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What I Learned – Top 10 Miami Dolphins Players of All Time

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Statue of former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino before Super Bowl LIV between the Chiefs and the 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium.© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsWho Are the 10 Greatest Dolphins of All Time?The Dolphins were founded in 1966, making them the oldest professional sports team in Florida, and no team has ever risen to success the way they did. Within six years of their founding, the Dolphins went from expansion-team woes to the first and only undefeated season in NFL history, winning Super Bowl VII and VIII. This was largely thanks to Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, a man who is regarded today as one of the greatest coaches of all time. Shula created some of the best players of all time while coaching the Dolphins and finished his career with 347 victories as a coach, the most in NFL history.Shula was known as a coach who worked his schemes around the talents of his players instead of trying to fit his players into his schemes—the traditional approach. This brought out the best in his players and helped the Dolphins to become one of the league’s best teams. Below are some of the greatest Dolphins—and greatest NFL players period—to ever step foot on a football field.Selection CriteriaThe Dolphins have over 50 years of players, so narrowing down the best 10 to ever play for the franchise was no easy feat. In creating this list, I looked at the players’ stats, impact on games, impact on the franchise, years as a Dolphin and accolades (e.g., Pro Bowls, All-Pro selections, MVP awards and Hall of Fame inductions).10. Paul Warfield (1970–1974)Paul Warfield is well known for his time in Cleveland, and he would be higher on this list had he spent his entire career in Miami. He was an incredibly skilled player, and he continued his Hall of Fame success when he joined the Dolphins in 1970.In his five seasons with the team, Warfield racked up 3,355 yards and 33 touchdowns on 156 receptions. Coach Don Shula was able to use Warfield’s athletic ability and deep threat to open up the run game. Defenders had to remain deep in the field of play to cover Warfield, allowing for the running backs to face fewer defenders in the box. This strategy worked perfectly, allowing the Dolphins to finish third overall in rushing yards during Warfield’s first year with the team. He was also able to average 25.1 yards per catch during this season.In his time with the Dolphins, Warfield averaged 21.5 yards per catch and led the league in touchdowns in 1971. Warfield was also part of the 1972 perfect season and the Dolphins’ second Super Bowl victory the following season. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.Jersey Number: 42Franchise Statistics60 career games
156 receptions
3,355 receiving yards
33 receiving touchdowns
Accolades1970–74 Pro Bowl selection
1971, 1973 All-Pro selection
1972–73 Super Bowl Champion
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
1983 Hall of Fame inductee
1970s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team
NFL 100 All-Time Team selection
9. Cameron Wake (2009–2018)Cameron Wake went undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft and ended up playing in the CFL from 2007 until 2009. In 2009, Wake was a coveted free agent and decided to join the Dolphins. He only started one game in his rookie season, but he still recorded five and a half sacks and six tackles for loss.From that point forward, Wake was a monster on the field. In the nine seasons that followed, Wake recorded double-digit sacks in five seasons, with his 2015 season being cut to only seven games due to injury. When he finally left the Dolphins in 2018, he had recorded 98 sacks and 22 forced fumbles in only 10 seasons, both good for second all-time in the franchise’s record books. He was selected to five Pro Bowls during his time in Miami and was an All-Pro selection once.Had Wake been selected in the draft in 2005, who knows where his career numbers could have ended up, but even with a shorter-than-normal career, Wake was a dominant force and bright side on an otherwise lackluster roster.Jersey Number: 91Franchise Statistics146 career games
360 total tackles
97 tackles for loss
98 sacks
22 forced fumbles
Accolades2010, 2012–14, 2016 Pro Bowl selection
2012 All-Pro selection
2010 league leader in tackles for loss (21)
Second in sacks in franchise history (98)
Second in forced fumbles in franchise history (22)
8. Zach Thomas (1996–2007)Zach Thomas was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft. He was the 19th linebacker selected overall and the second by the Dolphins. He was originally set to play special teams but was so impressive in training camp that he earned the starting middle linebacker position heading into his rookie season.Thomas surpassed expectations once again, finishing his rookie season with 154 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two sacks and a defensive touchdown. He was awarded the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and was a member of the 1996 All-Rookie Team.Thomas would go on to continue his incredible career, averaging 136 tackles per season. He led the league in tackles in 2002 and 2006 and was selected to seven Pro Bowls in eight years. He was also a five-time All-Pro. In a draft that included future greats like Ray Lewis and Tedy Bruschi, Thomas showed that you didn’t have to be drafted high in order to have an impact on the field. His longevity and ability allowed him to play 168 games with the Dolphins, the sixth-most in franchise history and third on the defensive side of the ball.Since tackles became a recorded statistic, Thomas is the franchise leader in solo tackles with 1,042. The next highest in that category is Reshad Jones with only 599. He is also third all-time in tackles for loss and forced fumbles. Thomas will be remembered as one of the greatest defenders in Dolphins’ history. Despite being selected for the Hall of Fame’s 2000s All-Decade Team, Thomas has still yet to hear his name called for a golden jacket.Jersey Number: 54Franchise Statistics168 career games (all as a starter)
1,640 total tackles
70 tackles for loss
19.5 sacks
17 interceptions
16 forced fumbles
4 defensive touchdowns
Accolades1999–2003, 2005–06 Pro Bowl selection
1998–99, 2002–03, 2006 All-Pro selection
1996 All-Rookie Team
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
2000s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team
7. Nick Buoniconti (1969–1976)Coming out of Notre Dame, Nick Buoniconti was considered an undersized athlete. He began his career with the Patriots, but after seven very successful seasons, he was traded to the Dolphins in 1969.He continued his success in Miami as a middle linebacker, showing his determination on his way to a Pro Bowl selection and All-Pro selection that same season, as well as being honored as the Dolphins’ MVP (he would earn the award twice more, in 1970 and 1973). He set a then team record for tackles in a season with 162 in 1973. Buoniconti was the leader of the “No Name Defense” that helped lead the Dolphins’ dynasty of the ’70s, winning two Super Bowls with the team.Buoniconti was a relentless player, giving his all on every single play and sacrificing his body for the game. He once said, “Every play is like life or death. I can’t think of anything except the play that is taking place at the moment.”But football took as much as it gave to Buoniconti. His son had a devastating spinal injury while playing football, leaving him paralyzed. This led Buoniconti to start a research foundation for spinal and brain injuries. Buoniconti himself would later suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and vowed to donate his brain to the study of the condition when he died.In 2019, Buoniconti passed away. His advocacy and outspokenness about brain health and the impact that head injuries can have on players have been as impactful as his play on the field. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.Jersey Number: 85Franchise Statistics92 career games
8 interceptions
Tackles weren’t a recorded statistic until 1994 and didn’t become an official statistic until 2001.
Accolades1969, 1972–73 Pro Bowl selections
1969 All-Pro selection
1972–73 Super Bowl Champion
Dolphins’ MVP 1969, 1970 and 1973
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
2001 Hall of Fame inductee
1960s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team
6. Dwight Stephenson (1980–1987)Dwight Stephenson was drafted in the second round of the 1980 NFL Draft. In his first season, he was primarily used as a special teams player, but late in the 1981 season, starting center Mark Dennard went down with an injury and Stephenson became the main starter going into the 1982 season. Over the next few years, Stephenson became regarded as one of the best centers in the NFL and earned a role as the offense’s team captain.Stephenson led one of the best offensive lines in NFL history, setting two incredible records along the way. The Dolphins went six straight seasons allowing the fewest sacks in the NFL. That offensive line allowed Dan Marino to set a record for most pass attempts without a sack. From September 25, 1988 to October 29, 1989, Marino threw 759 pass attempts without any interference from opposing defensive players. This record still stands today.Stephenson was honored for his incredible performance (including his role as starting center in two Super Bowls) by being selected to five consecutive Pro Bowls and four consecutive All-Pro teams. He had played in 107 straight games, starting 80 of them, until a players’ strike ended the streak. Upon return from the strike, Stephenson started seven games before suffering a career-ending knee injury. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.Jersey Number: 57Accolades1983–87 Pro Bowl selection
1984–87 All-Pro selection
1985 Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient
1998 Hall of Fame inductee
1980s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team
NFL 100 All-Time Team
5. Larry Little (1969–1980)Larry Little is another great example of coach Shula finding a diamond in the rough. He began his career as an undrafted free agent, signing for the Chargers and starting only three games before being traded to the Dolphins. Little immediately made an impact on their elite rushing game, earning a Pro Bowl selection in his first season with the team.Little played right guard for the majority of his career, typically using his athletic ability on sweep plays to get out in front and bulldoze his opponents to make way for his running backs. In 1972, the Dolphins set a then-record for rushing yards in a season with 2,960 yards. Little was also an exemplary pass blocker, helping to anchor the line.Little was praised as one of the league’s best lineman. He earned five Pro Bowl selections and five straight All-Pro selections. He was also chosen as the NFL Players Association’s AFC Lineman of the Year on three separate occasions. He went on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. He was honored with a spot on the Hall of Fame’s 1970s All-Decade Team as well.Little’s transition to the Dolphins wasn’t a perfect one, however. When asked about the trade to Miami, Little said, “I didn’t particularly like the trade. The Dolphins weren’t much then.” When he first arrived at practice, Shula glared at Little and asked, “How much do you weigh?” When Little told him 285 pounds, Shula told him he wanted him at 265. His weight loss and move to Miami ended up working out for all parties. Little became one of the best linemen in league history and helped the ’70s Dolphins become one of the greatest dynasties in the NFL.Jersey Number: 66Accolades1969, 1971–74 Pro Bowl selection
1971–75 All-Pro Selection
1970–72 NFL Players Association AFC Lineman of the Year recipient
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
1972–73 Super Bowl Champion
1993 Hall of Fame inductee
1970s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team
4. Bob Griese (1967–1980)Bob Griese was selected fourth overall in the 1967 NFL Common Draft. His first three seasons were not great—during that time, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. But in 1970, coach Don Shula came to Miami with a plan that helped to turn the team around. That season, Griese went to his first Pro Bowl after leading the Dolphins to a 10–4 record.Griese would go on to lead the dynasty Dolphins of the ’70s, and though he was injured from game five on for the majority of their perfect 1972 season, he returned late in the season to finish off the run, winning the Super Bowl. He led the team back to the Super Bowl the following year, making three trips in a row and winning his second in a row.Griese wasn’t the flashiest quarterback to ever play, but he was efficient and able to lead the team when the running game got stopped. In some of the biggest games of his career, he’d throw incredibly sparingly, such as Super Bowl VIII when he only passed the ball seven times. However, those few passes were frequently accurate and on point in clutch situations.To this day, Griese is one of the most decorated players in Dolphin history. Along with his two Super Bowl victories, he was also an eight-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and 1977 Bert Bell Award recipient. He’s also a Hall of Fame inductee, and his number has been retired by the team.Jersey Number: 12 (retired)Franchise Statistics161 career games
25,092 career passing yards
192 passing touchdowns
Accolades1967–68 AFL All Star
1970–71, 1973–74, 1977 Pro Bowl selection
1971, 1977 All-Pro selection
1977 Bert Bell Award recipient
1972–73 Super Bowl Champion
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
1990 Hall of Fame inductee
Jersey number retired by Dolphins
3. Larry Csonka (1968–1974, 1979)Larry Csonka was selected by the Dolphins eighth overall in the 1968 NFL Draft. His ability to bruise defenders with his bulldozer style of running led to the Dolphins being the best rushing team in 1971 and 1972, as well as third overall in 1973. During those three seasons, Csonka was the star running back of the Dolphins; he rushed for 3,171 yards and 18 touchdowns during that time. This rushing attack helped the Dolphins make it to three straight Super Bowls, win two and have a perfect season in 1972.After the Dolphins’ championship runs, Csonka left the NFL to join the World Football League in 1975. It flopped midway through the season, resulting in him returning to the NFL the following season as a Giant. His production fell off greatly in New York, but in 1979, he returned to Miami for one final year. Csonka received the Comeback Player of the Year award after rushing for 837 yards and scoring a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns.Csonka leads many rushing categories for the Dolphins to this day. He’s their all-time rushing yardage leader with 6,737 yards and rushing touchdowns leader with 53. On top of his statistical success, he also was a clutch player. The greatest game in his career came in Super Bowl VIII when he carried the ball 33 times for a then-record 145 yards and two touchdowns. His performance earned him the MVP award for the game. Without Csonka, it’s likely the ’70s Dolphins wouldn’t be a dynasty.Csonka was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987 and is one of just three Dolphins players to have their jersey number retired by the franchise.Jersey Number: 39 (retired)Franchise Statistics106 career games
1,506 rushing attempts
6,737 rushing yards
53 rushing touchdowns
AccoladesFranchise leader in rushing yards (6,737)
Franchise leader in rushing touchdowns (53)
1970–74 Pro Bowl selection
1971, 1973 All-Pro selection
1972–73 Super Bowl champion
1973 Super Bowl MVP
1979 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
1987 Hall of Fame inductee
Jersey number retired by Dolphins
Miami Dolphins former linebacker Jason Taylor poses with his bust during the Professional Football HOF enshrinement ceremonies at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.© Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports2. Jason Taylor (1997–2007, 2009, 2011)Jason Taylor is the best defensive player in Dolphins history. He helped to lead some of the greatest defenses in the team’s history as a defensive end, leading the league in top-five scoring defense five times in his first 10 years with the team.Taylor was selected in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft out of the University of Akron, where he was a four-year letterman. He was an all-around monster on the defensive side of the ball, sacking quarterbacks with regularity, forcing turnovers and scoring a ton for his position.In Taylor’s time with Miami, he recorded 131 sacks, 43 forced fumbles, 27 fumble recoveries, eight interceptions and nine defensive touchdowns. His sacks rank him seventh all-time in NFL history, and his defensive touchdowns are the most ever for a defensive lineman. Taylor also holds the record for most fumbles returned for touchdowns ever with six. His outstanding ability to find a way to take the ball from his opponents made him lethal on the field.Taylor had many incredible seasons and feats. In 2002, he led the league in sacks with 18.5. In 2006, he had the best season of his career when he registered 13.5 sacks, 62 tackles, two interceptions that were both returned for touchdowns, nine forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 11 passes defended and 12 tackles for a loss. His performance won him the Defensive Player of the Year award.His strength and ability to defend the run, pass and rush the passer makes him the greatest Dolphin to ever play on that side of the field. He isn’t just a great Dolphin—he’s one of the greatest players that the league has ever seen.Jersey Number: 99Franchise Statistics204 career games
723 tackles
137 tackles for loss
131 sacks
43 forced fumbles
27 fumble recoveries
8 interceptions
2 safeties
9 defensive touchdowns
AccoladesFranchise leader in sacks (131)
Franchise leader in forced fumbles (43)
Franchise leader in defensive fumble recoveries (27)
Franchise leader in tackles for loss (137)
1997 NFL All-Rookie Team
2000, 2002, 2004–07 Pro Bowl selection
2000, 2002, 2006 All-Pro selection
2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient
2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
2017 Hall of Fame inductee
2000s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team
1. Dan Marino (1983–1999)Dan “The Man” Marino is undoubtedly the greatest Dolphin of all time. Marino was the 27th overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft. He was selected after other great quarterbacks such as John Elway and Jim Kelly. It wouldn’t take the Dolphins, or the rest of the league, long to realize that it was a mistake not to nab Marino with the No. 1 pick. He took over as the starter in week six of his rookie season, leading the Dolphins to a 12–4 record.The next year, Marino put together an incredible season unlike any in the history of the game. In only his second season, Marino had the greatest passing season of any quarterback in the league’s history, throwing for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns, both NFL season records at the time. His 48 touchdowns destroyed the former record of 36; this record wouldn’t be broken for another 20 years, when Peyton Manning threw for 49 touchdowns in 2004.Marino was also the first quarterback to break the 5,000-yard mark in NFL history, a feat that went unmatched for 24 years until Drew Brees’ stellar 2008 season. (It would take 27 years for Brees to actually surpass Marino’s overall passing yardage record.) By the end of the season, Marino had set six passing records and was named the league’s MVP.When it came to throwing the ball, Marino completely changed the game.Who Is the Best Dolphins Player of All Time?Dan Marino is the best player in Dolphins history. The NFL was once a run-first league. When Marino retired from the NFL, he held every major statistical record for passing in the league’s history. He finished his career with 61,361 yards, 420 touchdowns, 8,358 attempts and 4,967 completions. He led the league in yardage five times, touchdowns three times, pass attempts five times and completions six times.His passing dominance was absolutely unfathomable. He passed for 3,000 yards or more in a season 13 times in his career, which includes the six seasons he reached the 4,000-yard mark. He passed for 300 yards in a game 63 times and threw for 400 or more yards in a game 13 times.In spite of Marino’s incredible arm talent, he only made it to the Super Bowl once in his career, losing to the 49ers in an ugly showing. Despite this, his greatness has never been questioned. Marino was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 as a first-ballot inductee and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.Jersey Number: 13 (retired)Franchise Statistics242 career games
59.4% completion percentage
8,358 pass attempts
4,967 completions
61,361 passing yards
420 passing touchdowns
252 interceptions
33 comebacks
47 game-winning drives
AccoladesFranchise leader in pass attempts (8,358)
Franchise leader in completions (4,967)
Franchise leader in passing yards (61,361)
The franchise leader in passing touchdowns (420)
1983 NFL All-Rookie Team
1983–87, 1991–92, 1994–95 Pro Bowl selection
1984–86 All-Pro selection
1998 Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient
1994 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
1984 Offensive Player of the Year
1984 NFL MVP
2005 Hall of Fame inductee
NFL 100 All-Time Team
Honorable MentionsJim Langer (1970–1979)Jim Langer played on the offensive line for Miami from 1970 to 1979. In his time with the team, Langer was selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro selection four times. Langer blocked for Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese and Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka, and he helped the 1972 Dolphins earn a perfect record on their way to a Super Bowl title. During that season, the Dolphins led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.Langer was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1987. To this day, the Jim Langer Award is given to the best NCAA Division-Two lineman in the nation.Accolades1973–78 Pro Bowl selection
1973–75, 1977 All-Pro selection
2x Super Bowl Champion (1972, 1973)
1987 Hall of Fame inductee
1970s Hall of Fame All-Decade Team
Mark Clayton (1983–1992)Mark Clayton teamed up with Dan Marino as a dynamic duo, with Marino slinging passes Clayton’s way for nearly a decade. Clayton led the league in touchdowns twice and had five 1,000-yard seasons during his time in Miami. His ability to score is what really made him the apple of Marino’s eye, leading the Dolphins franchise in receiving touchdowns for his career with 81.Clayton is also No. 2 for the franchise in receiving yards, sitting just over 200 yards behind his teammate and receiving partner Mark Duper. The two receivers were known as the “Marks Brothers” and they helped Marino become a household name and future Hall of Famer with their amazing abilities.Accolades1984–86, 1988, 1991 Pro Bowl selection
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
Jake Scott (1970–1975)Jake Scott is one of the best ball-hawking defensive backs in Dolphins history. Scott only played with Miami for a short time, but he had an incredible impact on the team. Scott recorded 35 interceptions in just six years with the team, having less than five in a season only once. He currently leads the Dolphins franchise for most career interceptions.His lockdown ability was a strong contribution to the dynasty Dolphins that won two Super Bowls and had a perfect season. Scott went to five straight Pro Bowls with the team and was selected as an All-Pro twice during that time. One of his greatest moments, however, was in Super Bowl VII when he was named the Super Bowl MVP after intercepting two passes in the game and sealing the perfect season for the Dolphins. With his illustrious career, many wonder why he hasn’t been inducted into the Hall of Fame yet. He remains one of the biggest snubs in NFL history.Accolades1971–75 Pro Bowl selection
1973–74 All-Pro Selection
Miami Dolphins “Honor Roll” selection
The Dolphins’ LegacyAlthough the Dolphins have had decades-long stretches of mediocrity or downright terrible play, they have also fielded some of the greatest players ever and the winningest coach of all time. They have multiple Hall of Famers and were able to boast for decades that they had the greatest quarterback of all time.To this day, no team has ever completed a perfect NFL season except for the 1972 Dolphins. Though things have been hard since the retirement of Dan Marino, Dolphins fans should take heart in the fact that their team has seen some of the greatest players and teams in the NFL’s vast history.How Many Hall of Famers Do the Dolphins Have?Year InductedNameYears With TeamPosition

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