What Jim Kelly told an astonished crowd in Boca Raton three years ago still applies in facing down cancer

  Three years ago this month Jim Kelly gave a speech at an Inspiration Breakfast benefiting the YMCA of South Palm Beach County.
  A large crowd was on hand to hear him at the corporate headquarters of Office Depot in Boca Raton. Not just because Kelly is a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, inducted in his first year of eligibility back in 2002. Not just because he starred at the University of Miami during Howard Schnellenberger’s foundational work there, either.
BLOOMINGTON, MN – NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly does a show on Super Bowl LII Radio Row at the Mall of America on February 1, 2018. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

What drives people to Kelly’s side more quickly than any of that is his very public battle with oral cancer and the bold and hopeful attitude he brings to the mission.

  Cancer touches every family at some point or another. No, “touches” is the wrong word. Cancer pulverizes.
  So when Kelly gave that speech here in 2015, one like so many others he has given nationwide, it was to build as much immunity as possible against the despair that is this killer’s specialty. He spoke of the strength he derived from all the encouraging cards and promised prayers he had received. He spoke of faith as the armor to be worn in this personal struggle and any other.
  And now, in a statement released on Thursday, Kelly is announcing that his cancer, beaten back for a time by extensive surgery and chemotherapy and radiation treatment, has returned.
  It’s not an unusual story in terms of recurrence and the need to ramp up for another scary wave of certain punishment with uncertain results, but fortunately Kelly is an unusual man, and his family is every bit as impressive. No doubt, in time, they will be back before another large group, summoning courage from all who are there and inspiring all to stay “Kelly Tough.”
  Until then, the best I can do is return to my column from that Boca Raton appearance three years back. There is inspiration here, and it comes with no expiration date.
(Here follows a column from the Palm Beach Post on March 25, 2015)
by Dave George
Palm Beach Post Columnist
 It pays to be sitting down when Jim Kelly runs through the menu of surgical procedures he has gone through, and much of it in the last few years since cancer was discovered in his upper jaw.
“In two years’ time, I had a plate and six screws put in my neck, and then six months before that I had two plates and 10 screws in my back,” Kelly said Tuesday at the YMCA of South Palm Beach County’s Inspiration Breakfast. “I had double hernia surgery. I had six root canals. I was diagnosed with cancer and I had my jaw removed.”
There were gasps in the audience at the Office Depot corporate headquarters as the former University of Miami and Buffalo Bills quarterback rattled through that daunting list as rapidly as if he were calling out plays in the huddle.
Then came the clincher. Just a few months ago, with the gravest danger behind him and MRI cancer scans becoming less frequent, Kelly, 55, learned for the first time that doctors had given him less than a 10 percent chance to survive in the midst of his most aggressive cancer treatments.
Why did it take so long for him to hear that? Because his wife and daughters and friends wanted to keep Kelly’s psyche safe while his body was under attack.
“People that walked into my hospital room, even though I was having some of the worst days of my life, for those minutes and hours that those people were in my room, they made a difference,” Kelly said. “Hey, I grew up in a family of six boys. I had physical toughness. Where I needed it was the mental toughness. I needed people to tell me and show me with their smiles that I could do it, and don’t ever give up.”
Not a bad lesson to all of us who struggle with knowing what to do or say when someone close is critically ill. Keep the energy positive. Recycle a few giggles from sillier times. They might still have a little charge left in them.
Imagine, for instance, how often Kelly has heard about his great Bills teams losing four consecutive Super Bowls. Howard Schnellenberger, his old Hurricanes coach, even spent a few light minutes on that topic Tuesday while inviting Kelly up to the stage.
That didn’t even faze Kelly, who used a few squirts of mouth spray before his speech and explained that it’s not because of bad breath. Truth is, he no longer is able to produce saliva.
Can’t believe how good he looks, trim but not gaunt. Can’t believe he worries about lisping ever so slightly as a result of the prosthetic jaw and teeth that followed surgery. Nobody at the YMCA event noticed that. They were too busy coming up to Kelly to tell survival stories of their own and to thank him for the inspiration.
“So good to see you,” many of them said.
“Better to be seen than viewed,” Kelly regularly shoots back.
There are many appearances like this for Kelly, who still lives in Buffalo and in October will speak before a group in Rochester that provides services for the mentally ill. As always, his charitable activities center around the Hunter’s Hope Foundation, established to aid research on Krabbe Disease, the genetic disorder that ended the life of Kelly’s son, Hunter, in 2005 at the age of 8.
At Kelly’s induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, he dedicated his speech to Hunter, an exceedingly brave little boy.
To spend much time with Kelly, however, is to laugh a lot, and eventually to talk about the Bills, who are trying to rev it all up again under new coach Rex Ryan.
“I love it,” Kelly said in the VIP reception room after posing for photos with a long line of YMCA donors. “The biggest question is whether it’s going to be EJ Manuel or Matt Cassel, but I just hope that one of the quarterbacks steps up because that’s all we need.”
Just a whiff of hope and the tank is filled once more.

Remembering what Ricky did there, Dolphins shouldn’t fear a snowy day in Buffalo

Let it snow.

I’m saying that because absolutely anything can happen when a football game is played in wintry conditions, and because the Miami Dolphins are at the stage of the season where absolutely everything must happen in order for them to make the playoffs.

ORCHARD PARK, NY –  LeSean McCoy of the Buffalo Bills scores a touchdown to win the game during overtime against the Indianapolis Colts on December 10, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

So when the Dolphins play at Buffalo on Sunday, a real mid-December treat from the NFL schedule-makers, might as well root for the kind of accumulation that turned last week’s game there between the Bills and the Colts into a snow-globe classic.

Light snow and sleet and eventually a full-on barrage of near whiteout conditions didn’t stop Ricky Williams from rushing for a career-best 228 yards at Buffalo on Dec. 1, 2002. That remains a Miami franchise record, and it came on a day when the temperature was 25 degrees at kickoff with a wind chill of 13.

The Dolphins’ first snap was a handoff from Ray Lucas to Ricky, who rumbled 45 yards around left end for a touchdown. The field was slippery, but so what?

In the third quarter Ricky cut loose right up the middle for a 55-yard score. The snow was building from a fine powder to a regular winter wonderland by then, but so what?

Truth is, Ricky would have had a chance at 250 total rushing yards if not for a leg injury that removed him from the game early in the fourth quarter.

“I was a little nervous about it,” Ricky said, admitting postgame that he had been checking the weather forecast on his cellphone all week. “It wasn’t bad, you know. It was just cold. Once you get past the mental part of it being cold and you being miserable, then it’s just football.”

Drew Bledsoe, the Bills’ quarterback at the time, clearly agreed. While Lucas was laboring on a 6-for-11 passing day with two fumbles, Bledsoe threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Included in there was a 73-yard touchdown pass from Bledsoe to Peerless Price, the play that put Buffalo ahead to stay in a 38-21 victory.

How would Kenyan Drake fare on an icy field if it comes to that on Sunday? That would be a new experience for the Dolphins’ new feature running back, who grew up in Georgia and played college ball at Alabama. All I know is that Buffalo’s LeSean McCoy rushed for 156 yards and the winning touchdown in overtime last week in snow up to his ankles, and it was his best game of the season.

In the end, there need be no particular advantage for either team, not when the Bills have an indoor practice facility to use on snowy weekdays.

So bring on the blizzard. The Dolphins and Bills are each trying to slip and slide their way into a wild-card playoff spot anyway. Might as well make it truly epic.

[A dream night for Jakeem Grant, but what about that TD drop?]

[It’s OK to start wondering if Tiger Woods will return to Honda Classic]

[Bobby considered FSU a destination job but Jimbo? Not so much]

Playoffs? Dolphins history says you just can’t get there from 5-7

The Miami Dolphins looked great against Denver last Sunday. Now all they have to do is play great enough to win the last four games of the regular season, including a Monday nighter against New England, and they’re, what, a remote playoff possibility?

Truth is, the reality of the situation is even tougher than that sounds.

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) enters the field during pre game introductions at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 3, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

No Miami team has ever gone from 5-7 to a playoff appearance. The only thing that comes close to that is 1995, Don Shula’s final season, when the Dolphins were 6-6 after 12 games and rallied to claim the AFC’s final wild-card spot at 9-7.

It was a struggle all the way, with Bernie Kosar starting a couple of midseason defeats at quarterback while Dan Marino was dealing with an injured hip. Three wins in the last four games earned a playoff spot, but the spark was quickly snuffed by a 37-22 loss at Buffalo in the opening playoff round.

The Bills led that one 37-0 through three quarters, which is a fair indication of how these things usually go when a flawed team barely reaches the playoffs and is matched against one of the league’s best. Today’s Dolphins, in comparison, have more flaws than the 1995 version, so it really is silly expecting anything spectacular to happen for them now.

Since 2000, no AFC team has qualified for the playoffs with fewer than nine wins.

One of the most disappointing memories in recent franchise history was the 2013 season, when Miami was almost there but ran out of gas.

Wins over Pittsburgh and New England raised hopes for those Dolphins, who improved to 8-6 in the process. Then came a 19-0 loss at Buffalo and a 20-7 loss at home to the New York Jets.

Kerplunk, Joe Philbin missed the playoffs by a game at 8-8. The only good news is that Ryan Tannehill somehow got through it in one piece after leading the league with 58 sacks.

Adam Gase’s 2017 Dolphins have demonstrated the same tendency to curl up into a ball for long stretches, getting shut out two times and very nearly a third. Until there is mathematical elimination, however, there will be talk of turning things around.

You understand how hollow that talk is, but I just wanted to highlight what the echoes of the past say about this.

When a team is 5-7 and there are so many other teams bunched just above, you can’t get there from here.

[Rams’ Sean McVay has overtaken Adam Gase as NFL’s Next Big Thing]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Greg Schiano and Dan Mullen]

[For Gators, Dan Mullen is a good situation who wants to be great]

Anquan Boldin will have a strong influence on Buffalo, and that’s not good for Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins can’t be happy to have Anquan Boldin in the AFC East.

In his previous 14 NFL seasons the durable star from Pahokee and Florida State played in other divisions. Now, just two months from his 37th birthday, Boldin has signed a one-year deal with Buffalo for $2.75 million plus incentives.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. – Newly acquired Buffalo Bills receiver Anquan Boldin makes a catch during passing drills at training camp ON Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2017. (Jaime Germano/Democrat & Chronicle via AP)

This is a man who does not need incentives beyond the opportunity to catch lots of passes and score lots of touchdowns and make other teams wish they had signed him instead.

Miami, for reasons I have never understood, has repeatedly passed on chances to sign Boldin. Maybe because he’s not the fastest player in the league. Maybe because he’s getting older. Maybe because he’s spent most of his career in the NFC, where his steady production and intense leadership skills haven’t hurt the Dolphins that much.

Well, now Boldin will be facing Miami twice a season. He won’t always be as good as he was in Arizona’s 31-10 blowout of the Dolphins in 2008, when Boldin caught six Kurt Warner passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns, but he always is a threat in the red zone, with those post-up basketball moves and those strong hands.

Last year Boldin caught eight touchdown passes for Detroit. Kenny Stills had nine for Miami but no other Dolphins receiver came close.

Last year Boldin caught 67 passes. Jarvis Landry was the only Dolphin with more.

Over his career Boldin has 82 touchdown catches and 1,076 yards in receptions.  Chalk it up to longevity if you like, but both of those numbers would be franchise records if he had played his entire career in Miami and not bouncing around from Arizona to Baltimore to San Francisco to Detroit.

Boldin will get a shot at being Tyrod Taylor’s No. 2 receiver in Buffalo opposite Sammy Watkins. I wouldn’t bet against him taking the role, just like I never bet against him on a 50-50 ball with a linebacker or a safety or even a nimble, young cornerback. Bills general manager Brandon Beane must feel the same way.

“I’ve been a big Anquan fan from afar,” said Beane, “so even if I had the likes of Jerry Rice and guys like that on this team, to get Anquan is an addition that has zero to do with where our receivers are.”

The Bills are better because of Boldin, and they weren’t that far behind Miami without him. The Dolphins’ two wins over Buffalo in 2016 were by a combined total of six points, and one of them was in overtime.

[Any legendary story you hear about Vince Wilfork is probably true]

[There’s a lot of Heisman history blocking Lamar Jackson from second trophy]

[No second-guessing Adam Gase on Jay Ajayi’s training camp concussion]

As August transactions go, Boldin’s signing doesn’t come close to the importance of Miami adding Jay Cutler.

The Dolphins can’t be happy about it, though. Boldin didn’t come to Tampa Bay or Oakland or Houston. He’s coming to the AFC East, and he’s coming, as always, with something to prove.

Predicting these Dolphins is a heads and tails proposition, unless you’re smarter than me

Mike Pouncey’s got it about right in his ribbing of the media.

“A lot of people counted us out, gave up on us,” the Dolphins center said after Sunday’s 28-25 win over Buffalo got Miami back to 3-4 for the season. “I’ve seen all you guys’ predictions. Ya’ll didn’t believe in us, either.”

Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (51), exchanges his jersey with his twin brother Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (53), after the Dolphins defeated the Steelers during their NFL game Sunday October 15, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (left), exchanges his jersey with his twin brother Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey  after the Dolphins defeated the Steelers on October 15, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Full disclosure, I’ve been consistently wrong in both directions. Predicted the Dolphins beating Tennessee (wrong), the Steelers beating Miami (wrong) and Buffalo having an easy time of it at Hard Rock last Sunday (what a nasty man).

Hey, it’s not like this is easy.

Jay Ajayi had no career game with more than 48 yards rushing before the rattled off a couple of 200-yarders in a row.

Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times by the Titans but the Steelers and Bills barely laid a mitt on him.

On top of all that, the Dolphins had to go to overtime to beat the Browns, still the NFL’s only winless team, so what was there to suggest a renaissance against Pittsburgh, a regular playoff contender, and Buffalo, a team on a four-game win streak?

Maybe you’re much better at reading the trends. Maybe you just get a kick out of waiting until the games are played and jumping off the top rope on anyone who guessed wrong.

Either way, we’ve been here many times with the Dolphins in recent years, toggling back and forth between solid performances and real stinkers.

Miami has started out 3-4 in five of the last 12 seasons, including this one. In eight of the last 12 they have been either 3-4 or 4-3. This treadmill has led to the playoffs only once during that period, but there are some encouraging parallels.

The 2008 Dolphins had a first-time Pro Bowl running back in Ronnie Brown, a first-time NFL head coach in Tony Sparano, a sturdy and serviceable quarterback in Chad Pennington and a defense that was fairly stingy on giving up points.

The result was a surge from 3-4 to 11-5 and the AFC East title, with a first-round playoff loss to Baltimore to follow.

[Some startling historical context on Ajayi’s 200-yard blockbusters]

[Shades of Tommy Vigorito as something happens to wake up Dolphins crowd]

[Doing my joyful duty as part of Arnie’s Army at his last Masters round in 2004]

Of course, Tom Brady was injured that season, which opened the door to the division title, and it seems he has already had his break for 2016. We’re not talking about glory for the Dolphins here, though, just a good run to a winning record.

That would be refreshing, and Cam Wake goes so far as to say a solid second half to the season is predictable.

“From top to bottom, it was a team win,” Wake said Sunday after picking up 1.5 of the Dolphins’ four sacks on Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor. “Offense did what they were supposed to do. Defense did what they were supposed to do.

“No one can beat us when we’re playing that way.”

Of course, there’s another way to look at this thing. With the Dolphins, there always is.

Last year another 3-4 start accurately predicted what was to come with some accuracy. Miami ended up 6-10, despite Dan Campbell’s best efforts to squeeze the softness out of the team.

Adam Gase plays it straight after giddy Steelers win with a stiff dose of truth

 

He’s right, you know.

When Adam Gase stood at the postgame interview Sunday, never even cracking a smile over the Miami Dolphins’ stunningly smooth 30-15 winner over Pittsburgh, he offered a dose of perspective that did nothing for a roomful of media members who were eager to let loose with the kind of high-five hyperbole they’ve been saving up for weeks.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) and Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase celebrate win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on October 16, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) and Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase celebrate win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on October 16, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

“The thing that today proved to a lot of our guys, and a lot of our coaches, is what you possibly could be,” Gase said in quiet tones that had the TV guys in the back of the room turning up their audio. “But this league’s week-to-week. What we do today has no merit on what we’re going to do next Sunday. Nobody will care. Once we hit next Sunday, no one’s going to care what we did this week.

“So we have to go back to work. We’re 0-0 again on Monday, and then we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Blah-blah-blah, that’s how it sounded. Not what anyone wanted. Dan Campbell fireworks, that’s what seemed more appropriate, what expressed the relief of a 1-4 dog of a team finally having its day. Gase continued to wear his game face, however. His serious Gase face.

And that’s good because, again, he’s right.

Think back to last October and a rousing bounceback game at Tennessee. Joe Philbin had just been fired after a 1-3 start and replaced on an interim basis by the fiery Campbell. The attitudinal difference was immediate, racing throughout the organization, and a 38-10 road win over the Titans validated the notion that the Dolphins could be good again, could be great even.

That game looked and felt a lot like Sunday’s upset of the Steelers. Ryan Tannehill was solid, completing 22 of 29 passes for 266 yards and a couple of touchdowns against the Titans. Lamar Miller had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. The Miami defense also flexed its muscles, limiting Tennessee to 2-of-10 on third down conversions and knocking quarterback Marcus Mariota out of the game.

[What Hurricanes and Dolphins have in common this year is a real kick in the gut]

[Shades of Tommy Vigorito as something happens to wake up Dolphins crowd]

[Doing my joyful duty as part of Arnie’s Army at his final Masters round in 2004]

There even was a follow-up punch as the Dolphins pounded Houston 44-26 the next week. Tannehill completed three touchdowns passes of more than 50 yards in that one. Whatever tonic Campbell was selling at that point, everybody in the league wanted some of it.

New England, naturally, was the end of that. A 36-7 loss at Foxboro turned the dial back in the opposite direction, triggering a 3-7 finish to Miami’s season and a landing spot at the bottom of the AFC East.

Not saying it will happen again just that way. Gase understands, however, that it could. He knows it could because it does happen to plenty of teams every year. This is a brutal league, and it needs a coach who comprehends the brutal truth.

Dropped touchdown passes like those by Miami on Sunday won’t always be excused. Neither will dopey illegal formation penalties like the one that wiped out a Tannehill touchdown pass to Dominique Jones, or blown tackles like Reshad Jones’ whiff on Darrius Heyward-Bey. That last one resulted in a 60-yard touchdown run and an early 8-3 Pittsburgh lead.

Gase is only 38, but he’s got the maturity to teach all of this, and the authority to back it up.

What I’m saying is that it’s a good thing the Dolphins have a tough guy and a smart guy and a thoroughly organized guy in charge at this moment, with the celebration of a wild victory still underway across South Florida.

Previous coaches have had some of those qualities but not all. Gase is still learning how to do this job and mistakes will be made along the way, but on Sunday he didn’t lose focus.

Got to get a grip on Buffalo, which beat Miami twice last year and by humbling scores of 41-14 and 33-17.

Got to raise the standards higher, because highlights alone won’t remake this franchise.

Raise a toast to Gase, then, in keeping with the party mood now raging. He’s doing the dirty work of making that win over Pittsburgh really count for something. At a time like this, there is nothing more difficult or important to do.

 

Instinctively you knew this, but no 5-7 Dolphins team has ever rallied to make the playoffs

OK, so the Miami Dolphins are 5-7 and there’s a chance they still could make the playoffs as the wildest of wild-card teams.

The urge to reach for the delete key is so strong after typing that sentence, you have no idea.

I’ll stay strong, though, and let it stand, if only because it is technically, mathematically, hallucinogenically true.

Miami Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell calls a timeout near the end of the first quarter with assistant head coach Darren Rizzi (left) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on October 18, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell calls a timeout near the end of the first quarter with assistant head coach Darren Rizzi (left) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee on October 18, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

We know it is because a website called PlayoffStatus.com stays up with this stuff, and the wizards there have verified that, as of this moment, there is less than a 1 percent probability that the Dolphins will break their seven-year postseason drought.

The Bills, just one win better at 6-6, are given a 27 percent chance of grabbing the final AFC wild-card spot. You remember Buffalo, the team that’s already beaten Miami twice this season.

Interesting, in a useless trivia sort of way, understanding that the 2-10 Cleveland Browns are the only AFC team officially eliminated from playoff contention.

Forget all the probabilities on all the things that need to fall Miami’s way, however, and trust this trend instead.

No 5-7 Dolphins team has ever made the playoffs. In fact, no Miami team worse than .500 at this stage of the season ever has.

Here’s the list of wins and losses through 12 games for every Miami team that ever made the playoffs, followed by the season’s final record. Left out is 1982, when a strike limited the season to nine games. Also note that prior to 1978 the NFL played 14-game regular seasons.

Season        Dolphins through 12 gms     Final record

1970                         8-4                                        10-4

1971                         9-2-1                                    10-3-1

1972                         12-0                                      14-0

1973                         11-1                                      12-2

1974                           9-3                                      11-3

1978                           8-4                                      11-5

1979                           7-5                                      10-6

1981                           7-4-1                                 11-4-1

1983                           8-4                                     12-4

1984                           11-1                                   14-2

1985                            8-4                                     12-4

1990                           9-3                                      12-4

1992                           8-4                                      11-5

1994                            8-4                                     10-6

1995                           6-6                                       9-7

1997                            7-5                                      9-7

1998                           8-4                                     10-6

1999                           8-4                                      9-7

2000                           9-3                                     11-5

2001                           9-3                                     11-5

2008                           7-5                                     11-5

 

In case you’re wondering about that Dolphins team that started 6-6 in 1995 and made the playoffs just the same, here’s how it went.

The AFC East had five teams at the time, with Indianapolis included with today’s more familiar mix. Buffalo won the division title at 10-6 and both the Colts and Dolphins got wild-card spots at 9-7 each. The other wild-card went that year to San Diego, also 9-7.

If Miami had won at Buffalo in the next-to-last regular season game rather than losing 23-20, it would have been the Dolphins winning the division. So what happened?

The same two teams met in the opening round of the playoffs, and Miami lost at Buffalo again, this time by 37-22. Oh, and the Bills rushed for 341 yards that day, an AFC playoff record that still stands 20 years later. A short while later Don Shula was replaced as Dolphins coach by Jimmy Johnson.

Wanted to provide a happier ending to this blog but these are the facts. Mediocre teams aren’t really meant for the playoffs, and today’s Dolphins still have some work to do before they get to mediocre.

 

 

 

 

Nobody better than Doug Betters back when a sack was a sack

 

Cameron Wake’s four-sack explosion against Tennessee last week was all the more stunning because it came out of absolutely nowhere. The Miami Dolphins had one only one sack total in the season’s first four games.

That 38-10 win over the Titans was packed with big plays of all kinds, of course, including an interception return for a touchdown in which Reshad Jones vaulted himself across the goal line in the kind of high-flying acrobatic move one expects from an actual dolphin.

Doug Betters in 1983 (Palm Beach Post photo)
Doug Betters in 1983 (Palm Beach Post photo)

When it comes to most impactful sack attack, however, my mind always goes to the first game I covered as the Palm Beach Post’s Dolphin beat writer in 1983. Miami was at Buffalo that day and hadn’t made the transition from David Woodley to rookie Dan Marino just yet.

The game turned into a real sumo match with every first down coming as something of a surprise. Consequently, each of the four sacks recorded by Doug Betters were enormous, just as the red-bearded Betters, 6-feet-7 and 262 pounds, was enormous.

Woodley completed 8-of-22 passes for 40 yards, with a long of 8 yards. The Dolphins managed just 177 yards in total offense and Reggie Roby punted seven times.

Still, Miami won 12-0, on four Uwe von Schamann field goals, and a team total of six sacks on Buffalo’s Joe Ferguson.

Betters finished the season tied for third in the league behind Mark Gastineau and Fred Dean with 16 sacks. That spectacular season opener in Buffalo, however, was enough to vault him toward the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.

The NFL didn’t count sacks until 1982, which makes some of the Dolphins franchise records in this category unofficial, but they’re fun to look at anyway.

 

MIAMI DOLPHINS SACK RECORDS

Season

Bill Stanfill              18.5 (1973)

Jason Taylor            18.5 (2002)

Joey Porter              17.5 (2008)

Trace Armstrong    16.5 (2000)

Doug Betters           16 (1983)

 

Game

Bill Stanfill              5 (1973 vs. Jets)

Vern Den Herder  5 (1973 vs. Bills)

Bill Stanfill               5 (1974 vs. Bills)

Cam Wake               4.5 (2012 vs. Cardinals)

Cam Wake              4 (2014 vs. Titans)

Vern Den Herder   4 (1974 vs. Bills)

Vern Den Herder   4 (1979 vs. Colts)

Doug Betters           4 (1983 vs. Bills)

E.J. Junior                 4 (1991 vs. Patriots)

Joey Porter               4 (2008 vs. Patriots)

Great stinkbombs in the home-opener history of Miami sports

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) makes a reception on a long pass play defended by Miami Dolphins cornerback Brice McCain (24) at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on September 27, 2015.  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) makes a reception on a long pass play defended by Miami Dolphins cornerback Brice McCain (24) at Sun Life Stadium on September 27, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Everyone was calling that lifeless 41-14 loss to Buffalo the worst home opener in Miami Dolphins history and it was easy enough to play along, since at the moment it felt like just about the worst anything anywhere.

Took a later look, though, to confirm. Not only is it true, but there’s nothing even close to this 27-point deficit.

Second on the lopsided list comes a 37-20 loss to Dallas in 2007, Cam Cameron’s one and only season as Miami coach. A big difference is that the Cowboys didn’t put that game away until the fourth quarter. Sunday’s slide, of course, was immediate, with the Bills up 27-0 at halftime.

Hey, wait a minute, tied for third-lousiest home opener is a 14-point loss to New England in 2011, Tony Sparano’s last season running the Dolphins. Just coincidence, right, when it comes to Joe Philbin?

There’s nothing more damaging than treating hopeful fans this way. It’s like inviting everybody over for a housewarming party and sending them all home with food poisoning. Makes you never want to come back again. Makes you feel like a boob for buying a season ticket for a season that’s already shot in September.

[Hey, somebody’s got to be No. 25 so the Gators will take it]

[The comeback of Chris Bosh is as much mental as physical]

[Home-run balls aren’t exactly landing in Mike Wallace’s mitts with Vikings either]

One game doesn’t have to mean everything, of course. In 1995 the Dolphins mauled the Jets 52-14 in the home opener, giving birth to Super Bowl dreams, but by year’s end Don Shula was out. Can’t get any more drastic than that when it comes to turnarounds.

Just saying.

Here are a few more stinkers in South Florida pro sports history. Sorry that so many of you were there to experience them in person.

The Miami Heat won their first NBA title in 2006 and planned a spectacular ring-presentation ceremony to open the following season. Trouble is, the Chicago Bulls were not in the mood to participate in the fun. Miami lost 108-66, got outrebounded by 20 and had just one player, Dwyane Wade, who scored in double figures.

If it had been an exhibition, both teams would have agreed to stop after three quarters, to avoid both injuries and further humiliation.

Naturally, a fan can shake something like that off in the wake of a championship run. What happened at the inaugural opening night at Marlins Park, on the other hand, was merely the first unforgivable sin in a 2012 season that featured manager Ozzie Guillen getting in trouble for saying he admired Fidel Castro and ended with 93 losses.

Here are the lowlights of the first regular-season game at Marlins Park, attended by a sellout crowd of 36,601. St. Louis went up 3-0 in a heartbeat. The Marlins didn’t have a baserunner until the fourth inning, when a hit batsman got erased in a double play. They didn’t have a hit until the seventh and they didn’t have a run until the eighth. Final, St. Louis 4-1, but it felt like 400-1.

Maybe the worst is over for the Dolphins, at least in terms of blowouts. To be fair, the Bills would only have won this game by 26 points if only Andrew Franks hadn’t missed an extra point.

Because of the quirk of the London trip, however, it’s going to be a while before Miami gets another chance to make it up to the home crowd directly. The next game at Sun Life Stadium is a month away, Oct. 25, against the Houston Texans.

Strange to think that this stuff used to be so automatic. The Dolphins won 13 home openers in a row between 1976 and 1988.

Back then the team was pretty shiny and the stadium drab, not the other way around.