More than 40 years after the Miami Dolphins completed their perfect season, President Barack Obama proudly welcomed “the only undefeated, untied team in NFL history to the White House for the very first time” on Tuesday.
“Give it up for the 1972 Miami Dolphins!” Obama said to cheers.
The president hosted legendary coach Don Shula and team members in a East Room ceremony that began shortly after 2 p.m.
“I know it’s a little unorthodox four decades after the fact, but these guys never got their White House visit after winning Super Bowl VII," Obama said. "You know, some of them are a little harder to recognize these days. You know, they don’t have the Afros, or the mutton chops, the Fu Manchus.”
In just their seventh season in franchise history, the Dolphins avenged a loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the previous season's Super Bowl by winning every game on its schedule then breezing through the playoffs en route to a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
Obama said the Dolphins players had "an incredible impact" on him.
“In 1972, these guys were a juggernaut. They had a grinding running game that wore opponents down. They became the first team ever with two 1,000-yard rushers. They had the league’s best offense. They had the league’s best defense. They posted three shutouts,” Obama said. “They doubled the score of their opponents eight times. And they did most of it after their outstanding Pro Bowl starting quarterback, Bob Griese, broke his leg in Week 5.”
He was replaced by the backup QB Obama jokingly referred to as Earl “Old Bones” Morrall, who did not attend Tuesday’s ceremony.
“As one teammate later said, ‘Earl couldn’t run and he couldn’t throw.’ But Earl could win, and that’s what he and the Dolphins did again and again and again,” Obama said.
Counting the regular season and postseason, they went 17-0. Nobody can argue with the team's record, even though it only played 14 regular season games, Obama said.
Obama referred to when he hosted the 1985 Chicago Bears, who had also missed their White House visit, and how at the time he called them "the greatest team ever."
“But, I mean, take it with a grain of salt,” Obama said to laughs. “The Bears lost once in their nearly perfect season. It happened to be to the Dolphins.”
Shula picked up on that when he presented Obama with a Dolphins jersey signed by team members that said “Undefeated” with the number 72.
“This is something that we hope that you find a good spot for somewhere in your office and where you can look at it and think about the whipping that we put on that ’85 (Bears) team,” the Hall of Fame coach said as the audience laughed.
The 1972 team featured a number of future Hall of Famers, including Griese, RB Larry Csonka, WR Paul Warfield, OL Larry Little, and Shula. Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first RB tandem to each top 1,000 yards rushing in a season.
Nine players on the team made the Pro Bowl: Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Little, OL Norm Evans, LB Nick Buoniconti, DE Bill Stanfill, S Dick Anderson and S Jake Scott. Stanfill, Anderson, and QB Earl Morrall (who subbed for an injured Griese for most of the season) were named 1st-team All-Pro.
Tuesday was the first time the '72 Dolphins made the trip to the White House. It has been noted that then-President Richard Nixon was mired in the Watergate scandal in 1973 after Miami won Super Bowl VII. Obama pointed out, however, that Super Bowl champion teams did not start visiting the White House until after 1980.
"The entire Miami Dolphin organization is very excited and appreciative that the 1972 'Perfect Season' team is going to be honored by President Obama at the White House," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement released by the team last week. "By going undefeated all year en route to a Super Bowl championship, the ’72 Dolphins reached the pinnacle of sports achievement and set a standard for excellence that has yet to be duplicated."