We won’t see the likes of John Denney again on the Dolphins.
The 14-year veteran long snapper, released Monday, was an anomaly in the NFL — cynically referred to as Not For Long.
Denney was the ultimate specialist whose name didn’t show up in the scoring summary but often had a hand in shaping outcome of games. He was so adept at one skill, as the fulcrum for decisive kicks and game-altering punts, he appeared in all 224 games since joining the team as an undrafted rookie in 2005.
Only Dan Marino played in more games for the Dolphins.
Denney, 40, was virtually anonymous until his rare longevity made him a fan favorite. Now he is one of the last familiar names to depart in the stunning turnover of the Dolphins roster since the end of last season.
“To be thinking I was going to be a long-term guy in Miami was unforeseeable,” Denney told me in a 2016 interview.
As an undrafted defensive end who could also snap, his hope was “to maybe get a couple bucks under my belt to get a down payment on a house or a new car.”
Instead, the Weston resident stuck around through the regimes of coaches Nick Saban, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano, Joe Philbin — plus interims Todd Bowles and Dan Campbell — and Adam Gase until the end came at the onset of the Brian Flores era.
It is indicative of the futility of the franchise this century that Denney only experienced two playoff games, both losses.
Denney’s wife an Internet star
It appeared Denney would continue his unforeseen run with the team when rookie Wesley Farnsworth, the latest threat to his job, was released Saturday.
It remains possible the Dolphins could re-sign Denney as the roster churn continues. But it didn’t sound likely Monday when he thanked the team for the opportunity he was given and the support of Dolphins fans over the years.
It has become rare for much to be known about the lives of players beyond their exploits on the field, except for elite quarterbacks and a few other select stars. Scan the Dolphins’ roster as it stands today and it’s a sea of faceless names.
While many players don’t last the average three seasons, Denney and wife Christy have had five kids during his time with the Dolphins.
It is a reflection of the obscurity of the position he plays, that despite being a two-time Pro Bowl selection his wife may be the most recognizable or well-known figure in his own household.
Christy is an all-star on the Internet with her food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything, which she started in 2008 and generates several million page views a month. It has been featured in a half-dozen national publications and nine of her recipes have been “pinned” more than a million times on Pinterest. She has a cookbook that sells well on Amazon.
Denney much preferred to operate under the radar because long snappers only receive attention when they make a bad snap. He didn’t have many of those.
While the average fan may take the snapper for granted, every successful kick begins with him. His importance was evident when the Dolphins needed Andrew Franks to make a field goal on the final play to defeat the Cardinals in 2016.
It was only a 21-yarder, but the ball and the field were wet from rain throughout the afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium. Denney felt he had a decent grip on the ball and was ready to make the snap when the Cardinals called time out.
“The ref picked the ball up and had it under his towel, which was soaked, so it was serving no purpose. Then it started raining harder,” Denney said. “The second time the ball was a mess. It was a sloppy situation.”
Denney got the ball back to holder Matt Darr, who set it down and the winning kick was made. Franks got the credit, and Denney was more than happy to remain inconspicuous.
Content in obscurity
“I don’t expect anyone to know who I am. The hardcore Dolphins fan can pick me out. But it doesn’t happen often at all,” Denney said in the 2016 interview.
It wasn’t by accident that Denney stuck around so long. During this year’s training camp, Flores singled him out as one of the hardest workers on the team as far as conditioning and preparation.
At 6 feet 5 and a chiseled 242 pounds, Denney was more likely to be mistaken for a basketball player than a Dolphin.
But he didn’t just snap the ball and head for the sideline. He was credited with 49 tackles on special teams. He forced a fumble in 2012 and recovered three fumbles, including a game-changer in a 27-23 win over Atlanta in 2013.
There is no allowance made for sentiment in the NFL. Players are interchangeable parts, continuously being swapped out for a newer, sleeker model.
Denney was that reliable old lawn mower that still got the job done.
Even though we barely noticed him over the many years, he was a constant that will be missed.
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
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