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  J.T. and Giants have Dolfans Smiling Again
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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There weren’t many good days for Dolfans this past season, just two by my count.


The win over the Ravens, avoiding the ignominy of being the first 0-16 team in NFL history, was the first.


Super Bowl Sunday was the other.


The day started off with a bang as Jason Taylor earned the 2007 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.


He joins Dwight Stephenson (1985) and Dan Marino (1998) as the only Dolphins ever to win this prestigious award. Only three teams (Steelers, Chiefs, Chargers) have more award winners (4 each) than do the Dolphins (3).


In the world of Sport, where negative stories grab headlines and good works often go unnoticed, Dolfans everywhere should be proud that a Miami Dolphin is again recognized as the role model for excellence on and off the field.


You know about the “on”, the football business: 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Bowl recognition (sixth time) on his way towards strengthening what is certainly a Hall of Fame resume.


The NFL press release sums up the “off”, the people business: In 2004, J.T. established the Jason Taylor Foundation (JTF) “with a mission of creating programs that assist South Florida’s children in need by focusing on improved health care, education and quality of life. In 2007, the JTF launched the ‘Jason Taylor Reading Room’ in Miramar, FL, an after-school program designed to address illiteracy among inner-city youth. Taylor also contributed $50,000 to the Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami to support the ‘Jason Taylor Children’s Learning Center,’ a recreational and educational hub for hospitalized children.”


And this is only the stuff that people know about.


There’s no question that Taylor is this generation’s Dan Marino, the “next” in a long line of Dolphins that will one day be regarded among the greatest in NFL history.


Not too bad for a skinny kid taken in the third round from tiny Akron University.


Let’s just hope that the team can get it together soon enough for Taylor (11th season) to earn what the Giants’ Michael Strahan (15th season) just did: a Super Bowl ring.


Ah yes, the game. What a game!


Was it the most exciting in Super Bowl history? It’s debatable, but it’s easily in the top 5.


Was it the biggest upset in Super Bowl history? No question. Formerly, Super Bowl III, the New York Jets’ historic win over the Baltimore Colts, held that distinction.


Here’s the reason why 42 is greater than 3: few really knew about the Jets, and the Colts didn’t have what the Patriots had on the line. In today’s media intensive society, everyone knew about the undefeated Patriots and what they had at stake, a 4th championship and the immortality of a perfect season.


In one moment, from the time a pass left the fingers of Eli Manning and landed in the hands of Plaxico Burress, it was gone. All of it. Then and there, shockingly, 18-1 meant about as much as 1-15. Maybe less.


The Pats, 12 point favorites, choked. Plain and simple. They failed to join the 1972 Dolphins in “Perfectville” because they failed to overcome the late game adversity the Dolphins had in similar circumstances.


They failed to finish. They are, as Pats’ DE Richard Seymour said, “second class”.


For those of you who don’t remember what the Dolphins did to cap the perfect season, I take you back to Super Bowl VII.


It is the fourth quarter, less than 3 minutes to play with the Dolphins leading the Redskins 14-0. The game is all but in the bag as Garo Yepremian lines up to attempt a 42 yard field goal. All the stars are aligned, a 17-0 victory to cap a 17-0 season.


Suddenly the kick is blocked by Redskins DE Bill Brundige. The ball is deflected back at Yepremian, who collects it. Instead of smartly falling down and killing the play, Garo attempts a pass. It flutters feebly in the air, allowing CB Mike Bass to easily pick it off for a touchdown.


After holding the Dolphins to one first down, the Redskins take possession at their own 30. Suddenly, the outcome of the game is in real doubt. There’s 1:14 left to tie the game, an eternity by NFL standards.


It is here that the 1972 Dolphin defense does what the 2007 Patriot defense couldn’t; they close the deal.


The No Names harass Billy Kilmer into two incomplete passes, stop a third for a 4 yard loss, and put an emphatic stamp on victory by sacking Kilmer on fourth down.


Ball game.


Today, the Patsies (yes, it’s OK to call them the Patsies again) become what Don Shula knew his ’72 team would become if they didn’t finish the job: the worst one loss team in NFL history.


Instead of joining the ’72 Perfectos, the ‘07 Pats will be forever known as the antithesis to them.


Sauce for the goose? Yes, but don’t look to Dolfans for sympathy. Not after this season. Make no mistake; behind the façade of good sportsmanship by many was a fierce desire to see the Patriots lose. No partisan wanted the greatest Dolphin record shared, especially after so many others had fallen by the wayside in recent seasons.


Today, Dolfans are right to feel a renewed sense of pride in The Perfect Season. Even younger fans now have a better appreciation for just how great an accomplishment it was.


And it remains unique to the Miami Dolphins.


But let’s be clear: the franchise should feel extremely relieved and thankful that they were able to stay on the right side of history in 2007, by the slimmest of margins, and that things didn’t turn out even worse than they did.


Thank you, Greg Camarillo, for saving the 2007 Dolphins from becoming the worst ever.


Thank you, New York Giants, for preserving The Perfect Season for the Dolphins alone.


Thank you, Jason Taylor, for being a leader on a team that needs you more than ever.


Let’s hope this new regime keeps the smiles coming in 2008.


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