Former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula is on the sidelines before play against the Buffalo Bills December 4, 2005. The Dolphins defeated the Bills 24-23 on a touchdown with six seconds left in the game. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
The Dallas Cowboys won't have many fans in the Superdome on Saturday night as they take a shot at spoiling the New Orleans Saints' dreams of perfection. But they certainly have a contingent of supporters, aside from those left to watch at home in Dallas.
The 1972 Dolphins, one would imagine, are gearing up to put away their Don Johnson-esque teal and orange in lieu of some blue and silver garb. The squad of aging football players, and their legendary (and aging) head coach Don Shula, as the only team to pull off the perfect season, at 17-0 in 1972, have become self-styled ambassadors to the hopefuls of today's game.
It hasn't been all that pretty.
Mercury Morris once openly expressed his wishes for the Ravens to beat the Patriots, during New England's historic 2007 run, and that was the least childish portion of his face time. Bob Griese recently, when asked his advice for the Colts and the Saints, advised them to lose a game--you know, get it out of the way--succinctly implying that, without a regular season loss, the teams were doomed in the playoffs.
The latest Dolphin great to come forward in wholly indirect support of the Cowboys (and Buccaneers and Panthers, for that matter) is Shula, who said last week that he's 'concerned' with the idea of the Saints or Colts reaching perfection.
Well, that "somebody" will probably have to be Dallas, if anyone. After Saturday, the Saints will finish the season against Carolina and Tampa Bay, a combined opponents' record of 6-20. I'll go out on a limb and say the safe money is on New Orleans in those two contests.
But if the '72 Dolphins seem like bitter, curmudgeonly old men on the level of Andy Rooney, they're not. Don Shula said as much, as he praised the Colts and the Saints for their maybe-historic runs thus far.
"We're very proud of that but we're not a bunch of angry old men that sit around and can't wait for that last undefeated team to get beat," Shula said. "If somebody breaks that record . . . I'm going to call that coach and congratulate him."
Which is believable--Shula is a class act by all accounts. As far as Mercury Morris, I see a temper tantrum and some name calling in his future, should either New Orleans or Indianapolis make it through unscathed. Oh, and maybe some inexplicable allusions to Mount Everest.