Bill Arnsparger, the coordinator credited with creating the Dolphins’ “No-Name Defense” that anchored The Perfect Season in 1972 — and the “Killer B’s” defense that helped the team reach Super Bowl XVII in 1983 — died Friday at his home in Athens, Ala.
He was 88.
Arnsparger, inducted into the Dolphins’ Honor Roll in 2012, was a celebrated NFL assistant and college coach through a career that began in 1950 at Miami (Ohio) University. Arnsparger established a link with legendary coach Don Shula in 1959 when Shula joined him on the staff at Kentucky. Arnsparger followed Shula to the Baltimore Colts as defensive line coach (1964-69) and then to the Dolphins (1970-73 and 1976-83).
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Arnsparger, who I thought was one of the greatest defensive coaches in football,” Shula said in a statement Friday.
“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. If there was a Hall of Fame for assistant coaches, he would be one of the very first inductees.”
Arnsparger’s teams made it to the Super Bowl six times, the final time in 1994 with the San Diego Chargers.
He had returned to the NFL in 1992 after college stops at LSU, where he was the head coach from 1984-1986, and Florida, where he served as athletic director from 1986-92. He was the AD who hired Steve Spurrier, the Gators’ former Heisman Trophy winner, as head coach.
Arnsparger spent 12 seasons as a Dolphins assistant coach, going to four Super Bowls and winning Super Bowls VII and VIII. His defenses ranked first or second in the NFL in nine of those years. Arnsparger’s “53 defense” ushered in what it now regarded as the zone blitz.
The famed “No-Name Defense” — which featured Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buonticonti, defensive tackle Manny Fernandez, defensive end Bill Stanfill and safeties Jake Scott and Dick Anderson — helped the Dolphins to the league’s only undefeated season in 1972.
The “Killer B’s” defense, so-called because many players’ last names began with that letter — defensive ends Kim Bokamper and Doug Betters, safeties Glenn Blackwood and Lyle Blackwood, linebacker Bob Brudzinski — was a new incarnation of an outstanding Dolphins defense.
“Bill Arnsparger was a seminal figure in Dolphins history,” the team said in a statement Friday. “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.”