Fifty years ago this summer American Football League owners granted Miami an expansion franchise, but only because they couldn’t keep their first choice.
The more-established NFL swooped in and took Atlanta, which left the AFL looking around for a replacement, which wound up being Joe Robbie. In no time flat Robbie pulled together actor Danny Thomas and some other investors, rustled up a contract with the city-owned Orange Bowl and, just like that, on Aug. 16, 1965, Miami was granted an AFL franchise, pushing that league from eight teams to nine.
It could have gone a lot of different ways, of course. Without the growing war between between the NFL and the AFL, it might have taken much longer to bring pro football to Florida. Next came the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, which gave the Dolphins more credibility than they really had earned, and then came Don Shula and, well, you know the rest.
Let’s just throw all of these unmatched apples and oranges into a barrel that’s half-a-century deep now and see which city came out better from the expansion frenzy of 1965.
Atlanta thought it had won the day and the NFL thought it had scored the plum market of the moment, but not according to this chart.
Super Bowl titles 0 2
Super Bowl appearances 1 5
Division championships 5 13
Playoff appearances 12 22
Winning seasons 14 28
Hall of Famers 2 9
Longest postseason drought 12 yrs. 6 yrs.
All-time passing yds. leader Matt Ryan Dan Marino
All-time rushing yds. leader Gerald Riggs Larry Csonka
All-time receiving yds. leader Roddy White Mark Duper
Times city hosted Super Bowl 2 10
All right, so maybe it doesn’t make perfect sense accrediting the successes or failures of any given NFL cities to the markets alone. It’s up to decades of different owners and coaches and draft picks and injuries and on and on.
Let’s just say that Miami is 8-4 in head-to-head play against the Falcons, and that Miami has won 443 games to just 329 for Atlanta, and that the Falcons don’t have to claw their way around New England in the AFC East every year. They’ve got New Orleans and Tampa Bay and Carolina instead.
Make what you want of that information concerning the expansion rivals of 1965. I’m sure you’ll be fair.
My view is that the NFL saw something that wasn’t there in Atlanta, and missed something in Miami that was.