Just two months after the passing of former Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian, we once again have a moment of silence for another legendary member of the Dolphins from that 70's era. The man behind the No-Name Defense and the Killer B's, Bill Arnsparger, passed away on Friday at the age of 88 in his home in Athens, Alabama according to multiple reports.
Arnsparger, who was born in Kentucky, was a graduate of Miami (OH) University and was also a World War II veteran. Along with being the man behind the two aforementioned legendary defenses, he was also the genius behind the "53" defense, which rigged things so a linebacker could either drop back into coverage or rush the passer as he deemed fit, throwing opposing teams out of whack and forcing them to guess what was going to happen at any given time.
It didn't take long for the news of Arnsparger's death to reach the ears of the Miami Dolphins organization, and they soon released a statement regarding the death of the longtime coach.
“Bill Arnsparger was a seminal figure in Dolphins history. Along with Coach Shula and so many other great players and coaches, Bill played a pivotal role in establishing the Dolphins as one of the winningest teams in football and flagship franchises in professional sports. Our hearts and prayers go out to his loved ones and friends during this difficult time.”
Along with the team's official statement, several former Dolphins players and coaches came out and gave statements of their own in honor of the man who they were quite clearly glad and honored to have worked with during their NFL careers.
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Arnsparger who I thought was one of the greatest defensive coaches in football." Legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula said in a statement. "He molded two championship units, the No-Names and the Killer B’s, and was innovative in the way he used personnel. He pioneered situational substitutions with the “53” defense that changed the way the game was played on that side of the ball ... Mary Anne and I want to extend our condolences to B.J. and the entire family.”
Arnsparger's No-Name defense was ranked as the top defense in the NFL in 1972, and was given the nickname of No-Name defense due to the fact that the offense was receiving much more publicity than the defense. Nevertheless, the impact of Arnsparger's coaching was a huge reason the Dolphins put together that perfect season, and to this day, they are still the only team in NFL history to go completely undefeated and end with a Super Bowl Victory. Sorry Patriots fans, it doesn't count if you fall short in the biggest possible moment.
Arnsparger's greatest successes came while he was with the Miami Dolphins. He had a brief stint as the head coach for the New York Giants, putting together a record of 7–28 over the two and a half seasons he was there, and he soon returned to Miami to once again become the defensive coordinator under Don Shula.
Of the Dolphins' five Super Bowl appearances, Arnsparger was the defensive coordinator for four of them (1971, 1972, 1973, and 1982). He once again left the team before the 1984 season, in which Miami again made a Super Bowl appearance under the QB play of Dan Marino, to become the head coach at LSU.
“(Arnsparger) was a good family man. He’s a guy that football meant so much to him and the Dolphins meant so much to him. It’s a sad day, but he’s got a lot of friends and a lot of great memories to look back on that will be with us for a long time." former Dolphins linebacker Kim Bokamper said in a statement.
"He was what you want out of any coach. What he did was, he looked at his personnel and he worked his scheme around the people that he had and took advantage of what his players did best. I remember back when I came in as a linebacker and he came up as a scheme where I would get down as a defensive lineman and rush the offensive tackle at first and we’d blitz two linebackers and then I’d drop into a zone. And that was the beginning of the zone blitz that (legendary Defensive Coordinator) Dick LeBeau later enhanced and took to a whole other level but Bill was a guy that back then in 1978 that was doing that."
What also made Arnsparger special was his ability to make his players have confidence in what he was planning with his defense, a sentiment that former Dolphins safety Dick Anderson made during his own statement on Arnsparger's death.
"Bill Arnsparger was very, very special. He was an unbelievable coach. He was brilliant and he put us in the right place at the right time. I can’t remember a single defense that he called that we ever doubted that it wasn’t the best thing to be in. He never asked players to do what they couldn’t do mentally or physically. He was just a magician when it came to calling the right defense in the right situation, preparing his teams, realizing that we just didn’t make mental errors. Players were never out of place because he knew what we could do and he didn’t ask us to do things we couldn’t mentally or physically do.
"He was like a father to us. He was quiet but we respected him immensely. You could come off the field sometimes and make a suggestion on certain pass defenses, he’d ask us five or six questions and then he might call (the defense) at a later point in time. We had that kind of relationship and communication with him that was unbelievable. It was unlike any other coach I’ve ever had."
What Arnsparger did for the Dolphins and the NFL as a whole for defense, was nothing short of astounding. Perhaps if Arnsparger had stayed on in 1984, the defense of the Dolphins would have been able to hold their own and give Dan Marino a Super Bowl victory. Speculation? Perhaps. But it cannot be denied that Arnsparger was one of the greatest coaches in Dolphins history, and he will be sorely missed.
If there was a Hall of Fame for assistant coaches," Don Shula said. "He would be one of the very first inductees."
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater
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