Byron's Babbles

1973 – Dolphin Leadership


As I sit here on February 6, 2016 just hours away from Super Bowl 50, I am reflecting back on what I consider to be a year of great significance, when champions and rock stars where born: 1973. I was 10 years old and loved all the things that all 10 year old boys loved: football and rock and roll music. Yep, even as a rural raised, farm kid I would come in and spin the vinyl (for the younger ones in the crowd that’s short for records). Even at that age I was hungry and looking for those who could lead teams and groups to champion status. Well, I certainly found the icons that year.

kiss-bandSo, what made that year, 1973, special? Two things that would change my life forever. The Miami Dolphins won the Super Bowl and the band KISS was formed by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Quite a combination of examples for the the young Ernest boy, don’t you think. Let’s take a closer look at my reflection of these two champions of rock start proportion. I am going to do this in two posts. Today’s post about the Miami Dolphins, Bob Griese, and Don Shula and tomorrow’s post about Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and KISS.

First, let’s look at the Miami Dolphins. You have to remember that there were no Indianapolis Colts at that time to follow or be a fan of. Therefore I became a fan of the team who had one of my future Purdue Boilermakers (he led Purdue to its first Rose Bowl Game in 1967) Bob Griese, at quarterback and renowned leader and coach, Don Shula at the helm. The undefeated campaign also had notable players Earl Morrall, and Larry Csonka as part of the team. The 1972 Dolphins went 14–0 in the regular season and won all three post-season games, including Super Bowl VII against the Washington Redskins, to finish 17–0. Wow, what a season for the kid that had the Dolphin towels, bed sheets and bed spread, sweatshirts, sweatpants, posters on the wall, and probably Dolphin underwear. You get the idea; I was all in for the Miami Dolphins. Little did I know it, however, but I was getting a great leadership lesson.

Don’t forget, the Dolphins also remain the only NFL team to complete an entire season undefeated and untied from the opening game through the Super Bowl. Pretty amazing and kind of like winning a triple crown. Also, let’s not forget that during the 1972 season, Bob Griese’s ankle was broken in Week 5 as he was sacked by San Diego Chargers defensive tackle Ron East and defensive end Deacon Jones. He was replaced by veteran Earl Morrall for the rest of the regular season. Griese returned to the field as a substitute during the AFC Championship game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers and then started for Miami in Super Bowl VII. So, there’s a leadership lesson from Griese, teaching us to fight back after adversity.

imagesOn Leadership, Bob Griese was known for his decision making ability and servant leader mentality. He was known as the “Thinking Man’s Quarterback,” was drafted by the American Football League’s (AFL) Miami Dolphins in 1967. Also, don’t forget Griese led the Dolphins to three consecutive Super Bowls, winning two of them. There are those that say no one in NFL history had such talent around him to compensate for an average throwing arm. As for those teammates around him; the 1972 Dolphins defensive unit, called the “No-Name Defense” because Miami’s impressive offense received much more publicity. The Miami Dolphin defense 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 don’t know about that, but isn’t that what great leader do; surround themselves with great team member to achieve great purpose? That’s great leadership, baby! He is a leader and was a class act on and off the field.The man is a winner and a success at everything he does, just like all Purdue alums should be. He was an ideal sports icon for a young Indiana youth to be looking up to.

imagesNow, let’s talk about Don Shula’s leadership. It was great to have a championship role-model coach growing up. Later I read the books by Shula The Winning Edge and Everyone’s a Coach. Even though these books were published in 1973 and 1995 respectively, I would suggest everyone read them. In fact I just put the back on my reading stack for a re-read. Shula has given us an incredible acronym to live, coach, and lead by: COACH.


Conviction-Driven: Never compromise your beliefs
Overlearning: Practice until it’s perfect
Audible-Ready: Know when to change
Consistency: Respond predictably to performance
Honesty-Based: Walk your talk


Don Shula made a career of turning individuals into a team. He understood acquiring the perfect player is not the only way to win. Finding players with value, now that’s the formula. He developed the skills of players and gave them roles to contribute to the long-term success of the team. One of my most valued possessions in my office is my Don Shula 17-0 signed helmet. It reminds me every day what I need to strive for as a leader and COACH (someday I would love to get Bob Griese to sign it, too). Honestly, what more could we want or expect out of ourselves as leaders? So as we lead our own championship teams to run toward a greater purpose, let us remember these great leaders that 1973 brought to stardom.thumb.aspx

Tomorrow, my blog post will be entitled, 1973 – KISS Leadership. Find out about the other great leadership example born out of 1973.



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  1. […] I wrote Part I of a two part post entitled 1973 – Dolphin Leadership. Click here to read that post. Today, with only a few hours until Super Bowl 50, I continue to […]


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