula had left for Miami before the Super Bowl victory. A lot of the Colts players after Super Bowl V just couldn’t get over the fact that they had lost Super Bowl III, that even winning Super Bowl V against the Cowboys, it didn’t really offer any relief. They were happy that they had won. But the specter of Super Bowl III constantly hung over them. How do you think this team was able to avoid that and derive? Obviously, going perfect helps, but derived that it was a it was a real motivator, a catalyst and they achieve and then they achieved again, they won back to back. How do you think the team was able to not fall into the trap of despair or depression about the loss and really use it as the fuel to win?

[13:21 Fisher]: It’s interesting, Super Bowl III was such a humiliating loss, I think, for the Colts, because it wasn’t just the Super Bowl loss. It was at that point still the NFL against the AFL in the Super Bowl. So, they weren’t even in the same league. And now most people thought the AFL really was not in the same league as the NFL in the sense of not being as good.

So they, you know, Shula finally won the NFL championship with the Colts that year and with, in fact with Earl Morrall quarterbacking for him and substituting for Unitas, just as he did for Griese in 1972. But Shula had trouble motivating his team in that Super Bowl because they just thought, like everybody else, they were going to kill the Jets. And Shula kind of knew it. I think he had an inkling of it and he tried to get them to work hard in practice and they just couldn’t take it seriously. And, you know, that was a humiliating loss. That, now, wasn’t just for those for those players, but for Shula. You know, it was really rough. And the owner blamed him. [Carol] Rosenbloom blamed Shula for the loss and putting them down publicly in public. And the next year, they didn’t have that great a record.

So, when Miami came offering him a job, he was ready to go because things had kind of gone sour in Baltimore. So, he came to Miami. But, you know, it’s a fresh start. But he still was considered the guy who couldn’t win the “Big One” because he had lost. He’d never gone all the way, either lost the NFL championship or, when he finally won that, then he lost the humiliating Super Bowl. So he comes to Miami and immediately makes them a winner. They go to the playoffs the first year, second year they go to the Super Bowl. Again, another loss to Dallas. And I guess that was also humiliating, but not in the same way. I mean, Dallas was a great team, and they were ready to win because they had lost the previous Super Bowl. So you can’t compare that to Super Bowl III in terms of as bad a loss. But now Shula’s lost two Super Bowls.

You know, he’s really he’s really got a chip on his shoulder. So he was absolutely obsessed with getting back there and winning it the next year in 72. And one of the great things about him as a coach. He was able to communicate this or transmit this to every player on his team, and they talked about that. He’d go up to them one by one after that Super Bowl loss and say, “Look: Remember how you feel right now and make sure you never feel this way again.” And he had every man to buy into this mantra, getting back and avenging that loss. And so that was a really a great accomplishment. It led to an undefeated season.

And that was not the goal. But, you know, that incredible obsession led to this perfect season. And I think there was such a catharsis when he finally won it, even before he won the second one after winning finally winning the Super Bowl with the only perfect team ever. And you know, that summer, that next summer, he said how he just felt so happy and finally gotten to the place where he always wanted to be. So I think for him, that completely obliterated those past losses.

[16:23 Bunch]: Yeah, for sure. You mentioned a name there that I do want to talk about for a second, because again, another guy I’m fascinated by and another Baltimore-Miami connection, is Earl Morrall. Does he have the most unique career in NFL history? Blake, where it’s maybe.

[16:38 Fisher]: Maybe!

[16:39 Bunch]: He’s not this leading character. His most famous contributions, he’s not the guy who’s supposed to be playing, but he’s able to do it and do it well.

[16:48 Fisher]: Yeah, well, you know, Morrall was a great quarterback. He played a total number of years, 19 or 20, I don’t know. But he you know, he started in the fifties, in the late fifties, and he was a terrific quarterback. He led Michigan State, I think, to the [1956] Rose Bowl … He led them to a great victory.

He was a great quarterback, drafted. Late in his career, people thought of him as a career backup, but that was not true. He had started as many games — I think it started more than half the games he had played in his career. But it’s true that in, you know, in 1968 and again in 1972, he was just supposed to be a backup to a great All-Pro quarterback, Johnny Unitas and then Bob Griese. Each of those guys got hurt for the most or a good part of the season. Unitas was practically the whole season. And in Griese, he was hurt in Game 5 in 72. And in both cases, Earl Morrall came in and took the team all the way. They were 15-1 in Baltimore in 68, until they lost to the Jets in the Super Bowl. And the Miami he took them to 11 straight victories.

There’s a huge part of that perfect season. I’m sure I know he had a lot of pride. He did not consider himself a career backup at all. He was a great quarterback. He was the MVP in the league that year. So, it was hard for him to be replaced by Griese in the AFC Championship game. But he was always a team man and he took it well and went right back to being the backup. But yeah,, very interesting guy, very down to earth, homespun kind of guy, and he’s very, very different than Griese in that way. He got along with everybody, kind of joking around a lot and was very relaxed, whereas Griese was this kind of workaholic, professorial in charge, very quiet, but a real leader. So, they were very different. But Earl Morrall was a great guy to have an interesting person and player, and it was the stroke of genius, I guess, from Shula to bring him in right before the 72 season at age 38 when he was about to retire.


[18:50 Bunch]: And especially considering how poor he looked in the preseason, the idea that he would actually come through in the regular season so strongly. I just, I mean, I’m just, he’s such an interesting character to me. So this this bandwagon starts rolling and they start racking up victories. They go through a preseason, ironically with three losses, but the wheels seem to be clicking even in losses. It seems like some pieces seem to be coming together.

And I think another big piece of this, again, that I think you explain really well in your book, a figure who plays a really important role in the history of the league, but maybe doesn’t receive the kind of acknowledgment that’s needed is Bob Matheson and Bill Arnsparger’s kind-of innovation with the 53 defense that kind of becomes the 3-4 defense. Can you tell us a little bit about Bob Matheson, who he is, and how his role in this team kind-of changes the league?

[19:46 Fisher]: Yeah, another guy, you know, who considers himself not a great athlete, but he was incredible because he was drafted by Cleveland and they wanted to use him as a defensive lineman, But size-wise, he was kind-of in-between lineman and linebacker. He was sort of able to play both, but they were using them as a lineman, and he wasn’t really doing that great. And they traded him down to Miami. Then in 72, you know, he wasn’t really supposed to be a starter, but they had a lot of injuries on the defensive line. They wanted to use him at linebacker, but they had all these injuries on the defensive line and Bill Arnsparger came up with this idea of using Bob Matheson as a hybrid player where he could line up on the line but then drop back for pass coverage, or they could rush in the quarterback. And he was really good at both.

And they called it the 53 defense because that was his number. And yes, it was a precursor to the 3-4 defense. And so, the even to this this this whole system of, you know, having a guy who might, you don’t know if he’s going to rush or fade back into coverage. So, Arnsparger definitely gets credit for starting that whole thing. And it was tremendously effective in 72 because no one had done it before and offenses were befuddled. You know, the quarterbacks didn’t know what this guy was going to do. He would line up on either side, and sometimes he lines up as a linebacker then come rushing in. He could do anything. So, it really worked tremendously well.

[21:16 Bunch]: I just I think it’s funny because basically the three big money positions in the NFL right now are quarterback, left tackle, and that kind of tweener/hybrid pass rusher guy that can drop back. Poor Bob Matheson was just a half century before his time, he’d be making the big, big bucks today. Just seeing that talent and shaping a whole defense out of it. It’s the remarkable innovation of this perfect team.

So, they get into the season again, they start picking up wins, Bob Griese gets injured, Earl Morrall steps in, doesn’t seem like much is lost. To you, is there a game in the regular season that you kind of see as a hinge point for this team? Like, oh, this is really going to happen for them? I kind of look at, the one that comes to my mind having read the book, is that one they survived against Buffalo in that blunder bowl game? Does that jump out you or is maybe there another game that jumps out to you?

[22:18 Fisher]: Not really that one. I mean, because that was probably their worst game. You know, just everything bad happened, to penalties and the fumbles and they hung on. It’s not as close as it looked, it was a one-point game, but they were up by eight at the near the end of the game and you can’t get a two-point conversion back then. So, they were never really in danger in the fourth quarter of losing, I think.

The craziest thing about that game, that you mention it, and I don’t know was even worth mentioning, but that they got within one Buffalo, they had no timeouts left, and with a minute left they kicked deep. I read everything I could read from the time, you know, did anyone wonder what the heck he was doing? There’s no mention of that anywhere. It’s very strange.

But anyway, back to your question. To the team, I don’t think there was such a game because the team, from the very beginning, they felt they were going to and working to get to the Super Bowl and that was their goal. And so, you know, they knew they always felt they were going to go to the Super Bowl. Now, as for undefeated, that’s different. I don’t think anyone was thinking about that too late in the season. But of course, the Minnesota game could have, you know, could have precluded a perfect season in Game 3 because that was the closest game, they were down in the fourth quarter, maybe two scores in the fourth quarter against a great, great defense. They barely won it at the end of the game. That was a great game.

Both Jets games were close, were tough. The Jets were a very tough team that year. But as far as undefeated, I don’t think anyone really expected it. And so very late in the season, some of the players were talking about it after about ten games or even eight or nine games. They wouldn’t talk about it in front of Shula, because you didn’t want to hear a word about undefeated. But some of the guys, [Jim] Langer and [Bob] Kuechenberg, were talking about it. You know, “We’re 10-0, we can’t win every game. No one can go undefeated in the NFL, so which game we’re going to lose? And they’d look at the schedule each week. They say, “Well, we’re not going to lose this week.” You know? They kept saying “We’re we’re not gonna lose this week.” And every week it was the same thing. We’re not going to lose this week. So, I think their players were thinking about it late in the year. Shula refused to talk about it, but it just happened one game at a time.

[24:34 Bunch]: Yeah, especially because, obviously a coach is always “next game, one game at a time,” and all that. But especially because there had been two perfect seasons that were lost in the championship game, I think there especially had to be a, you know, a bit of a fear of mentioning it and inviting…

[24:54 Fisher]: A jinx.

[24:58 Bunch]: So, they get into the playoffs, they have two pretty tough games to get to the Super Bowl. The divisional round against the Browns is a tough game. They have a strong fourth quarter, ten points in the fourth quarter, to win 20-14. And then in a weird scheduling fluke at the time, which again if you’re a modern NFL fan, I actually learned this through this book. The hosting of the conference championship games was rotational. And so the Dolphins actually had to go to Pittsburgh to play the AFC Championship game. And that seemed like not fun, playing in Pittsburgh in the 1970s. Not fun.

[25:37 Fisher]: Absolutely. Yeah, they took turns. If Franco Harris had not caught that Immaculate Reception the week before, Oakland would have won and Oakland would have had to come to Miami for the AFC Championship just because of the way they took turns with the divisions. But because Pittsburgh won on a miraculous play, all of a sudden, Miami has to fly up to Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve.

And, you know, that was the toughest place, one of the toughest places to play. It’s rabid fans. Huge, huge following there. Luckily, it was not 20 degrees. You know, it could have been brutally cold and it was unusually warm. I think it was even in the 50s or at least in the 40s. So, the weather wasn’t bad, so that was good. But they did have, you know, it’s a tough crowd to play and it was a tough game. And you’re right, both playoff games were fairly close.

They did not play too well against Cleveland in the first one, I think they were a little nervous actually being undefeated. And now all of a sudden you can’t lose a game. And they were a little, little nervous. But they came through in the end in that one. And, of course, in the end, up in Pittsburgh, Shula brought in Griese at halftime and gave them a big spark. He threw a long pass play to [Paul] Warfield right away and brought them back. Both good, close games, but the Dolphins, it seemed even while watching them again it seemed like they were in control even though they were close games.

[27:03 Bunch]: That seems to be really like a running thread through the season that there were few blowouts. Certainly, I think in the Patriots game I think was 52-0 or something like that. But they weren’t afraid to  … Their offense was just …  It was like that medieval torture where the stone was just pressing on you and pressing on you. It’s never just like that. “We’re just going to keep on going to get these 15 play, 82-yard drives and we’re just going to keep the ball off the field and the defense is going to have to play for 2 minutes and then they’re going to swamp you in those 2 minutes.

[27:39 Fisher]: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

[27:40 Bunch]: The same recipe over and over again. And so it didn’t produce a ton of these big blowouts, but it was just teams, even though they look close, they really never had quite much of a chance.

[27:50 Fisher]: But yeah, no, it’s true. Although, you know, the next year they had the same team and then the same strategies, but the next year they really were even better, even though they lost one very close game to Oakland early on and then one which they didn’t, in which they rested a lot of their starters at the end of the season.

So, they lost those two games. But in that season, the games were not as close. They really dominated that season, especially in the playoffs and Super Bowl. The second time they just destroyed Cincinnati, Oakland and then Minnesota in the three playoff games. So, I think they were even better that year and they hardly passed at all. They passed even less, you know, in that Super Bowl. I think Greise try six passes the whole game, you know.

Yeah, but you’re right. In 72 the perfect season, some of the games look close on the scoreboard but, you know, like in that Pittsburgh AFC Championship game, there were two seven-and-a-half minute drives in that second half, that’s like a whole quarter of play that the offense was just driving down the field and finally scoring. So yeah, it was well, you described it well as a medieval torture machine.

[29:00 Bunch]: So, we arrive in the Super Bowl, we get to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, this kind of palace of American sport, as you mentioned in the book. And the team is ready, Coach Shula seems to have a really good way of getting guys in the mindset that the switch gets flipped and they’re ready to go and hit the field.

And they play the the Washington Redskins, coached by George Allen, a coach that had really taken the Redskins out of the dumps and into a really strong position.

And everything seems to go right except for one thing. And you alluded to it earlier and that is Garo Yepremian, who is remembered for this one play, which is a shame because his story is so fascinating. And among his contemporaries, he was a very good kicker. Tell us a little bit about that play and the reaction to it, I guess.

[29:56 Fisher]: Yeah. I mean, Garo Yepremian was was a great kicker. He was the best kicker in the league at that time. And later, in his last year in Miami, he was setting the record for the most consecutive field goals when he got traded and he got the record, you know, with New Orleans. But a great kicker, very interesting guy. The little, very little guy from Armenia. Was an Armenian from Cyprus. And came to this country and really didn’t know anything about football.

But he was another guy who got to try out with Miami when he was out of work, you know, no one wanted him. And he became this great kicker. Now he’s known for this play at the end of the Super Bowl. He’s lining up to kick a 42 yarder, which he normally would make, and that would have made the score 17-0 for the 17-0 season. And in fact, the owner, Joe Robbie, was on the sidelines saying just that. He was walking around saying “It’s going to be 17-0 in 17-0,” and, you know, he lines up to kick it and it gets blocked. And instead of falling on the ball, he tries to throw and the ball goes straight up in the air. When it comes down, he makes it even worse by batting it up like a volleyball. And finally, Mike Bass of the Redskins grabs it and goes the other way for a touchdown and suddenly it’s 14-7 with 2 minutes left and it’s a tense couple minutes there at the end, instead of an easy victory.

But the thing that I alluded to earlier is that Shula was the guy who never missed a thing. You know, he left no stone unturned. Well, two months before this game, they were playing a Monday night game against St. Louis in the Orange Bowl. And the exact same thing happened. This was during an easy win, but he had a field goal blocked. He tried to throw it. The ball went straight in the air. And that time, everybody just jumped on the ball. There was a big pile up and, you know, it wasn’t so bad. The other team got the ball but it wasn’t such a terrible event.

But I am just amazed at Shula, after that, didn’t have Garo practicing every day, practice just falling on the ball. You’d think that’s what Shula would do. Fifteen minutes every practice, have him kick a ball, have it, you know, come back to him and just fall on it. But apparently, he didn’t, because the exact same thing happened two months later and it almost cost them the Super Bowl.

[32:12 Bunch]: It’s funny. Yeah. And especially because Shula was such a Special Teams-obsessed head coach. More than the average bear, he really did care about the third phase of the game and just…

[32:22 Fisher]: He let that one go by.

[32:24 Bunch]: Yes. But it was … Tis only a flesh wound for the Dolphins. They were able to seal the victory and they are the perfect team. I’ll let you go. You’ve been so generous with your time. That victory is won. What does it mean for the team and the city then? And what do you think it means for the team and the city now in 2023?

[32:49 Fisher]: Well, it was a huge obviously a huge thing back then. I mean, the the city of Miami back then, first of all, was not known, had always been known as, or thought of, as a place that couldn’t support a major team. You know, the Dolphins had only been there for it was their seventh season, I think, and they were still the only major sports team in the whole state of Florida.

Larry King, who I got the interview before he passed away, he did color commentary for the Dolphins among other things. He started his radio career in Miami, and he loved that team so much. And he said that that team really brought the city together. You know, Miami, it was not a big metropolis, as you alluded to. Most people were from elsewhere coming down from the north, they weren’t that many Miami natives there. And people just, all different kinds of people, still thought of it as a vacation place mainly.

But the team really put them on the map and brought people together and everyone came together and supported the Dolphins. And I think having such a magical season really had a big impact on the city and on everyone living there as it did and me and, you know, and small kids growing up at the time, it was just such a huge thing. So much so that, you know, for 50 years I was thinking about writing a book about this, but finally did.

But as far as today, yeah, I mean, you know, the Dolphins, of course, they had a great years with Marino, but never won the Super Bowl. And then in the 21st century, it’s been pretty bleak. This year, I think they have a very exciting team. It’s been sad that they’ve had so many injuries, you know, and especially Tua with his head injuries, is very sad to see. And I hope he’ll be okay. I don’t know he’s going to play again or not. But, you know, it seemed like a really exciting season this year for the first time in a long time.

But I think that perfect team always hangs over them as something I think that Dolphins fans certainly are proud about. And the city still remembers them. They had them all there for the halftime presentation at the Pittsburgh game earlier this year and you know, they’re there. It’s fun for them, too, for these old players, you know, that they still have this unique achievement no one else has ever done. I think it’s a lot of fun for them and for the city that kept going for so long.

[35:14 Bunch]: Sure. Absolutely. So, Marshall Jon Fisher, thank you so much for your time today to talk about this fascinating team, this fascinating chapter in Miami history. The book Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972 and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season. Do go and check it out at your local bookseller or we’ll be sharing a link online where people can get it as well. It’s a fascinating read. Mr. Fisher, thank you again so much.

[35:40 Fisher]: Thanks Matthew. I enjoyed it.

[35:42 Bunch]: The author: Marshall John Fisher. The book: Seventeen and Oh: Miami, 1972 and the NFL’s Only Perfect Season. Again, we always encourage you to buy a book from your local bookseller, like Books and Books down here in South Florida. If you can’t find it there, do be sure to check it out at a seller like Barnes and Noble or Amazon, and I’ll be sure to include links to those sellers in the description of the show.

If you like what you hear, always remember that it’s wonderful if you can leave a review of the show on your preferred podcast provider like Apple Podcast or Spotify. If you can’t, that’s okay, but it is appreciated. Do make sure you follow or subscribe to this show on your preferred podcast provider. So you know when the next episode drops. And follow us on your preferred social media platform, whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or even on Mastodon and Post now. There’s always a few goodies in between episodes each month where you can find out more information about Miami.

So, thanks again for listening. If you have suggestions for episode ideas or if you just want to give some feedback, be sure to reach out to us on social media or And until next time, I’ve been Matthew Bunch.

[Outro Song: Miami Sunrise by King Elizabeth]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.