The 1972 Dolphins weren't even favored to win Super Bowl VII.
How do I remember this? Well, you're looking at someone who bet against them.
Seven years old. Took the Redskins, gave the points and tried like heck to get out of paying my uncle the 50 cents when the Dolphins completed their 17-0 season with a 14-7 victory.
Maybe that's why I've never really accepted them as the best team in NFL history. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact their opponents' combined winning percentage was under .400. Or that they won the AFC title game by only four points over Pittsburgh. Or that they were 16-0 and weren't even favored to win the Super Bowl.
Or maybe it really is because I'm still ticked off because, after all, 50 cents was a lot of money to an out-of-work 7-year-old in January of 1973.
The Dolphins were efficient and strong. They didn't make mistakes. And, of course, for at least the next 37 days, they remain the only team in NFL history to make it through the regular season and the postseason without losing a game.
But the best team ever?
The best ever in my book is the 1985 Chicago Bears. In my mind, they're the team that the '07 Patriots are chasing.
Even if New England completes the first 16-0 regular season with a victory over the host Giants tonight, they still will have a long way to go. If they destroy their AFC playoff opponents and crush the poor NFC champion in Super Bowl XLII, then it'll be time to talk.
Some will call for an asterisk because of the "Spygate" scandal. I can't go that far. To me, getting caught and punished for stealing the Jets' defensive signals in Week 1 is a blemish on coach Bill Belichick as a person and simply could not have helped the Patriots enough to affect their status as one of the truly great teams in NFL history.
But for now, I'm hanging on to Ditka's Bears as the best team ever. It's a darn shame that one lousy loss in a Miami Monday nighter on Dec. 2, 1985, robbed them of their rightful spot at the head of the class all these years.
Former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and that quick release were the main reason the 1985 Bears lost that one time, 38-24. It was such an incredible upset that Marino still fields more questions about that game than about any other he played during his Hall of Fame career.
Fourteen of Da Bears' 19 opponents that season were held to 10 or fewer points. Four of them were shut out, including the Giants (21-0) in an NFC divisional game and the Rams (24-0) in the NFC title game. New England also had no chance against the Bears, falling 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.
Playing Buddy Ryan's famed "46" defense, the Bears of Singletary, Marshall, Dent, McMichael, Wilson, Hampton, Fencik, Plank, Duerson, Perry and Leslie Frazier -- a cornerback who is now the Vikings' defensive coordinator -- notched 80 sacks and 36 interceptions. They also held opposing quarterbacks to a 47.9 passer rating and rushing attacks to a mere 82 yards per game.
While the defense was holding opponents to 198 yards, the offense of McMahon and Payton and Gault was scoring 456 points.
"It was a great team with great characters," Ditka said during a recent visit to Minneapolis. "They will never be forgotten, that's for sure."
Choosing the best team in NFL history is fun and should be treated as such. But I'm sure many who are reading this are screaming that its lunkhead author doesn't have a clue.
Maybe someone is arguing that the best team is the 1941 Bears, who had a record 22.6-point margin of victory and an 11-1 record, including a 37-9 win over the Giants in the NFL title game.
Or maybe Vince Lombardi's 1962 NFL champions (14-1). Or John Madden's 1976 Super Bowl champion Raiders (16-1 and sorry, Vikings fans).
Or maybe one of Chuck Noll's four Super Bowl champions in Pittsburgh (sorry again). Or Bill Walsh's 1984 49ers, which went 18-1 overall while blanking the Bears 23-0 in the NFC title game and pounding Marino and the Dolphins 38-16 in the Super Bowl.
Or maybe the 1986 Giants, the 1996 Packers, the 1999 Rams, the 1950 Browns ... . The list could go on for some time.
Unless, of course, the Patriots beat the Giants, steamroll through the AFC playoffs and dominate Super Bowl XLII.
If that were to happen, it would be time to take the crown from Iron Mike and hand it to Little Bill.