Sunday's match-up between the teams is a rematch of Super Bowls VII and XVII. Super Bowl XVII happens to also have been the Redskins first Super Bowl championship. All season the NFL will be celebrating 22 Super Bowl rematches across 19 games in the lead-up to Super Bowl 50 in February.
I was fortunate enough to participate in a conference call with Joe and Bob this afternoon and ask them a few questions as they reflected on what it means to be honorary captains, their Super Bowl memories, and this Sunday's match-up. You can read the entire call transcribed below:
The Super Bowls that both the Dolphins and Redskins played in were 10 years apart, which is a long time in the NFL, but one commonality between both of those Super Bowls was coach Don Shula. Bob, what was it like to have played for a Don Shula-coached team and Joe, what was it like to prepare for and then beat Don Shula's Dolphins?
Bob Griese: "Well, I like to remember the Super Bowl VII game much more than the Super Bowl XVII game. (Joe was laughing.) And as I tell coach Shula all the time, I wasn't around for that one, so you lost that one without us. (Joe's still laughing.) No, Coach Shula was a great coach. He always did things by the book. He was fair. He was always looking for the edge but he would do it in a way that was fair, but he was a great coach and I kid him all the time now, I didn't kid him back when I was a player for him, but I kid him that he lost a Super Bowl with Baltimore before he came to the Dolphins and then we're the only ones that he won the Super Bowls with. He won two with us and then went ahead and lost the one to the Redskins when I had retired so I have one up on him and I kid him about that all the time."
Joe Theismann: "My connection with coach Shula goes all the way back to college because I was originally drafted by the Dolphins in 1971 and wound up negotiating my contract with Mr. Robby as opposed to Joe Thomas who was the General Manager at that time. Of course they had a QB by the name of Bob Griese there which loomed big in my decision as well and I had actually went on Miami television and said that come heck or high water, I'll be a Miami Dolphin and then we ran into a bit of a contract issue. I thought I had the ability to negotiate my own contract (Bob's laughing) and I soon found out that was a big mistake. Bob knows exactly what I'm talking about. And then I wound up going three years to Canada and then George Allen traded a #1 pick for me back in 1974 when I joined the Redskins. And then eight years later, here we are up against coach Shula in a Super Bowl... and just a great football team. It was pre-Dan Marino and David Woodley was the QB. They ran the ball well. It was the best defense in football at the time that we wound up playing and we had a philosophy and a concept that coach Gibbs wanted to adhere to and that was to run the football, stay close, and at the end we'll see if we can pull it out, which we'd done on many different occasions in that particular season. So we wound up beating coach Shula and then two years after that I wound up working with Frank Gifford and Don Meredith and had the opportunity to broadcast Super Bowl XIX which the San Francisco 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins. So Griese's right, Shula lost those without him and it seemed like every time he saw me something good wasn't happening in Miami. So between the two of us, I think we've had some wonderful memories and some very painful ones for coach Shula."
Joe, going back to your time early in your career when you were a punt returner (got a laugh out of Joe there), Jay Gruden just announced that Jamison Crowder is going to be the PR come Sunday and I'm wondering what you think his impact can be back there?
JT: "Well you know he did it in college and did it very successfully. We have struggled here in Washington on our special teams over the last couple years. He's dynamic. He's quick. He's a quick-twitch guy who makes quick decisions and he can get 0-60 in a hurry. I think Jamison's going to be a big asset to us. One of the best punt returners we ever had who never got to work much was Darrell Green. I believe that Darrell Green, given the opportunity to have returned punts for the Washington Redskins, could have been for us what Devin Hester had been in Chicago when the rules allowed you to be able to return kicks and people didn't kick the ball away from him all the time. I think Jamison's going to be an impact player for us in more ways than one... starting as a punt returner."
How'd you guys get informed that you were going to be honorary captains and what does it mean to both of you guys to get picked to represent both of these teams this weekend as honorary captains? How did it come about?
JT: "Bruce Allen approached me in training camp and said that he would like to know if I was available and if I would be the honorary captain for the Miami game and I told him I was flattered and honored to be able to do that and he explained to me what the league was doing regarding Super Bowl contestants through the course of this 50th Super Bowl anniversary season. He gave me the opportunity to be able to be one of the guys who was going to do it and then I found out Bob was going to do it and we've been friends for so many years and I'm flattered and I'm honored to have been asked and really appreciate the opportunity. You know, it's our opening game and I believe it's going to be a new era for our franchise and it's exciting."
BG: "I've known Bruce Allen for a long time from back when he was in Tampa and my son Brian was playing over there. Jon Gruden was the coach. I'd go over there and watch a bunch of Brian's games. I think Bruce had something to do with me being picked. You know there aren't many legends from the Dolphins who are going to be up with the team for the game this Sunday. I think Bruce had something to do with it. Maybe he didn't. Maybe he did. But I'm, like Joe, I'm just very honored to do this to step forward to represent the Miami Dolphins and the National Football League. It's my honor and I'm like Joe, I'm flattered and honored to be doing it."
What are your opinions on the current QBs of your teams? Joe, how do you think Kirk will do Sunday and could you make a final score prediction? And for you Bob, what do you expect from Ryan Tannehill this season and what is your score prediction going to be?
JT: "I think Kirk will play very well. You know, he threw nine interceptions a year ago and what gets lost in that is the fact that seven of 'em came in two fourth quarters, four against the Giants and three against the Arizona Cardinals. In talking to him and spending time with him in the preseason, he understands exactly what he was doing. You know, he forced the ball. He tried to make up when things weren't going well. You forget he's young. He hasn't played a lot of football and he played a lot less when he had the opportunity last year. He just tried to do too much. He's very efficient at what he does. He runs the offense very well. He gets the ball out of his hands in a nice way. And I think he's going to allow the supporting cast around to be able to help him get the job done. I feel very good about where Kirk is. I feel very good about where our offense is and where we're going as a football team. It's an entirely different football team with an entirely different mentality than it has had the last couple of years and I think that's a very positive thing for us. I would be remiss to think the Redskins couldn't win at home, which is some place we haven't played as good as we should, and with that in mind I think the Redskins will beat the Miami Dolphins by a score of 23-16."
BG: "You never were good with numbers, Joe."
JT: "Well what'd you expect? I was trying to go 27-17, but it's still early for us so I'm not sure what we're going to be able to do."
BG: "Ryan Tannehill is in his fourth year with the Dolphins and he's started all 48 games that the Dolphins have played in the last three years. So he's a tough, durable kid. Each year at the beginning of the year when I do the Dolphin radio and TV during the preseason and radio during the season, but we interview these guys before the game each year during preseason and this year I was just kind of blown away because, I'm sitting across the table from him and I'm looking at him and he's... he's arrived. He has taken control. It's his team. He's the leader. He's more vocal in the huddle. It's just his team now. Before, other guys were helping him and carrying him along and now he's the boss, he's in control and he's help carrying the rest of the offense around. So I'm very impressed with him and where he's at and I think he's going to have a great future."
Joe, a lot of people don't know that you were the co-owner of the UFL team that Jay Gruden coached back in 2010. What, if anything, did you learn about him as a coach back then and how do you think he has he progressed as an NFL HC today?
JT: "It's a great question. I was flattered to have the opportunity to work with Jay. Before I got there Jim Haslett had coached the team and when Jim left, Jay came in and took over and just ran every aspect of the game. We had like 6... 7,000 people sitting in a stadium that sat 60,000+. And I went in there with all these ideas about marketing and Jay and I were kidding about this during training camp and he looked at me like I was nuts. I think the UFL, or something like it, is a tremendous idea for a feeder for the National Football League. Because you think of coaches... Dennis Green, Jay Gruden, Jim Fassel, Marty Schottenheimer... All these men have coached in the UFL. It's a great place for a farm system, which the NFL does not have other than college, for guys to be able to fill in spots when people get hurt. The thing that impressed me so much about Jay was his organization skills. He definitely had a way that he wanted to do things. He had a plan. He ran his practices very very precisely and very concisely, the way he does now. He knows what he wants. I think last year when he became our Head Coach here in Washington, he had to see what he had... like so many coaches coming in. And in doing that, he realized, for example, that he couldn't coach the QB position because he just didn't have enough time in the day. He went and hired Matt Cavanaugh, which was not only a great hire, but to realize that I just can't do all the things that I would like to do and I want to bring in qualified people. One of my favorite sayings on leadership is know what you don't know. And bring in people that can do the job for you if you can't get it done. It's not that he couldn't do it from a talent standpoint, just time didn't permit it. I think his organizational skills are terrific. He has a philosophy. And this is something the Redskins have really lacked... an identity. Jay has pounded away on the fact that we want to be a tough, physical, powerful running football team. We'll throw the ball around; we can throw with anybody. But we need to establish an identity of who we are and how we're going to control football games. And that's what he did in the UFL. We lost the championship game because there was a lousy non-call in the endzone.. that's the way I look at it all the time (chuckling). We lost at Omaha in his last year coaching there. I think his organizational skills are exemplary. He knows what he wants. He's not wishy-washy at all.
This one's for Bob, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't know that I got an actual game score prediction from you...
BG: "I don't do predictions other than the fact that I feel very confident that the Dolphins will come out with a win."
So no score prediction out of you?
BG: "As Joe knows, any kind of win... one point, 20 points, whatever. Just get a win."
JT: "Any W works."
One of the biggest match-ups that everyone's looking forward to is the Redskins OL matched-up against the Dolphins revamped DL and more specifically how the Redskins right-side, young guys in Brandon Scherff at G and Morgan Moses at RT can do against Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. What do you guys think the outcome will be of that match-up on Sunday?
JT: "Well I think one of the best things that happened to Brandon Scherff in the preseason was getting his rear-end pushed all the way back in Robert's lap against the Detroit Lions. I think what he learned on that one particular play is that the DTs in the National Football League are incredibly strong and incredibly gifted. And he's going up against probably the best DT in football in Ndamukong. So it was a rude awakening at the time but I think it was something that will serve him very well going forward as he prepares to take on the challenge ahead of him."
BG: "The big news, the new thing is Ndamukong Suh coming over to the Dolphins from Detroit and you know, I had a wrong impression of this kid. The only time I would ever see any highlights is when he was doing something he shouldn't be doing, whether stomping on an ankle or kicking somebody in the butt or something like that. This kid is a very bright, intelligent, well-spoken, educated young man. I've got so much more respect for him now than I had before. He's a Hell of a football player. No doubt about that. He's made our OL so much better in practice just because of him playing against them. Any OL, whether they're young or whether they're veterans, they're going to have some trouble with this Dolphin DL. Cameron Wake, Suh, Mitchell, and Vernon, and then they've got some guys behind them. They think that's the strength of their defense... their DL. It's going to be fun to watch those guys."
JT: "No it's not, Bob." (Laughter)
BG: "I feel for your QB."
JT: "You feel for Kirk, huh? Already.
BG: "I broadcast with ABC and ESPN, did college football for 29 years. I did Kirk Cousins while he was at Michigan St. I did RGIII when he was at Baylor. And Colt McCoy when he was at Texas. I saw all these guys come up and play well and go into the NFL and now all three of them are here with the Redskins and I think they all have a wonderful future in the league because those guys are good guys and they know football."
Many thanks to Joe Theismann and Bob Griese for their time and also to the Redskins PR department for giving us the opportunity to chat with these guys for a little bit. They're both great guys and it was a pleasure talking with them!
I'd also like to give a shout-out to Ken Meringolo and Tom Garrett for all their help with this interview.