I'll let you in on a secret. I have a beef with the Miami Dolphins side of 1972, but it isn't the one you think it is. You see, I don't care about the unbeaten record. I don't care about the stories of them drinking champagne when the last unbeaten record falls each season (and which are probably exaggerated—even legendary self-publicist Mercury Morris says it has only happened on a couple of occasions). What I do care about, though, is that so few of them—six, plus coach Don Shula—have found their way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As I have said before, two of the biggest problems with the Hall are that with each passing year, it becomes harder to get in, and with each passing year, memories of the older players fade. The chances of any more of that team making it to Canton are remote to say the least. Which is precisely where this column can step in.
The Dolphins side which went through 1972 unbeaten was built around a rock solid offensive line. At the core of that line were center Jim Langer—the brains of the line—and guards Kuechenberg and Larry Little. Having only one significant wide threat (as was common in those days) in Paul Warfield, the Dolphins offense relied heavily upon the powerful running duo of Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick. Which, in turn, means that much of the success that side had was down to the ability of those three linemen to create holes for Csonka and Kiick to hit. Just look at the winning score in Super Bowl VII, it comes from a run right behind Kuechenberg.
Which then begs one question. Langer is in the Hall of Fame. So is Little. Warfield, Csonka and quarterback Bob Griese are there too. Why isn't Kuechenberg?
Yes, he was slow by today's standards, but then so was every other player. And by God, he was tough. Even today, you won't get many linemen willing to play with a broken arm, as Kuechenberg did (he only missed four games in his 14 year career). You can't measure a lineman's stats in the way that you can a quarterback, a receiver or even a linebacker. But you can look at the difference that he made to a side. On that basis alone, Kuechenberg deserves his place in this alternative Hall of Fame.