A look back at 1985 Dolphins, loaded for the Super Bowl return that never came and still hasn’t

Found a 1985 Miami Dolphins media guide in the bottom of the drawer. That’s when the franchise was coming off its last Super Bowl appearance and it seemed that young Dan Marino would play for many more championships in the years to come.

The Dolphins had one retired jersey to that point, Bob Griese’s No. 12.

Home games were played at the Orange Bowl, with chairback sideline tickets selling for $23, sideline bench seats for $19 and end-zone seats for $16.

Dan Marino and Miami Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula at Dolphins mini-camp in 1983. (Post file photo by Don Preisler)
Dan Marino and Miami Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula at Dolphins mini-camp in 1983. (Post file photo by Don Preisler)

Don Shula had 242 career victories, postseason included. That put him one behind Tom Landry and 84 behind George Halas, both of whom he eventually would toast with an NFL record total of 347.

A man named Marlo Hanson had just come on board as Coordinator of the Dolphin Stadium Corporation. Plans for a new 73,000-seat stadium, the same one just rebranded as Hard Rock Stadium with $500 million in 21st-century renovations, were in the beginning stages, with everybody wondering how Robbie was going to pull it off.

On the personnel side, Marino was coming off a 48-touchdown season. That’s twice what Ryan Tannehill had last year.

Mark Clayton was coming off a season in which he caught 18 touchdown passes in 16 regular-season games and two more in the playoffs. Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews led last year’s Dolphins with four touchdown receptions each.

Also, the Dolphins were on a roll against New England as the 1985 season began, having won seven of their last nine games against the Patriots, who were coached by Raymond Berry, not Bill Belichick.

In short, it was a time of endless promise, and of South Florida fans spoiled to the max.

There was no trip to the Super Bowl for the 1985 Dolphins, however, because the Pats won 31-14 in an AFC title game at the Orange Bowl, and there have been none since for the franchise.

Eventually that return to the big game will happen for the Dolphins. It has to happen. After all, Miami is one of only eight NFL franchises locked out of the Super Bowl since 1984, joining the New York Jets, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, Kansas City, Detroit and Minnesota.

[Thumbs up for Hard Rock Stadium, a loud and rowdy brand]

[Strange but true, American football briefly was an Olympic sport]

[Voices and memories from Dolphins’ first training camp in 1966]

This seems a good time, however, to recognize and appreciate how difficult it is to reach the Super Bowl and how much needs to happen if Miami is going to get there in Adam Gase’s time as head coach.

It’s a pretty brutal and capricious league when a combo like Shula and Marino gets to the championship game just once together. Tannehill has never played a postseason game. Gase has never been a head coach at all.

Patience is what I’m preaching, and not just for another season or two.

If Gase is really the guy to pull this all together, and he just might be, he’ll need to find a way to catch this franchise up to the real contenders. Only then can he get to work on passing them all.