Sonny Jurgensen does not remember the details from that 1966 afternoon. The Washington Redskins quarterback doesn’t remember throwing three touchdowns, for instance, or the game getting so out of hand he was taken out in the third quarter.
What he does remember about his Washington offense scoring an NFL-record 72 points against the New York Giants that day remains relevant to the Miami Dolphins standing at the doorstep of passing that total during Sunday’s victory.
He remembers finding his friend, Washington linebacker Sam Huff, when the field-goal unit was running on the field with seven seconds left in a 69-41 lead.
“Why are we doing this?” he asked Huff, who was nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career.
“Because Allie ran it up on us,” Huff answered, referring to New York Giants coach Allie Sherman on the other side.
Otto Graham, the head coach, and Huff, who was sent in a bitter trade from the Giants to Redskins, didn’t like Sherman.
“It was personal,’’ said Jurgensen, 89. “That’s all what it was about.”
Jurgensen didn’t know Monday morning of the Dolphins game on Sunday or that history had a chance to repeat itself. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel faced a similar decision as Huff when up 70-20 against he Denver Broncos. Except for one thing.
McDaniel didn’t kick the field goal. It wasn’t personal for McDaniel in a way he could have made it. The Dolphins wanted Denver coach Sean Payton in the winter of 2021 before hiring McDaniel. The Broncos, McDaniel’s hometown team, never called about their job opening, either.
Ultimately, decisions like this are a window into a coach’s personality. Some coaches would have kicked the field goal and said the players deserved the record. McDaniel’s way isn’t the nose-rubbing way. He has to coach to the North Star of who he is.
Let’s be honest, too: Washington’s 72 points isn’t some magic number in sports. No one even knew of it before the final minutes on Sunday. So, it’s not Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in basketball, or Roger Maris’s 61 home runs in baseball back when that feat mattered.
Football is the sport that doesn’t care do nostalgia very well or pay much about numbers. There’s the 1972 Dolphins’ season of 17-0. There’s Dan Marino’s 48 touchdown passes in 1984 being passed by Peyton Manning with 55 in 2013. That’s about it for marquee numbers, right?
Still, if it’s records you want, this Dolphins offense has a chance to re-write plenty of NFL history if it stays healthy. The Greatest Show on Surf? When you can score 70 points, there’s not a safe page in the record books.
Take the most obvious: Points in a season. Manning’s Broncos scored 606 points in 2013. The Dolphins are on pace for 737 points.
OK, it’s just a three-game sample for the Dolphins so far. But even given the idea a 70-point game won’t happen again — and are we sure? — the Dolphins have a good chance to set this record.
Of course, the NFL plays 17 games now, as opposed to 16 for those Broncos. So look at an absurd, apples-to-apples record the Dolphins have a shot at: The 1950 Los Angeles Rams record of 38.8 points per game.
To give that context, the 1984 Dolphins of Dan Marino and the Marks Brothers that set passing records only had one game above the ’50 Rams average. Those 2013 Broncos averaged 37.9 points.
The Dolphins average 43.3 points through three games. Some things can be projected to help them make a run at this record, too.
Like? Well, the Dolphins play four of their final games at home, so winter weather isn’t an overriding concern. They played Sunday without receiver Jaylen Waddle, so their arsenal wasn’t even at full strength.
Just as McDaniel stocked this roster, Dolphins ball-carriers have recorded the six fastest speeds in games this year, according to NextGen Stats:
1. Tyreek Hill in Week 3 (22.07 MPH);
2. De’Von Achane in Week 3 (21.93);
3. Hill in Week 1 (21.66);
4. Raheem Mostert, Week 2: (21.62);
5. Hill in Week 1 (21.52);
6. Achane in Week 3 (21.5).
Some of that’s also an indication of running free, considering the Dolphins didn’t have a player in the top 10 last year. But this is a team with an Olympic relay when you throw in a healthy Waddle.
So, there will be plenty of records to go at if these first three weeks are lasting. Probably not the single-game point total again like on Sunday. But maybe that doesn’t matter.
Jurgensen and Huff were lifelong friends and became part of the Washington radio network for years. But nearly six decades removed from that historic game, Jurgsensen was asked where the 72-point day fits in his career highlights.
“It doesn’t,’’ he said.
Doesn’t it mean something?
“Nothing,’’ he said.
A nose-rubbing field goal isn’t a highlight, he was saying. Anyone booing McDaniel’s decision to kneel on that final play and not kick a record-toppling field goal should consider that.