The Best Miami Dolphins Not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Offense)
When the Miami Dolphins joined the American Football League in 1966, their fans were surely not prepared for this expansion team to become a powerhouse in just five seasons.
Yet, that is exactly what happened.
George Wilson was the first head coach in Dolphins history. He had won four championships as a player and coached the Detroit Lions to their last NFL title to date.
Though his teams went 15-39 in his four years, Wilson's drafts with player personnel director Joe Thomas were crucial in building the Dolphins dynasty.
Hall of Famers Bob Griese and Larry Csonka, along with Dolphins legends like Dick Anderson, Jim Kiick, Mercury Morris, Bill Stanfill, Bob Heinz, Doug Crusan, Lloyd Mumphord, Howard Twilley and Larry Seiple, were all selected during Wilson's tenure.
Miami also made trades to acquire Hall of Famer Larry Little and Nick Buoniconti during this time, while picking up key free agents like Manny Fernandez and Norm Evans.
But owner Joe Robbie decided to hire Don Shula as his head coach and general manager, even though the future Hall of Famer was still under contract with the Baltimore Colts as their head coach. The move was considered tampering, so Miami was forced to give the Colts a first round draft pick in 1971 that turned out to be running back Don McCauley.
While the Colts won Super Bowl V in 1970, Miami had their own successes. They began a run of six straight seasons with 10 or more wins and played in their first playoff game that year.
The Dolphins amazing run had just begun.
They went to the Super Bowl three straight years, starting in 1971, winning in their last two attempts. The 1972 squad went the entire season without a loss, becoming the first perfect team in modern football history. No other team has duplicated this feat since.
Shula directed Miami back to the Super Bowl in 1982 and 1984, but they lost both times. He stayed with the team until 1995, winning 274 of his NFL record 347 victories with the Dolphins. He had just two losing seasons in his 32 years as a head coach.
Since he has left, the Dolphins have had seven head coaches and three playoff wins. There is a new ownership since Stephen Ross bought the team in 2008, and there are hopes the team can relive their Super Bowl days again soon.
Nine members of the Dolphins are currently enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Remember: This is a team of legends who are not, and maybe never will be, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Quarterback: Earl Morrall
Morrall was a first round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1956 draft. He was mostly used as a punter in his rookie year, but he did start four games when the starter, Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle, was injured. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers after that year, and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1957.
After starting the first two games of the 1958 season for Pittsburgh, Morrall was traded to the Detroit Lions for Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. There, he backed up Tobin Rote, Jim Ninowski and Milt Plum until 1964.
He was traded to the New York Giants before the 1965 season. He started the entire year, and threw the longest pass of that season for 89 yards. Morrall started seven games the next year and threw a pass that is still a franchise long of 98 yards to Homer Jones, the man who invented the spiking of the football after a score. He then was dealt to the Baltimore Colts in 1968, where his career would be reborn.
Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas was injured in the last preseason game and was out for the year, so Morrall became the starter. He led the Colts to a 13-1 record and tossed a career high 26 touchdown passes, with a career best 2,909 yards.
He led the NFL in touchdown passes, touchdown percentage and yards gained-per-pass attempt. He was also selected first team All-Pro and to his last Pro Bowl, while being named the 1968 NFL MVP. The Colts would go on to lose in Super Bowl III.
With Unitas healthy again, Morrall started three games over the next two seasons. In 1970, the Colts would win Super Bowl V when he was called upon again after Unitas was injured early in the game. Morrall helped the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13.
Morrall started the first nine games of the 1971 season, leading the Colts to a 7-2 record. He was then injured and replaced by Unitas as the Colts would go on to lose to the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game.
The Colts then cut Morrall, but he was claimed by the Dolphins because their coach, Hall of Famer Don Shula, had coached him on the Colts' 1968 Super Bowl team and was familiar with the quarterback.
The move paid off early into the 1972 season, when Hall of Famer Bob Griese was injured during the fifth game. Morrall started the next 10 games and helped lead the eventual Super Bowl champion Dolphins to the only perfect season in modern NFL history.
He took them to the AFC Championship Game, but was replaced by Griese. Morrall was named the AFC Player of the Year, was first team All-Pro and won the first Comeback Player of the Year Award.
He started one game the next year, as the Dolphins repeated as Super Bowl champions. Over the next three seasons, he started two games and won both. Morrall retired after the 1976 season at the age of 42 years old.
Though he started only 102 of the 255 games he played over 21 years, Morrall won 60 and tied three, while being on four Super Bowl teams. He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.
Don Strock, Jay Fiedler and David Woodley deserve mention
Fullback: Norm Bulaich
Bulaich was drafted in the first round of the 1970 draft by the Baltimore Colts. He led the Colts in rushing as a rookie, helping lead them to a Super Bowl V victory.
He ran for 116 yards in the first playoff win against the Cincinnati Bengals, then his two rushing touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders provided the margin for victory. His second season was his best. He ran for a career high 741 yards and eight touchdowns.
Bulaich set a Colts record that year by running for 198 yards in one game, a team record that stood until 2000, and he was named to his lone Pro Bowl appearance.
He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles before the 1973 season and lasted there two seasons. Bulaich joined the Dolphins in 1975, backing up Don Nottingham.
While Nottingham was the primary short-yardage specialist, Bulaich was second on the team with 32 receptions and still scored five times on the ground himself. He started six games the next year and was second on the team in rushing and receiving.
The 1977 season saw him place third in rushing and receiving for Miami, while splitting starts with Leroy Harris. After a decrease in touches over the next two seasons, he retired.
When you talk of the great fullbacks in Miami Dolphins history, it all starts with Hall of Famer Larry Csonka. Besides Csonka, only three Dolphins fullbacks have more rushing yards and scores than Bulaich. Just two have more receptions.
There have been many Dolphin fullbacks behind Csonka that brought different skill sets to the team. Even though he didn't always start, Norm Bulaich might have had the best of all of them.
Andra Franklin, Woody Bennett, Don Nottingham, Keith Byars and Rob Konrad deserve mention.
Halfback: Mercury Morris
Morris was a third round draft choice by Miami in 1969. He spent his first three years as a Pro Bowl kick returner, carrying the ball just 140 times.
The Dolphins had a Pro Bowl duo of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick in their backfield, so Morris' special teams play was his main contribution, though he did average 6.8 yards on 60 carries in 1970.
Things changed in the Dolphins' perfect 1972 season. Morris began to share carries with Kiick, getting 190 carries.
He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, finishing with 1,000 yards. Morris also led the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns and caught a career best 15 balls, as he was named to the Pro Bowl.
The 1973 season was his last as a Pro Bowler, as Miami won their second straight championship. He led the NFL with an excellent 6.4 yards on 149 carries. Morris also ran for 10 scores, despite playing with a neck injury. His 6.4 yards per carry is a team record and ranks 17th best in NFL history.
Morris hurt his knee in an exhibition game in 1974, limiting him to just five games and 56 carries that year. With Csonka and Kiick now gone, he became the workhorse in 1975.
Morris had a career best 219 carries while gaining 875 yards. Miami then traded him to the San Diego Chargers. Despite averaging over five yards per carry, Morris retired after one season due to the lingering effects of his neck and knee injuries.
He still ranks fourth in rushing yards in a career for the Dolphins, and his 29 rushing touchdowns are fifth best in franchise history. Morris averaged 5.1 yards per carry with Miami, easily the best in team history by anyone with more than 42 attempts.
He ranks sixth in Dolphins history with 754 rushing attempts. Though he had to share carries with a Hall of Fame fullback and Pro Bowl halfback, Morris earned his Pro Bowls with sheer determination.
Blessed with blazing speed, he went from being one of the best kick returners in the league to becoming one of the best halfbacks. He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team, and might be the best halfback the Dolphins ever had.
Jim Kiick, Tony Nathan, Ricky Williams, Mark Higgs, Delvin Williams and Karim Abdul-Jabbar deserve mention.
Wide Receiver: Mark Clayton
Clayton was drafted in the eighth round of the 1983 draft by Miami. He was buried on the depth chart behind Dolphins greats Nat Moore and Duriel Harris, so Clayton returned a career high 41 punts and scored once.
Miami had also drafted quarterback Dan Marino, a future Hall of Famer, in 1983. Marino and Clayton soon developed a close rapport that translated onto the football field.
He exploded in 1984, helping the Dolphins reach Super Bowl XIX before losing. Clayton made his first Pro Bowl by leading the NFL with 18 touchdown catches.
Not only is it a team record, it was an NFL record at the time, and still ranks as the third most ever.
He also led the Dolphins with 73 receptions for 1,389 yards at an impressive 19 yards per catch. He made the Pro Bowl in each of the next two years, teaming with Marino and bookend Mark Duper as one of the most exciting passing attacks of their era.
Clayton led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions on a career best 86 catches in 1988, then began to experience health issues. After missing seven games over two years, Clayton rebounded with his last Pro Bowl season in 1991. He had 12 touchdown catches on 70 receptions.
After missing three games because of injury in 1992, he was released. The Green Bay Packers signed Clayton, where he started. He caught 32 balls as Sterling Sharpe was busy setting a then-NFL record with 112 receptions that year. Clayton retired at the end of the season.
No Dolphins player has more receptions and touchdown catches than him. Clayton also ranks second in receiving yardage. His 86 receptions in 1988 was a team record for 10 years. His 84 career touchdown catches still ranks 15th best in NFL history, and he ranks 47th best in receiving yards.
Though diminutive, Clayton was an underdog who came from nowhere to become of of the finest wide receivers in Dolphins' history. He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, and his five Pro Bowls are tied with Hall of Famer Paul Warfield as the most ever by a Dolphins receiver.
Wide Receiver: Mark Duper
Duper was a second round draft choice of the Dolphins in 1982. Though the season was limited to nine games because of a players strike, Miami reached Super Bowl XVII before losing. Yet, Duper played in just two games that season, not recording any statistics.
Business began to pick up for Duper in 1983 when the Dolphins used their first round draft pick on future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.
Though he started just 11 games, Duper averaged a career-best 19.7 yards on 51 receptions and scored 10 times in earning his first Pro Bowl honor.
He went back to the Pro Bowl in 1984 as the Dolphins reached Super Bowl XIX before losing. Duper was teaming with fellow wide receiver Mark Clayton as a deadly duo of 5'9" receivers nicknamed the "Marks Brothers."
Duper reached his last Pro Bowl in 1986 after catching a career-best 11 touchdowns. One went for a career-long 85 yards, which led the league. He caught eight touchdowns in 11 games during the strike-shortened 1987 season. Injuries nagged him in 1988, but he came back to get 1,085 receiving yards on 70 receptions in 1991.
After 44 receptions and seven touchdowns in 1993, he retired. Clayton was also released that year, effectively ending the "Marks Brothers" in Miami. Duper did reappear in 1994 to play two games with the Miami Hooters of the Arena Football League before retiring permanently.
Nat Moore was almost given this spot, and deservedly so, but we decided to let the "Marks Brothers" ride again. Duper's three Pro Bowls are the second most ever by a Dolphins wide receiver. He has the most receiving yards in Dolphins history, and he ranks second in total receptions.
Duper also has the third most touchdown catches in team history, and his 85-yard catch is the second longest by a Dolphin. He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, and one of the best receivers in Miami Dolphins history.
Nat Moore, Chris Chambers, Irving Fryar, O.J. McDuffie, Howard Twilley, Duriel Harris, Orande Gadsen, Tony Martin, Jim Jensen, Karl Noonan and Jack Clancy deserve mention.
Tight End: Bruce Hardy
Miami snagged Hardy in the ninth round of the 1978 draft. After rarely being used as a rookie, he started the next two seasons. The following four years saw Hardy splitting starts with other players.
He was named the starter in 1985 and caught 121 passes over the next three years. The 1986 season saw Hardy catch a career high 54 passes and five scores.
Injuries besieged him in 1988 and 1989, limiting him to just three total games and forcing retirement. He still ranks ninth all-time on the Dolphins reception list and leads all tight ends. He also tops the list in receiving touchdowns amongst all Miami tight ends.
When you think of all the offensive excellence the Dolphins have given the NFL, the tight end position is the one area that has yet to be truly great. The team has sent just two tight ends to the Pro Bowl a total of three times, yet neither player lasted long with the club.
Bruce Hardy could be the best the Dolphins have had so far.
Ferrell Edmunds, Keith Jackson and Jim Mandich deserve mention.
Offensive Tackle: Richmond Webb
Webb was the Dolphins' first round draft selection in 1990. He was put in the starting lineup at left tackle immediately and went to seven consecutive Pro Bowls. He was quickly considered one of the best as his position, and Webb was twice named first team All-Pro.
Though he was solid in 1997, it was the first time in his career he failed to go to the Pro Bowl. That was followed by an injury the next year that took away significantly from his game, forcing him to miss seven games. Though he returned the next season, he wasn't the same player.
Miami let Webb go to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001. After one full season, he played in just four games in 2001. Cincinnati released him, so Webb tried out for the Dolphins but failed to make the team. He then retired.
He ranks first amongst all Dolphin linemen in consecutive starts with 118. The seven consecutive Pro Bowls he appeared in is also a team record. Webb also ranks second amongst Dolphin blockers in total starts.
His career started off destined for Canton, but his career seemed to hit the wall when he turned 30 years old. Yet, there still is a chance he gets inducted one day because he was an upper echelon player for seven years and he is a member of the 1990's NFL All-Decade Team.
Not only is Webb a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, he might be the best offensive tackle in team history.
Offensive Tackle: Norm Evans
Evans was drafted in the 14th round of the 1965 AFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. He soon found himself in the starting lineup protecting Hall of Fame quarterback George Blanda.
He also scored a touchdown off of a blocked kick. Yet, that still did not prevent the Oilers from exposing him to the expansion Dolphins before the start of the 1966 season.
Evans was plugged into the starting lineup right away and would stay there his entire career. The Dolphins would improve yearly and Evans was a big reason why. Starting in 1971, Miami reached three Super Bowl games and won the last two.
Part of the reason for their success was an offense that could run over teams with three Pro Bowl running backs while stretching the field with a Hall of Fame quarterback tossing it to a Hall of Fame wide receiver.
The Miami offensive line had two Hall of Famers, yet Evans also was sent to the Pro Bowl twice himself. He stayed a stalwart in the trenches until 1975, when the Dolphins exposed the 34-year-old to the expansion draft.
The fledgling Seattle Seahawks grabbed him and Evans would start there over the next two seasons. After spending the 1977 season as a reserve for the first time in his career, he retired. He is an inductee in the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.
He never missed a game in his entire 10 seasons with Miami. Evans ranks third amongst all Dolphin linemen in consecutive starts with 91, as do his 135 total starts. There have been few Dolphins players as durable and dependable as Norm Evans.
Wayne Moore and Doug Crusan deserve mention.
Guard: Bob Kuechenberg
Kuechenberg was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round of the 1969 draft.
He quit the Eagles during training camp and the played for the Chicago Owls of the Continental Football League, the first professional football team to play on Soldier Field since the Chicago Cardinals occupied it for one season in 1959. He signed with the Dolphins in 1970, and eventually started five games that year.
He was named the full-time starter at left guard the next year, remaining there for most of the rest of his career. Kuechenberg immediately earned the respect of his peers. Miami went to the Super Bowl in his first season, where they would lose to the Dallas Cowboys.
Hall of Fame defensive tackle Bob Lilly, a star with Dallas, noted that Kuechenberg was one of the best offensive linemen he had ever seen. After the loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI, the Dolphins went undefeated in 1972 with the top-ranked offense and defense in the NFL.
After winning Super Bowl VII, Miami repeated as champions the very next season. The offensive line led the way for Miami, with every starter of the 1973 team having made the Pro Bowl in their careers.
He made his first Pro Bowl in 1974, something he would duplicate in three of the next four years. The 1978 season was one of his best, making first team All-Pro after having to play several games at left tackle because of injuries.
Kuechenberg played left tackle the entire 1979 season, then moved back to guard for the rest of his career the following season. He made his final two Pro Bowls in 1982 and 1983, then retired. His six Pro Bowls are the most ever by a Dolphins guard.
He ranks first among all Dolphin blockers in total starts and games played. Only Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino has played more games with the team than Kuechenberg. His 15 seasons is ranked second behind Marino's 17 years.
He is a member of the Dolphins Honor Roll as both an individual and member of the 1972 team and has been a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame six times so far. It seems likely that one of the best offensive linemen in Dolphins history will eventually find himself inducted into Canton.
Guard: Ed Newman
Newman was a sixth round draft pick of the Dolphins in 1973. He did start one game as a rookie, helping Miami win Super Bowl VIII.
The next five seasons were mostly spent as a reserve behind Hall of Famer Larry Little and Pro Bowler Bob Kuechenberg. He replaced Little in 1979 and soon became an integral part of the Dolphins attack.
He made the first of four consecutive Pro Bowls in 1981, establishing himself an elite NFL right guard. Newman was named first team All-Pro in 1984, yet retired after their Super Bowl XIX defeat.
He has since become a judge in Miami. He ranks second in games played for all Miami offensive linemen. His 12 years are tied with Hall of Famer Larry Little as the most by a Dolphins lineman.
The four Pro Bowls he appeared in are the third most ever by a Dolphins guard, one less than Little and two fewer than Kuechenberg.
Roy Foster and Keith Sims deserve mention.
Center: Tim Ruddy
Ruddy was the Dolphins' second round draft pick in 1994. After sitting on the bench as a rookie, he was named a starter from his second year on.
Called "Big Master" by his teammates, Ruddy led an offensive line that protected Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino.
He was durable and gifted. Besides his rookie year, Ruddy started in every game he played and missed just four games with the Dolphins. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2000. The 2003 season was his last due to knee problems.
Center has been a strength in Miami, starting with Pro Bowlers like Tom Goode and Bob DeMarco. Hall of Famers Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson followed.
Ruddy was once named one of the 40 greatest Dolphins of all-time, cementing his legacy with the franchise.
Jeff Dellenbach, Bob DeMarco and Tom Goode deserve mention.
Kicker: Garo Yepremian
The journey of Yepremian to NFL stardom is a better story than any Hollywood writer could concoct. He had emigrated to the United States from the island of Cyprus in the 1960's looking for work.
He inadvertently watched a few minutes of an NFL game on television and decided he could make money kicking a ball.
After tryouts with several teams, he made the Detroit Lions roster in 1966. He knew so little about the game that he decided not to wear a facemask at first.
When Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke hurt him in the fourth game of the season, Yepremian decided to wear one.
A famous story of his football innocence was in a story Lions Pro Bowl defensive tackle Alex Karras liked to tell. Detroit scored a touchdown late in a game that they were losing heavily. Yepremian celebrated after converting an extra point, prompting Karras to ask Yepremian what he was happy about.
"I keek a touchdown!" was Yepremian's reply.
He set an NFL record as a rookie by kicking six field goals on eight attempts in a single game. Jim Bakken, of the St. Louis Cardinals, broke that record the next season by making seven of nine attempts.
Yepremian still holds the rookie record. He also set an NFL record by making four field goals in one quarter. This has been tied since, but he owns the record for a rookie.
Though he made six field goals that day, Yepremian made just seven of 14 attempts in the other eight games he appeared in. Detroit had him suit up for eight games the next year, where he attempted just six field goals and made two.
They preferred having Pro Bowl linebacker Wayne Walker kicking field goals. He joined the Army for a short stint in 1968, then kicked for the Michigan Arrows of the Continental Football League.
The team folded after the season, so Yepremian was out of the game in 1969. The Miami Dolphins gave him a tryout in 1970, and Yepremian made the team.
He had worked hard on his game during his year off, and this was shown by his leading the NFL in field goal percentage that year. He was named first team All-Pro in 1971 after making 28 field goals on a career-best 40 attempts and leading the league with a career-best 117 points.
His highlight that year was kicking a game-winning field goal during double-overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs in the longest game ever played in NFL history.
Yepremian led the NFL in extra point attempts the next year, as well as making the first three field goals of his career of 50 yards or longer. He would only make two kicks of 50 yards or longer the rest of his career.
The highlight for Yepremian was not just the fact that the Dolphins had a perfect season, but his famous moment in Super Bowl VII will have him forever a part of the game's historical lore.
The Dolphins were winning 14-0 when they decided to have Yepremian try a field goal against the Washington Redskins. The kick was blocked right back into Yepremian's hands, where he inexplicably tried to pass the ball.
The ball started to slip from his hands, causing Yepremian to bat it straight in the air. Washington's Mike Bass caught it and ran for a score. Though it was a play considered a comedy of errors, Miami prevailed with a 14-7 victory.
Yepremian made his first Pro Bowl, as well as earning his second first team All-Pro honor in 1973, as the Dolphins repeated as champions. He was now a celebrity in Miami, rubbing elbows with their most famous residents.
In the 1973 Pro Bowl, he became the second kicker to ever win the MVP Award after making a Pro Bowl record five field goals. Though Jan Stenerud won it two years earlier, he shared the award with teammate, and fellow Hall of Famer, Willie Lanier. Yepremian is the first kicker to win the award by himself.
Staying with the Dolphins until 1978, he made his last Pro Bowl that year after making 20 consecutive field goals and leading the NFL in field goal percentage.
Miami still allowed him to join the New Orleans Saints in 1979, where he played one season. Yepremian joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1980, then retired after playing in three games the following season.
Of the 1,074 career points Yepremian had, 830 came with the Dolphins and is the second most in team history. His 117 points in a season was a team record until 1991.
No other Dolphin has attempted nor made as many extra points as Yepremian. He has the second most field goal attempts and third most made field goals in team history.
He is an inductee of the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team and the first Dolphins kicker to ever go to the Pro Bowl or be named first team All-Pro.
Yepremian is a member of the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team. He was named Kicker of the Decade for the 1970's, beating out Hall of Famer Stenerud. He was also named one of the Dolphins "Greatest Players" on their 40th Anniversary celebration.
Miami has employed several excellent kickers in their franchise history, yet there have been none better than Garo Yepremian.
Pete Stoyanovich, Uwe von Schamann and Olindo Mare deserve mention.
Kick Returner: Mercury Morris
Morris was the Dolphins primary kick returner during his 1969 rookie year. He led the AFL with 43 returns for 1,136 yards and a 105-yard touchdown return that is still the sixth longest in pro football history. He also returned 25 punts.
Averaging an impressive 29 yards on 28 returns the next season, Morris also started to become a bigger part of the Miami offense. He made his first Pro Bowl in 1971 after averaging 28.2 yards on 15 returns.
He began to share kick return duties the next two years as his responsibilities on offense increased. The 1973 Super Bowl-winning season was his last as a return specialist. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns in his career, a Dolphins record.
The 26.5 yards per kick return average is the 16th best in NFL history and is the best in Dolphins history by anyone with 13 or more returns. His 29 yards per return average is a team record for anyone with 18 or more attempts. He still ranks third in team history in career yards on returns.
While other players have had more attempts and yards as a kick returner for the Dolphins, Morris was the most explosive and effective in franchise history. He is on the Dolphins Honor Roll as a member of the 1972 team.
Wes Welker, Fulton Walker, Brock Marion and Tedd Ginn Jr. deserve mention.