The team remains the only NFL team to complete an entire season undefeated and untied from the opening game through the Super Bowl (or championship game). The closest team to repeating this feat was the 2007 New England Patriots, who recorded the most wins in a season in NFL history by going 18–0 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The 2007 Patriots were able to record a better regular season than the 1972 Dolphins because the NFL lengthened it to 16 games in 1978. Besides the 1972 Dolphins and 2007 Patriots, the only other team to ever complete the regular season undefeated and untied is the Chicago Bears, who accomplished the feat in both 1934 and 1942. Both of those Bears teams however failed to win the NFL Championship Game. In addition, the Dolphins continued their winning streak to 18 straight games (regular season and post-season), before losing in the second week of the 1973 season.
The 1972 Dolphins defensive unit, called the No-Name Defense because Miami’s impressive offense received much more publicity, as well as Cowboys coach Tom Landry coining the phrase in an interview, was the league’s best that year. It was led by linebacker Nick Buoniconti, end Bill Stanfill, tackle Manny Fernandez, and safeties Dick Anderson and Jake Scott. In all, nine players—Csonka, Morris, Warfield, Little, Evans, Buoniconti, Stanfill, Anderson and Scott—were selected to the Pro Bowl, and Morrall, Stanfill and Anderson were named 1st team All-Pro.
On August 20, 2013, four decades after their accomplishment, PresidentBarack Obama hosted the 1972 Dolphins, noting that they "never got their White House visit".
There is an urban legend that every season, whenever the last remaining undefeated NFL team loses its first game, all the surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins open bottles of champagne in celebration. Coach Don Shula tried to play down the myth by saying that two players, Dick Anderson and Nick Buoniconti, who live near each other sometimes have a toast together. However, in a college football broadcast on ABC, following the loss of an undefeated team, Bob Griese, after being asked by his colleague, commented that he called former Dolphins, and they had Diet Cokes together. That celebration comes with the connotation that they no longer drink alcoholic beverages, but that a toast was customary.
The 1972 Miami Dolphins were the first team to execute a perfect regular season in the post-merger NFL. They are the only team in NFL history to go undefeated and untied in the regular season and postseason.
An enduring controversy is that the 1972 Dolphins played a soft schedule not possible under the current scheduling formula. Prior to the implementation of position scheduling in 1978, opponents were set by the NFL on a rotating basis. Statistically, the Dolphins’ 1972 regular-season opponents had an aggregate winning percentage of .397 and only two opponents had winning records that year (both the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants finished 8-6).
The Dolphins were beneficiaries of a weak AFC East which saw the Colts lapse from a perennial contender into a three-year stretch in which they would win only 11 games; a Bills team which had yet to find its legs with O.J. Simpson and the return of coach Lou Saban; a dysfunctional Patriots organization which had little to no talent to surround former No. 1 overall draft choice Jim Plunkett; and a Jets squad with a porous defense, offsetting the benefits of Joe Namath remaining healthy throughout the season and an emerging John Riggins in the running game. The Dolphins' (14) 1972 opponents' W-L record was 2-12, which serves to diminish their season's accomplishment.
Miami also caught a scheduling break by facing an Oilers squad in the midst of back-to-back 1-13 seasons, and a Cardinals squad which appeared to lack direction by rotating its starting quarterbacks instead of giving the job full-time to Jim Hart. Also, the Dolphins caught the Vikings in the midst of a massive transformation following the return of Fran Tarkenton. Minnesota missed the playoffs for the only time between 1968 and 1978 in 1972, going 7-7.
This is not however a record: the 1975 Minnesota Vikings, who began 10–0 and finished 12–2, played fourteen opponents with an average winning percentage of .332 and nine of their games were against teams 4–10 or worse.
However, the NFL’s rules at the time also forced the undefeated Dolphins (14-0) to play the Steelers (11-3) in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game, a game in which the Dolphins won on the road to reach the Super Bowl. Subsequent rule changes have since changed the playoff structure so that this would never happen again. Since the 1975 season, teams that have won their division and have had a superior record than their opponent (as was the case with the 1972 Dolphins when they faced the Steelers) would play their postseason games at home.
Other teams are occasionally cited as undefeated based on their regular season record. Among these are:
1920 Akron Pros, 8–0–3 (originally 8–0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team’s standings in 1972)
1922 Canton Bulldogs, 10–0–2 (originally 10–0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team’s standings in 1972)
1923 Canton Bulldogs, 11–0–1 (originally 11–0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team’s standings in 1972)
1929 Green Bay Packers, 12–0–1 (previously 12–0, until the NFL retroactively included ties as part of a team’s standings in 1972)
Fans in the Miami area could not catch the home games on television – they had to be there at the games, listen to the radio, or travel to watch the games on TV. For Miami-Dade residents in 1972, that would have meant driving northwest on Florida's Turnpike towards Orlando, or north on Interstate 95 to areas along the east coast of the state which picked up signals from Orlando and/or Jacksonville.
1972 was the last year that all home games were blacked out on local television even if they sold out. Super Bowl VII was the first game to be televised in the market of origin under new rules which would come into effect the following season – games must be sold out within 72 hours of kickoff time in order to be aired in the market of origin. As all Super Bowls except the first have sold out, none have been blacked out since (tickets sell out rather quickly due to high demand to see such a major game).
Coincidentally, PresidentRichard Nixon, many of his White House staff, and members of Congress were angered by the blackout rules, since they could not watch the Dolphins' eventual Super Bowl opponent, the Redskins, play at home, even though all games at RFK Stadium had been sold out since 1966. Nixon was also a Dolphins fan, as he had a residence in Key Biscayne.
President Obama honoring the 1972 team at the White House in 2013
Four decades later in 2013, the team was invited by President Barack Obama to visit the White House. This occurred on August 20, when Obama noted that the team "never got their White House visit". As to why this team had not been invited by President Richard Nixon in 1973, Larry Csonka stated that he did not feel neglected as it had not been a regular occurrence at the time. However, MSNBC reported that this was a deliberate snub by Nixon, who was a Redskins fan. Obama had previously invited the 1985 Bears to the White House, as their visit had gotten cancelled due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster by President Reagan. President Obama, a Chicago resident and Bears fan, had called them the greatest team ever, but during the Dolphins' visit he called his own words into question, also noting that the only loss the 1985 Bears had was to the Dolphins.Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer, and Manny Fernandez all refused to attend due to political differences with the Obama administration.