PHOENIX (AP) -The 1972 Miami Dolphins could be enjoying their last few days alone on that so-called mountaintop, as the NFL's only perfect team.
Contrary to what many people believe, running back Jim Kiick says they aren't a bunch of bitter old men sitting around waiting to pop open a bottle of champagne if the New England Patriots lose.
``We are old, though,'' Kiick said. ``And I prefer Jack Daniels, anyway.''
Kiick, Garo Yepremian, Larry Little and Mercury Morris gathered Friday in what could be their last media briefing as the NFL's only undefeated team. If the Patriots win Sunday, these '72 Dolphins will have company, and the champagne they usually uncork every November or December will remain in the deep freeze.
Who will they root for?
``I'm not rooting against the Patriots, I'm rooting for the Giants,'' Kiick said. ``But obviously, if I'm rooting for the Giants, I'm rooting against the Patriots.''
They are, indeed, walking a fine line, trying to be magnanimous as the game approaches, hoping to sound a different note than Don Shula did earlier in the season when he suggested that New England's `Spygate' controversy might taint a possible perfect record.
To many, that comment, which Shula later retracted, reinforced an image of this group - with tales of their annual champagne toasts at the expense of somebody else's failure - as a bunch of has-beens unwilling to part with the past.
Morris said he doesn't take anything away from New England because of `Spygate.' ``It means absolutely nothing,'' he said. He argues that Miami's perfection 35 years ago is something to celebrate, and the longer that record has stayed in tact, the more impressive it has become.
``But if someone comes along like the Patriots and plays the kind of football that's reminiscent of the kind of control we had, then my hat's off to them,'' Morris said.
Not that they're willing to give up their status easily.
As New England's perfect season has progressed, the debate has emerged - who would be the greatest team of all time if New England finishes 19-0?
``The 1972 Dolphins were No. 1 in offense, No. 1 in defense, No. 1 in special teams, they had the fewest giveaways, the most takeaways, `` Morris said, ticking off a list that seemed to go on forever.
On the other hand, they had a weak schedule and won six of their games by a touchdown or less.
Kiick asked what rules would be in effect for that fantasy meeting between the teams. Would it be the 1972 set that allowed defensive backs to mug receivers all the way down the field and offered no special protection for quarterbacks, or the current-day set that promotes offense?
``Does Tom Brady get to wear a skirt?'' Kiick said.
It's all part of the debate that will continue only if New England wins Sunday to make it 19-0.
Shula is expected to be at the game. The rest of the Dolphins will be watching from various locales, most of them likely rooting for the Giants, champagne on ice, but prepared to leave it sitting there when the game is over.
Toward the end of the news conference, Yepremian recalled Larry Csonka's quote about the Dolphins being the first team to reach the mountaintop of perfection, then waiting for someone to join them.
It has been a long wait.
``When they come and join us, they can get a nice spot next to us,'' Yepremian said. ``But we claimed the best spot up there.''

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