The Dolphins were founded by attorney-politician Joe Robbie and actor-comedian Danny Thomas. They began play in the AFL in 1966. The region had not had a professional football team since the days of the Miami Seahawks, who played in the All-America Football Conference in 1946, before becoming the first incarnation of the Baltimore Colts. For the first few years, the Dolphins' full-time training camp and practice facilities were at Saint Andrew's School, a private, boys boarding prep school in Boca Raton. Miami joined the NFL as a result of the 1970 AFL–NFL merger.
The Miami Dolphins joined the American Football League (AFL) when an expansion franchise was awarded to lawyer Joseph Robbie and actor Danny Thomas in 1965 for $7.5 million, although Thomas would eventually sell his stake in the team to Robbie. During the summer of 1966, the Dolphins' training camp was in St. Pete Beach with practices in August at Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport.
Denny Sym cheered on the Miami Dolphins for 33 years as a one-man sideline show, leading Miami crowds in cheers and chants in his glittering coral (orange) and aqua hat from the Dolphins’ first game in 1966 until 2000. Sym died on March 18, 2007. He was 72.
St. Petersburg Beach hosted the Dolphins' first training camp in 1966. St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton hosted training camp in the late 1960s. The Dolphins subsequently trained in Miami Gardens at Biscayne College, later renamed St. Thomas University, from 1970 until 1993.
The Dolphins logo and uniforms remained fairly consistent from the team's founding through 2012. The team's colors were originally aqua and coral, with the coral color paying tribute to the Miami Seahawks and to the many natural coral reefs in Biscayne Bay. The team's original logo consisted of a sunburst with a leaping dolphin wearing a football helmet bearing the letter M. At their debut in 1966, a lighter & brighter orange was used instead of the deep coral color. The dolphin's head was near the center of the sunburst. In the 1967 season, the dolphin was centered on the sunburst, but it reverted to the original placement between 1968 and 1973. By 1974, the dolphin's body was centered on the sunburst in a slightly smaller logo than the 1967 version. The uniforms featured white pants with aqua and orange stripes, paired with either a white or aqua jersey. On the white jersey, aqua block numbers and names were outlined in orange, with aqua and orange sleeve stripes. Starting with the 1972 perfect season, these uniforms were used as the primary uniforms for road games and daytime home games, due to the extreme heat of South Florida. The team also had an aqua jersey used mainly for night home games or road games in which the opponent chose to wear white. The aqua jersey featured white block numbers and names with an orange outline, and orange and white sleeve stripes.
The Dolphins were the worst team with a 15–39–2 record in their first four seasons under head coach George Wilson, before Don Shula was hired as head coach. Shula was a Paul Brown disciple who had been lured from the Baltimore Colts, after losing Super Bowl III two seasons earlier to the AFL's New York Jets, and finishing 8–5–1 the following season. Shula got his first NFL coaching job from then-Detroit head coach George Wilson, who hired him as the defensive coordinator. The AFL merged with the NFL in 1970, and the Dolphins were assigned to the AFC East division in the NFL's new American Football Conference.
For the rest of the 20th century, the Shula-led Dolphins emerged as one of the most dominant teams in the NFL, with only two losing seasons between 1970 and 1999. They were extremely successful in the 1970s, completing the first complete perfect season in NFL history by finishing with a 14–0 regular-season record in 1972 and winning the Super Bowl that year. It was the first of two consecutive Super Bowl wins and one of three appearances in a row. The 1980s and 1990s were also moderately successful. The early 80s teams made two Super Bowls despite losing both times and saw the emergence of future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, who went on to break numerous NFL passing records, holding many of them until the late 2000s. After winning every game against the division rival Buffalo Bills in the 1970s, the two teams gradually developed a competitive rivalry in the 80s and 90s, often competing for AFC supremacy when Jim Kelly emerged as the quarterback for the Bills. The Dolphins have also maintained a strong rivalry with the New York Jets throughout much of their history.
The Dolphins dominated the New England Patriots during the 1970s and the 1990s, but there were some notable moments as well, including a game now known as the Snowplow Game. Fortunes changed when Tom Brady became the franchise quarterback for the Patriots, and since then, the Patriots have virtually dominated the AFC, especially the AFC East. Miami did pose more of a challenge to the Brady-led Patriots in the 2000s, however, winning more games against them than the Bills or Jets did during that decade. Notable wins over New England by the Dolphins include the Miracle in Miami, which involved a dramatic last-minute game-winning touchdown that paralleled "The Night that Courage Wore Orange", where in 2004, the Dolphins, at 2–11, upset the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots 28–29, and handed them the second of their 2 losses that season. The rivalry briefly intensified in 2005 when Nick Saban, Bill Belichick's former Browns defensive coordinator was hired as their new head coach and when Saban nearly signed quarterback Drew Brees, as well as in 2008, when the two teams battled for the AFC East division title. Miami and New England are also the only two franchises to have posted undefeated regular-season records since the NFL-AFL merger, with Miami going 14–0 in 1972 and New England going 16–0 in 2007, but only the 1972 Dolphins were able to win the Super Bowl.
Since the founding of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976, the Dolphins and Buccaneers have shared a mellow in-state rivalry and were the only two teams in Florida until the Jacksonville Jaguars joined the NFL in 1995.
The team's cheerleaders are known collectively as the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders. The company had its debut in 1978 as the Dolphins Starbrites. (The name referred to the co-sponsor, Starbrite Car Polish.) The cheerleaders' founding choreographer was June Taylor, famed colleague of Jackie Gleason, who led the squad until her retirement in 1990.
In 1992, at the 20 year anniversary, Miami's "1972 Undefeated Team" was enshrined into the Honor Roll. At the 40 year anniversary, which enshrined former defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger into the Honor Roll, his name went on the Honor Roll where the "1972 Undefeated Team" inductee previously and originally was enshrined, and an updated "1972 Perfect Season Team 17–0" inductee was put into one corner of Hard Rock Stadium with special placards of Super Bowl VII and Super Bowl VIII included next to it on each side.
In 1993, the Dolphins opened the Miami Dolphins Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. In 2006, the facility added a domed field that allows the team to practice during thunderstorms which are common in the area during the summer.
An update was given to the logo in 1997 – the sunburst was simplified and the dolphin was darkened and given a more serious game-face expression. The uniforms remained the same; however, a different block number font was used and navy drop shadows were added.
("The Dolphin") On Friday, April 18, 1997, the first "official" mascot of the Miami Dolphins was introduced. The 7-foot mascot made his public debut on April 19 at Pro Player Stadium during the team's draft-day party. The team then made a "Name the Mascot" contest that drew over 13,000 entries covering all 50 states and 22 countries. 529 names were suggested. The winning entry was announced at the annual Dolphins Awards Banquet on June 4, 1997.
On very rare occasions, an orange jersey was used for primetime games. The uniforms essentially swapped the location of orange and aqua from the aqua jersey. The orange jersey was first used on a Sunday night in 2003 against Washington, a Dolphin win. In 2004, the orange jersey was brought back for an Monday Night Football match pitting the 2–11 Dolphins against the 12–1 defending champion New England Patriots. The Dolphins scored a huge upset win after trailing by 11 points with less than 5 minutes remaining. Due to the unusual orange jerseys, the game has become known within some Dolphin circles as "The Night That Courage Wore Orange". The orange jerseys were used for a 2009 Monday night win against the New York Jets. However, the Dolphins would lose a 2010 Sunday night matchup with the Jets, their first loss in orange, and the orange jerseys in the original style would not be worn again.
Following the retirements of Marino and Shula and the rise of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the Dolphins suffered a decline in the 2000s and 2010s. During this period, the team's level of play was largely described as mediocre. They have only made the playoffs four times since Marino's retirement and have largely been unable to find a consistent quarterback to replace him. The team suffered a franchise-worst 1–15 season in 2007. They rebounded the following season, becoming the first team in NFL history to win their division and make a playoff appearance following a league-worst season. That same season, the Dolphins upset the New England Patriots on the road during Week 3 thanks to the use of the gimmick Wildcat offense, which handed the Patriots their first regular-season loss since December 10, 2006, in which coincidentally, they were also beaten by the Dolphins. However, this success in 2008 proved to be an outlier during this period in the franchise's history; to date, it is the last season the Dolphins won the AFC East. However, the Dolphins have been competitive against the Patriots despite their decline, with notable wins coming in 2004, 2008, 2014, 2018, and 2019. Until 2020, they were also the last team in the AFC East to win the division championship aside from the Patriots, doing so in 2008.
In 2009, the Dolphins switched to black shoes for the first time since the early 1970s glory days, following a recent trend among NFL teams. However, by 2011, they returned to wearing white shoes.
The song was written and composed by Lee Ofman, and has similar instrumentation and lyrics to the fight song of the Houston Oilers. Ofman approached the Dolphins with it before the 1972 season because he wanted music to inspire his favorite team. The fight song would soon serve as a good luck charm for the Dolphins that season. The Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to record an undefeated season, going 17–0 en route to victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. The following season, Miami posted an equally impressive 15–2 record and capped the season with another title, defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. The back-to-back championship runs, coupled with the popularity of the fight song amongst Dolphins fans, have ensured the song's longevity. The Dolphins revealed a new fight song by T-Pain and Jimmy Buffett featuring Pitbull on August 7, 2009, which was introduced for the 2009 NFL season. The fight song was played during the preseason home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on August 17, 2009, but was not played during the second preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on August 22, 2009, after being booed heavily in the first game. Furthermore, the team has preferred to play Buffett's song "Fins" after scores during the 2009 regular season instead of the traditional fight song.
In April 2010, the Dolphins started the first Volunteer Program in the NFL. Special Teams is a unique volunteer organization created to enlist and mobilize the ongoing services of the community with the Dolphins staff, players and alumni. The mission of the Special Teams is to offer hands-on services to communities and families in need, to partner with existing organizations on worthwhile social, civic and charitable programs, to provide assistance at Miami Dolphins Foundation events, and to support community efforts in times of emergency. This program is headed by Leslie Nixon and Sergio Xiques. Since its inception, Special Teams has given over 250,000 community services hours to the South Florida and Mexico community.
In August 2010, the team launched its own regional TV "network". The Dolphins Television Network comprises 10 South Florida TV stations that agreed to carry the team-produced coverage. Preseason games are broadcast on television through WFOR-TV in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, WTVX in West Palm Beach, WBBH-TV in Fort Myers, and WRDQ in Orlando. Longtime TV and radio personality Dick Stockton provides play-by-play commentary, with Dolphins Hall-of-Fame QB Bob Griese and former Dolphins WR Nat Moore providing color commentary. The radio broadcast team features Jimmy Cefalo providing play-by-play commentary and Joe Rose providing color commentary during preseason games, along with Griese for regular-season games. Griese replaced longtime color commentator Jim Mandich, who played for the Dolphins under Don Shula. Mandich lost his fight with cancer in 2011, opening the door for Griese as his replacement. Radio coverage is provided on WQAM (560 AM) and WKIS (99.9 FM). Additionally, games can also be heard in Spanish on WNMA (1210 AM), with Raúl Striker Jr. and Joaquin Duro providing play-by-play and color commentary, respectively.
The Joe Robbie Alumni Plaza Walk of Fame was first established in 2011, designed to be all-encompassing and recognize the best of the Miami Dolphins alumni, including those in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Honor Roll, and as well as the many other players who were among the unsung heroes and community leaders that the organization has produced. The "Walk of Fame" is located at the north end of Hard Rock Stadium, with a life-size bronze statue of Joe Robbie, the original founder and owner of the Miami Dolphins from 1966 to 1989. Bold indicates those elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In 2015, the Dolphins brought back their 1970s aqua uniforms for a few select games. Four years later, they brought back a white version from the same era as a second alternate uniform. The aqua throwbacks were worn during the now-famous 2018 Miracle in Miami play against the Patriots.
In 2015, to commemorate the Miami Dolphins' 50th NFL season, the Dolphins organization announced through voting from the South Florida Media and Miami Dolphin fans the results of the 50 greatest players in Miami Dolphins franchise history. The results were announced during halftime on Monday Night Football between the Dolphins and the Giants. Here are the 50 greatest Dolphins broken down by position. Bold indicates those elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Dolphins originally played all home games in the Orange Bowl in Miami. They moved to the new Joe Robbie Stadium after the 1986 season. From 1993 to 2011, the Dolphins shared the stadium with Major League Baseball's Florida Marlins. The venue has had multiple naming rights deals since 1996, carrying the names Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, LandShark Stadium, Sun Life Stadium, New Miami Stadium and, as of August 2016, Hard Rock Stadium. The facility is located in Miami Gardens, a suburb of Miami located approximately 15 miles (24 km) north of downtown Miami. The Miami Dolphins share Hard Rock Stadium with the NCAA Miami Hurricanes. The 2015–2016 season was the first season in the newly renovated Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins spent more than two years and over $400 million on a major overhaul to Hard Rock Stadium. Every seat was replaced and the lower-level seats were moved closer to the field. There are roughly 10,000 fewer seats.
On September 29, 2016, the Dolphins debuted their new Color Rush uniform in a Thursday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The all-orange uniform marked the first time since 2010 that the Dolphins wore an orange uniform. However, the set was only used for that game as the Dolphins immediately retired the uniform soon after.
In 2018, the team made some slight modifications to the logo and uniform set: The shades of orange and aqua were tweaked, and navy blue was removed from the color scheme, only remaining on the logo.
In 2021, the Dolphins opened a new, 135 million training facility, dubbed the Baptist Health Training Complex, the Dolphins will practice in. The complex is located next to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Roster updated November 28, 2022