The Miami Dolphins’ helmet and uniform combination remained somewhat consistent from 1966 until 2012 when the team released a new version of the helmet logo in 2013. However, there have been numerous minor tweaks regarding the helmet before the 2013 overhaul, as pictured above in the featured image.
Despite its extinction during most regular-season games, the leaping dolphin in front of the sunburst remains popular, so much to the point, the look is worn two to three times each season when the Dolphins don their throwback uniforms. There have also been calls to return to the throwback on a full-time level, which in recent years, teams have answered such a call.
Return to Classics?
The Los Angeles Rams did so in 2017, replacing the millennium gold ram horns with the classic white and yellow, depending on whether the team is playing at home or on the road. The San Francisco 49ers did so in 2009, dropping the dark red and returned to the championship colors, as the team called them. The Bills followed suit in 2011, returning with the white helmet. It’s rumored the Browns are in process of following the trend in 2020 along with a complete uniform overhaul. The Jaguars returned to wearing a black helmet full-time in 2018. And the Denver Broncos have done so to an extent, bringing back the bucking bronco within the capital ‘D’ when the team’s color rush uniforms are worn. Ditto for the New York Jets and Giants.
Time will tell if the Dolphins decide to reverse course and bring back the classic dolphin. They’ve already taken the first step in doing so by discarding the navy blue that was once prominent on the newer uniform and returning full-time to orange and aqua.
There have been subtle changes to the Dolphins’ leaping dolphin logo, which can be viewed below:
1966: The team’s debut season, the dolphin head was near the sunburst’s center.
1967: The dolphin’s body was centered, but the former look returned from 1968 until 1973.
1974: The logo shrunk somewhat and the dolphin’s body returned to the sunburst’s center.
1980: The facemasks changed from gray to aqua.
1997: The logo, like many in the 1990s and early 2000s, received an update. Both the sunburst and dolphin were simplified and the expression changed on the dolphin’s face, supposedly to a more serious look.
2013: The leaping dolphin is retired and is replaced by a more detailed sunburst with what is known as the swimming dolphin. This logo still resembles the leaping dolphin to an extent with the sunburst but is a stylized, sleeker version of the leaping dolphin.
Will the Dolphins Revert Back?
The NFL has seen a recent trend in teams reverting back to their helmets, logos, and uniforms of the past. The Dolphins are no exception to that rule, which often begins with teams wearing a throwback look as an alternate to see how they test with newer NFL fans.
With the NFL still being a growing league on a global scale, many in the league’s international audience seem to take more to the older styles of years’ past, judging from the trend to switch back to the older, more classic, and traditional looks. We saw this with the Rams when they petitioned for and were granted permission to wear their royal blue and yellow throwbacks for all home games this season, including the playoffs and Super Bowl, the first team in NFL history to be given such permission.
With the NFL celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the NFL relax their rule on three alternate uniforms a year and granting special permissions to teams that they gave the Rams in 2017.
Teams like the Dolphins will be able to test the older look on a greater scale to see how its longer-term revelation impacts both American and International crowds.
While I’m all for modernization, I think modernized uniforms should be relegated to alternate status and the fans have spoken for me in droves. Uni Watch‘s Paul Lukas has felt the same regarding NFL uniforms and helmets, and routinely ranks classic looks over the modernized eyesores that saw a spike in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with a few stragglers like the Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the early 2010s, the Cleveland Browns doing so in 2015 plus the Tennessee Titans being the most recent example last season, releasing a uniform that was panned by critics and fans alike.
It would be refreshing to see the classic Dolphins look return full-time, and perhaps celebrating the NFL’s 100th anniversary will be the team’s final push. There’s so much to love about the team’s old look both due to the aesthetics, but let’s not forget about the team’s on-filed performance before the 1997 revamp; they were one of the best teams in the NFL on a consistent basis, seeing numerous AFC East Championships and playoff berths year after year.
One thing is clear: Dolphin fans love seeing the classic look from the 60s, but even looks from the 1970s and 1980s weren’t too bad, the iconic Marino-era throwbacks and even beforehand, which gives our more nostalgic Dolphin fans an opportunity to return to the past, when the Dolphins were among the NFL’s elite.
Since the 1997 swap, the team’s fortunes have stumbled, which became even more apparent after Dan Marino’s retirement. Both the record on the field and quarterback situation have been in a flux, but perhaps the return to nostalgia is just what the team and its fans need: A connection to the team’s elite past.
Maybe, just maybe then, for the first time since 1984, the Fins will find themselves back in a spot they haven’t seen since the old dynasty days in the early years of the franchise, or at least during the beginning of the Marino era.