(George Widman/AP)
(George Widman/AP)

Don Shula Abides

The victories are smaller now, the fabled intensity faded, but the NFL’s winningest coach—mentor to Unitas and Marino—remains fiercely proud of his legacy. Perfection will do that to a man

By
Jenny Vrentas
· More from Jenny·

From now until the start of training camps, The MMQB will be running a series of our Greatest Hits from the site’s first year. Here from last August, Jenny Vrentas visited Hall of fame coach Don Shula at his home in South Florida.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Don Shula has noticed something not-so-perfect about the symbol of perfection he wears on his left ring finger.

The centerpiece diamond, a perfectly circular stone surrounded by 16 smaller stones, wiggles now. On a Wednesday morning in mid-May, he showed his wife, Mary Anne, in the marble-floored living room of their stately Indian Creek home. “It’s a little bit loose,” he said, leaning forward as he sat on an ivory chair.

“I’ll have that fixed,” she assured him. “We don’t want to lose that.”

Both Shula and his Super Bowl VII ring have become a bit unsteady with age. The NFL’s alltime winningest coach moves slowly and with effort now, his 83 years and a recent health scare forcing him to lean on a walker to stand and to ride a motorized scooter when he leaves his home. He is taunted by the private golf course across the street where he used to hit at least a few shots nearly every afternoon. And though he can recite every starter from his first NFL coaching job as the Lions’ defensive coordinator in 1960, he often searches for his misplaced glass of diet cola.

WORDS TK (Michael O'Bryon/SI)
Shula drafted Marino with the 27th pick in the 1983 draft and unleashed an aerial attack in Miami. The Hall of Fame QB led the league in passing yards five times under the Hall of Fame coach. (Michael O'Bryon/SI)

The man who has an expressway named for him in South Florida has lived out of the public eye since a blood clot ruptured in his left leg a little more than two years ago. The clot shot through Shula’s heart and went into his lungs, sapping much of his energy and strength. It could have been much worse if Mary Anne hadn’t noticed his swollen foot and puffy calf as she bent down to help with his socks and shoes. No more than 30 minutes passed from the time the clot broke loose at their home in Pebble Beach, Calif., to Shula’s being treated at the nearby Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

Three of Shula’s five children with his first wife, the late Dorothy Bartish, flew in overnight from the East Coast. For three days they waited for the blood thinners to take effect and for their father to stabilize. He remained in the hospital for nearly two weeks, and then required at-home nursing care to monitor his blood pressure and oxygen levels for a month.

“Since then he’s not been the same,” says Dave Shula, the coach’s eldest child. “He was always such a vibrant, physical person, and to see that side of him diminished—he is enjoying things on a day-to-day basis, more so than he did in the past.”

Shula’s legendary toughness and intensity have softened like his once-fiery eyes. He was famously demanding in 33 seasons as coach of the Colts and Dolphins, forcing players to practice four times a day without water and requiring quarterback Dan Marino to call his own plays at practice and during meetings as a rookie. This was a man who would grumble at his son to turn off the car radio, but now Dave catches his father singing songs “from his era” like the Sound of Music soundtrack. These days, his greatest victories are celebrated when he takes a golf cart across the street and sneaks a hot dog or bologna sandwich away from Mary Anne’s watchful eyes at the country club.

Time slows down and weakens people, but it’s had the opposite effect on Shula’s legacy, strengthening and preserving it. His 347 career wins and his 1972 undefeated season with the Dolphins seem all the more remarkable with each passing autumn. In this way Shula stands alone in NFL history. But where does that place him in the pantheon of coaches?

Shula lets out a genuine, hearty chuckle when presented with this premise. You get the sense that this living legend—a man who coached in six Super Bowls, who was a contemporary of Vince Lombardi, who was the one-time boss of Chuck Noll—could still hold his own in a postgame press conference. His pale eyes twinkle, and he asks, “You want me to say that I’m the greatest coach of all time?”

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There was a time when Shula never wanted to entertain this sort of question. He wanted a clean break when he walked away from the game following the 1995 season. He saw no worth in preserving his meticulous library of game plans, all 33 seasons’ worth, some handwritten and others computer-generated depending on the decade. “Just throw it away,” he told Mary Anne. “I don’t want any of it.”

She made sure he didn’t part with his life’s work and filed the papers away in Shula’s home office—except for the 17 game plans from 1972 that are kept in a safe. But Shula couldn’t stay away from football. He still writes notes on a yellow pad of paper during Panthers games to share with his son, Mike, who was promoted to the team’s offensive coordinator this year. He advises his son to find a balance between using all of quarterback Cam Newton’s distinctive abilities, but not asking him to run too much to minimize the risk of injury. He knows the Panthers’ roster by number, and as he did so well during his career, suggests tactics to create favorable matchups. “He’s into a lot more trick plays now,” Mike says, laughing. “But trust me, there is a reason for everything he says, so I always listen and try to make it fit.”

This father-son bond isn’t Shula’s only connection to the NFL. Until Mike Westhoff retired at the end of last season, Shula would call the special teams guru to talk strategy any time the Jets blocked a punt. “He loves that kind of stuff,” Westhoff says. “I can’t think of a part of the game that he wasn’t an expert in.” Shula has also been sought out by current Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who asked him to address the coaching staff and the scouting department this spring at team headquarters in Davie, Fla.

Shula slyly recalls that it ‘wasn’t hard to watch‘ the Dolphins struggle under Jimmy Johnson.

This was a meaningful gesture to Shula, whose legend in the franchise wasn’t always embraced by his successors. Jimmy Johnson, who made his name at the University of Miami and was waiting in the wings to replace Shula when he retired, made no secret that he cared only about the present and not the past. Johnson only lasted four years with the Dolphins, never finishing better than 10-6. Feeling distanced from his beloved team, Shula slyly recalls that “it wasn’t hard to watch” the Dolphins struggle under Johnson.

WORDSTK
With his son Dave looking on, Don hoisted the Lombardi Trophy for fans in Miami after the Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 season. (AP)

But Shula likes and respects Philbin for the same qualities that distinguished Shula: sincerity, honesty and integrity. For his visit, the Dolphins created a literal memory lane, decorating an area by the players’ entrance with 8×10 photos of some of Shula’s unforgettable moments.

There were the obvious ones, like the two times Shula was carried off the field, once after completing the perfect season with a 14-7 victory over the Redskins in Super Bowl VII and the other in November 1993 after breaking George Halas’ wins record against the Eagles. It was Westhoff, then the Dolphins’ special teams coach, who stopped the players from dousing Shula with Gatorade and suggested a ride off the field as a more fitting celebration. There was also a black-and-white shot of Shula running onto the field for his first training camp with the Dolphins, and one from the Dolphins’ double-overtime playoff win against the Chiefs in Kansas City on Christmas Day 1971, still the longest game in NFL history. There was also a picture of Shula and Dave on the day in 1994 when Don’s Dolphins played Dave’s Bengals, the NFL’s first father-son coaching matchup. (Dad won, 23-7.)

As a kid in Massachusetts during the 1970s, Philbin was in awe of the Dolphins’ dominance. This was his chance to learn how they did it. Shula talked about how he motivated players and organized his staff, and Philbin especially wanted to know what he did to get his teams to commit so few penalties. “There’s only one reason that the Miami Dolphins is a great coaching job, and that’s because of Don Shula,” Philbin says. “I got a 7-9 record [as a head coach], he’s won 340 more games than me, so there’s probably one or two things I could learn.”

Even after the pictures came down, Shula had a presence in the building. The standalone wooden desk in Philbin’s office is the same one Shula sat behind, and when the great coach shares his strong, sage opinions about today’s NFL, it feels as if he never gave up the pulpit.

A former cornerback who played seven seasons for the Browns, Colts and Redskins in the 1950s, Shula appreciates players’ frustrations about the rules changes that limit where they can strike opponents. Yet he agrees the solution is in the league’s “Heads Up Football” campaign, having always coached players to have “a bull neck and a head up” because “you see what you hit, and you get hurt when you put your head down.” During Shula’s playing days, players were tested for concussions by a doctor asking how many fingers he was holding up. He recalls times when he’d go to the sideline after a hit and look up at the scoreboard to see who his team was playing and what the score was. But years later, he quips, “I don’t get headaches, I give them.”

WORDSTK
Shula (25) played cornerback in the NFL for seven seasons with Cleveland, Baltimore and Washington. He’s shown here as a Colt covering the Bears’ Harlon Hill at Wrigley Field in 1955. (Mark Kauffman/SI/Getty)

The greatest challenge of being a coach, he says, isn’t teaching X’s and O’s or trying to convince strong-willed men to follow your lead, though Shula was a master at both. It’s adapting to the talent and tailoring your approach to get the most out of players.

Everything on Shula’s resume—a .665 winning percentage (347-173-6), those record six Super Bowl appearances, two NFL championships, 19 playoff appearances in 33 seasons coaching the Colts and Dolphins, just two losing seasons in his 26 years in Miami—was achieved through his ability to do exactly that. He won with all types of quarterbacks, of whom he still speaks fondly, calling Johnny Unitas “probably the toughest guy, mentally and physically, that’s ever played the position”… and Bob Griese “a thinking man’s quarterback”… and Earl Morrall “the only guy I could beat” when Shula ran gassers with his players after practice … and Marino “the best pure passer that’s played the game.” He even once won a game with a running back, Tom Matte, playing quarterback.

Shula remains close with Marino, who on this May morning was sitting on the coach’s back patio overlooking Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami. Now an analyst for NFL Today on CBS, Marino was joined by Jimmy Cefalo, the former Miami receiver and current radio voice of the Dolphins, to film a promotional video that would be part of South Florida’s Super Bowl L bid presentation a few weeks later. (The game went to the 49ers and their new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.)

When Marino wasn’t booming his line—”Touchdown!”—he was on the receiving end of playful jabs from Shula, who affectionately needled the Hall of Fame quarterback about how he never wanted to do anything but throw the ball. “He always makes people around him feel comfortable,” Marino says with a laugh. “Maybe not when he was a coach, but now he does.”

WORDSTK
Shula could always put people at ease, even Marino, whom he required to call his own plays during practices and meetings as a rookie. (Manny Rubio/SI)

* * *

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A coach’s life is one of routine, and Shula still has his. He reads The Miami Herald, the New York Post and USA Today every morning, and a physical therapist comes to the house three times a week to work on his sore back and muscle strength. But he’s not completely out of the public eye.

The coach who once infamously didn’t recognize Miami Vice star Don Johnson at a Dolphins game now enjoys spending the evening at the movies. He’s still the face of his restaurant empire, having recently made a round of appearances to launch the Shula Burger gourmet hamburger eateries. “You’ve got to try a Shula Burger,” he says. “Best meat money can buy.” Shula is also a spokesperson for a cruise line, and he’s told Mary Anne he’ll take her anywhere in the world for their 20th wedding anniversary in October.

Mary Anne has always called her husband Coach, with a tenderness no player ever matched.

The two met about a year after his first wife died from breast cancer in 1991, and they have 16 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren from their blended families, each one’s name and birthday marked on commemorative footballs in Shula’s home office.

“He’s happy, he’s fulfilled, he’s done the things he wants to do and he’s enjoying every minute of his life,” says Mary Anne, who has always called her husband Coach, with a tenderness no player ever matched. “He is a very spiritual man, and he’s at peace with the world.”

Shula learned long ago that you can never change the score of a game once it’s over, and even though he may be at ease, it doesn’t mean there aren’t regrets. The greatest, he says, is the Colts’ loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III. Forty-four years later he still calls it a “disaster” because it was the AFL’s first championship over the long-established NFL—the sting all the greater for Joe Namath’s cocky guarantee.

Shula still attends every Super Bowl, where he presents a national High School Coach of the Year award, and he often sits next to Namath at those games. They’ve found common ground in their shared Hungarian heritage and the fact that Namath’s daughter, Jessica, was enrolled at Alabama when Mike Shula coached there. But the old coach still believes he has a gift for truly knowing players. “I don’t think he was as big a playboy as he tried to pretend,” Shula says of Broadway Joe. “I think the image that he put out was maybe a little exaggerated.”

WORDSTK
Shula was carried off the field after the Dolphins beat the Redskins, 14-7, in Super Bowl VII to cap the perfect year. (George Long/SI/Getty)

Super Bowl III ultimately taught Shula his most important life lesson: The worst defeats can lead to the greatest triumphs. Four years later he coached the NFL’s only undefeated team. A year after that he won his second straight Super Bowl.

The 1972 Dolphins celebrated the 40th anniversary of their undefeated season with a reunion at Shula’s home last December, and on Tuesday they’ll finally be recognized at the White House after missing their turn because of Watergate. Though no other team has touched perfection, the ’85 Bears sometimes get the nod in media rankings of the best team of all time. Those Bears won Super Bowl XX, finished 18-1 and became media darlings, with Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, the Fridge and the Super Bowl Shuffle. Mention this to Shula, and a rush of that famed intensity returns to his face. He’ll remind you that Chicago’s lone loss, a 38-24 drubbing in Week 13, came at the hands of his Dolphins. The way he recalls it, Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan left open mismatches that Shula and Marino exploited, such as receiver Nat Moore lining up in the slot against a safety. Miami led 31-10 after two quarters. Shula calls it “the best first half of football I’ve ever been around.”

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* * *

In the end, it’s the big picture that matters. After all, what is greatness if not perfection?

“Nobody has done it since and nobody did it before. It just stands by itself,” Shula says. “If people aren’t going to acknowledge that, then there’s something wrong with them. Why wouldn’t you acknowledge it when only one team has done it?”

The only outside threat to Shula’s 347 career wins is Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who at 61 has 205 victories and must average 14 over the next decade to overtake the record. The secret to Shula’s success, he likes to say, was to win early and win often. So, does being the winningest coach of all time mean he’s the greatest coach of all time?

Shula doesn’t pause to ponder this question, one he’s no doubt considered countless times. “What I’m going to say is this,” he begins. “When two teams play each other, one team wins and one team loses. The team that wins is the better team. At the end of the year, you have a record, and if your record is good enough to get you into the playoffs, and if you win the Super Bowl, you are the best team that year. Over a period of time, over your coaching career, if you win the most games, you should be given credit for winning the most games.”

So, is that a yes?

Shula smiles warmly. He’s caught his breath after shuffling over to a crimson chair, where he sits in full command of the room. The South Florida sun shines in, at times glinting off his ring. He gives the perfect answer, “Is that how you decipher it?”

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Click here to watch Don Shula’s video interview in its entirety.

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56 comments
Hokieduck
Hokieduck

I grew up in Virginia a huge Baltimore Colts fan.  I was a kid who lived and died the Colts, especially the year that they went to the third Super Bowl against the Jets.  I still remember Joe Namth lying on that poolside lounge chair making his famous guarantee.   I still remember Earl Morrall having taken over the Colts due to an injury to the great Johnny U.  I still remember that absolutely awful day that Morrall choked and Unitas entered the game late and drove for a score... too little... too late.  I still remember Broadway Joe leaving the field shaking his right forefinger in the air.  I still remember  the phone call from a family friend in NYC as the last seconds ticked off the clock.


I have played and loved a lot of sports in my life.  That day was the biggest heartache I ever experienced over a game.  I love Don Shula for those great Colts teams and loved him in Miami when he finally got his rings with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Csonka and Kiick.  (Unfortunately, I had to love the Fins because the Colts broke my heart when they Mayflowered it out of Baltimore in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, I still remember that picture in my mind as well.)


Is he the best football coach who ever lived?  No, I don't think he even thinks that exactly.  That is why he chooses to answer the question as he does.  However, his thought processes are hard to challenge.  In sports, most of them anyway, there are no style points.  The only numbers that matter are Ws.  Given that, Don Shula is King.  And a wonderful man who lived a charmed and wonderful, full life.  I hope he continues to live it for some time more.


Thanks for this great story, Jenny.



White Sox
White Sox

This record will probably stand forever. Nobody cares about being undefeated anymore. In a 16 game season if you are undefeated at games 14,15,16 you are going to rest your starters for the playoffs and thus more than likely to lose one or more of those games....

Stevo1
Stevo1

Class act.  Met him a couple of times and he was just plain nice. 

jack theungry
jack theungry

The best thing to ever happen to Shula was the schedule expanding from 12 games to 14 then 16.  If it had remained 12, we'd probably have 6 undefeated seasons by now, including a Superbowl match-up of undefeated teams.   Remember the Dolphins only had to play one playoff game before the Superbowl on top of that.  So the modern day perfect season would require 5 more games than the Dolphins played.

alexvonpetroleum
alexvonpetroleum

Jeez. Talk about whitewashing history.  The Marino Dolphins won in the regular season, but never the postseason.  Why is this  considered great coaching?   The Marino '84 Superbowl team got crushed by the 9ers.  Why is this considered great coaching?  And there's this gem:  "He was famously demanding in 33 seasons as coach of the Colts and Dolphins, forcing players to practice four times a day without water".  Jeez. that's intelligent.  Real intelligent.  Shula won..but by the mid 70s, his teams never won post season and were never intimidating.  Chuck Noll ,, Walsh, Gibbs, JJohnson, passed him by, by a long way. 

rskins09
rskins09

Jenny, great article ... You did your homework ..Don Shula - what a class act on & off the  field .. 

rskins09
rskins09

I have Paul Brown # 1,  Don Shula # 2  as best NFL coaches ever ..Oh - Vince Lombardi  # 3 ...# 4 Lawrence Welk .. 

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

Probably the 3rd greatest coach of all time behind only Vince Lombardi and Raheem Morris. 

mystafugee
mystafugee

Hey, did you guys know that the 1972 Dolphins are the only undefeated team in NFL history?!?  I wish someone would point that out every season every time a team is undefeated in November, cause we never hear anyone talking about the 1972 Dolphins, especially from that team itself.

DavidHarte
DavidHarte

Overrated.  Period.

That '72 team has become an embarrassment.  Never beat a team with a winning record during the regular season, and the playoffs weren't much different.

Never mind.  When you think of greatest in the NFL, on Csonka'a name is anywhere near such a conversation.

hugo.scastillo
hugo.scastillo

Wow just wow...A living legend! Great story! Go phins

OraPike
OraPike

2nd only to vince lombardi---george halas was an equal also---but he took the talent he had and played it.

FAS1
FAS1

Don Shula is an amazing man--not only ON the field, but OFF the field as well.  His record does, indeed, speak for itself.  He's a class act...and he also knew how to handle a press conference!!  Thanks for those marvelous memories, coach!!  You're right up there with Halas and Lombardi. 

rdcusmc
rdcusmc

Greatest coach, hands down.  Record speaks for itself.  No other coach was as adaptable, winning with many formulas and across generations.  He was consistent to a fault in terms of winning.  He was loyal and had integrity.  He competed for championships with multiple franchises.  Shula developed nobody talent into pro bowlers across his career.  His teams were universally the least penalized and almost always played very smart.  He also used every single device possible to deliver wins within the rules.  He developed coaches.  He was a master.

-As for the leaving Baltimore piece, please re-examine the owners part in this drama.  Shula was justified to leave.

-72 team was #1 in the NFL on both sides of the ball.  The easy schedule argument falls apart simply by the fact the Dolphins won the championship against the best teams in the league and did so on the road.

-Shula coached 7 fewer games than Halas but had more victories and more games over .500.  Halas benefits from the number of ties he was able to play to under the old rules.  Shula has nearly twice as many division titles as Halas.

-The departure of the core of his team in the 70's prevented likely future championships and dynasty team recognition.  This matters due to the fact that coaches who won more titles did so with the same core team the fielded throughout their run.


Lots of great coaches and  flattering to be mentioned under any circumstance, but Shula stands alone.

knuckleballer
knuckleballer

Thanks, Jenny. Great profile.

As Bum Philips said of Shula, "He can take his'n and beat your'n, or he can take your'n and beat his'n."

DrJoeS
DrJoeS

Great article, Jenny.

I grew up in mIami and went to 3 home games in 1972.

The '72 Fins will always be my #1 team and Coach Shula a classy guy all the way.

Rob56
Rob56

Facts: 1.  With a great group of Hall-of-Famers Shula won NO championships with the Baltimore Colts (Unitas, Berry, Donovan, Moore, etc.)

2. Shula started Earl Morrall over John Unitas in Super Bowl 3, and gave the Jets a lead they never lost. Shula insisted on force-feeding plays to Unitas.

3. Shula broke his Baltimore contract to go to Miami

4. Once Shula skipped town and left for Miami, The Baltimore Colts won Super Bowl 5 WITHOUT Shula

5. Shula has lost more Supore Bowls than any other Coach except that Levy guy in Buffalo

6. The "perfect" Dolphins played a weak schedule, only 2 regular season opponents had winning records.  WOW

7. Shula inherited most of his 1972 roster from a brilliant GM. After Csonka, Shula never figured out how to develop a decent running game,

steelerman
steelerman

An all around good guy. Thanks for all the memories coach.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

"...forcing players to practice four times a day without water..."

That's not a thing to boast about.

DavidBarr
DavidBarr

When I was a kid, I LOVED the Dolphins.  Coach Shula, Bob Griese and Dan Marino were my heroes.  Now, you couldn't pay me to watch a Dolphins game.  Why?  Wayne Huizenga.  The way he got rid of Coach Shula and Dan Marino were completely classless.  Coach Shula was, and always will be, the greatest football coach ever.  

Baconpizza
Baconpizza

I don't believe stats tell the whole story.  Emmitt Smith has the most rushing yards of all time, but would anyone call him the greatest running back? I don't think so.  Same goes for Favre with passing stats. Sure Shula was great, but a 2-4 super bowl record doesn't exactly justify his place at the top. 

LeonardoJuanito
LeonardoJuanito

You are forgetting George Halas, who is Mr. football. He has a .682 winning percentage to Shula's .678

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

Bill Belichick, who at 61 has 205 victories and must average 14 over the next decade to overtake the record.

Um. That won't happen - unless the owners agree to do  the 18 game schedule

Barneymd39
Barneymd39

@jack theungry The dolphins played 14 games that season including 2 playoff games, and their first playoff game was on the road in Pittsburgh.  Something that would be unheard of today, going 14-0 and playing a road playoff game. And the modern day record would be 19-0.

rskins09
rskins09

@alexvonpetroleum   .... The 49ers could have beat anybody nine out of ten times that years... Had one of the most dominate teams ever ..." forcing players to practice four times a day - without water .. Most practices were two-a-days  without water .. Four a day was a little extreme but the drinking water  was always a no no  with a lot of NFL teams ..Vince lombardi wasn't demanding ?  Joe Gibbs, Chuck Noll ... Nice guys finish last ..Norv Turner  was, is too laid back as a coach ..Too many under achievers on his teams - as head coach ..Redskins & Chargers.. 

Amoffett
Amoffett

Raheem Morris you are nuts!

speedy39
speedy39

@DavidHarteYour comments are full of falsehoods. The Chiefs and Giants had winning records. The Jets were .500 and still had Joe Namath. The Bills had a losing record, but you had to contend with OJ. The Colts were coming off a Conf Champ season. The Vikings were .500 and a year away from going to 2 straight Super Bowls. Some of these teams just had off years. And the playoffs were a LOT different back then. The Phins had to play on the road in Pittsburgh in the Conf Championship game. Imagine that. The team with the undefeated record had to go on the road because of some dumb rule where they rotated the sites between divisions. It is just as dumb as what they do in baseball back then and now (rotate back then and now the All-Star game determines home field). The undefeated is a great accomplishment that should be celebrated.

And to the people who complain that the Phins always bring this up. No they don't always bring it up. Reporters bring it up and they just respond. Big difference. The only player that's really obnoxious about it is Mercury Morris. And who really gives a **** if players point to it as a crowning achievement. No other team has done it and they should be proud of their achievements.

rskins09
rskins09

@DavidHarte   Been hearing that for years ...No NFL team has any control over who they play, schedule ...Go back to the 1985 Bears ...They beat Minn . twice that year..Was it because the Vikings stunk  or the Bears outplayed ...Look at the Packer's dominate team in the early 1960's ..Was it because they played inferior teams in their division ? ..You tell me ..  

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@DavidHarte Yeah, going thru an NFL season without losing a game is something that everyone involved with that Dolphins team should be ashamed of.    Where do you people come up with this stuff?

mystafugee
mystafugee

@FAS1 off the field?  Are you good friends with him or something?  Point being, let's not make character judgments unless we know the person. Exhibit A: Joe Paterno 

rskins09
rskins09

@rdcusmc     Your right ....Shula was a class act on and off the field ...Year they were 17-0 ..Dolphins had NO control of who they played  or didn't play that year or any year .. Remember his 1st year in Miami. .. He took the same team, player wise, and went  10-4  from  4-10 ..That's great coaching ..Same with the Tuna -- he took a 4-12  team - NE - and went  12-4   the next year ...Quite a accomplishment ..   .. Too many head NFL  coaches nowadays couldn't inspire  a frog ..

rskins09
rskins09

@Rob56    #7  comment  ...With Mike, the loser ,Wilson  the dolphins were 4-10  the year  BEFORE  Shula took over.. With the  same players,  almost man to man , Shula went 10-4  ...Why couldn't  Wilson win with the same players  Shula had the next year ? ? ..Turing a  Team around that fast is a sign of a good coach ...Parcells did the same thing in NE his first year ...- 4-12  to  12-4 ..  Guess Parcells stinks because he never won a Super Bowl in NE .... 3.  Your right, he did break his contract and Carol Rosenbloom  never forgave him for that ..Shula got  10% juice (ownership)  as part of his contract  when he became coach of the Dolphins  ...Can you blame him .. 

duckfan59
duckfan59

@Rob56You strike me as the kind of guy who would say "Yeah, but they gave up three points" if your team won 70-3. Why so glum, chum? You're a glass is half-empty kinda guy.
There's a reason he started Earl Morrall in SB III. Unitas was hurt in preseason and Morrall took over. Guided them to a 13-1 record and two playoff victories. Made All-Pro that season and was the league's MVP. Yeah, they lost the game. It happens. Morrall was the winning QB in SB V.

When regular Colts signal caller Johnny Unitas was injured in the final exhibition game, Morrall became the team's starter. Morrall proceeded to lead the Colts to a 13-1 record, then added two playoff victories en route to winning the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, leading the Colts into Super Bowl III. However, in one of sport's greatest upsets, the Colts lost 16-7 to the New York Jets, with a second-quarter interception of a pass by Morrall symbolizing the team's luck on the day. Wide receiver Jimmy Orr was wide open near the end zone, but Morrall inexplicably didn't see Orr (despite having successfully run the same play earlier in the year). His throw down the middle was short and picked off by Jim Hudson to blunt the Colts' momentum. Two years later, Morrall again replaced an injured Unitas in Super Bowl V, but the occasion proved to be much happier as the Colts won 16-13 over the Dallas Cowboys on a 32-yard field goal by Jim O'Brien at the end of regulation.

JayGator
JayGator

@Rob56  

Cool story bro.  My favorite parts were when you gave Shula no credit for the Colt team he'd helped build going on to win the Super Bowl without him, and also gave him no credit for the Dolphin teams he helped put over the top in two Super Bowls.

Slick.

Fifilo
Fifilo

@Rob56 Wow, great points. You've convinced me: the 1972 season never happened.

Translucent
Translucent

@Rob56 What is your point? Do Shula's "failures" with Baltimore make him not the greatest coach of all time? Not a Hall Of Famer? Not a good coach? 

If Shula did such a mediocre job there, I'm not sure why you would care that he broke his contract with the Colts. Whatever, I'm sorry about your Baltimore problems, Crabcake. 

I have my own problem: Your ignorant, half-assed "analysis" of Shula's performance in Miami, specifically the red herring about the "weak schedule" in 1972. 

1) The NFL tells us that any NFL team can win on any given Sunday, but we know that a lot of teams now and through history benefit from relatively weak schedules. In 93 APFA/NFL seasons so far, one of those teams has managed a perfect season with a Championship Game/Super Bowl win. That would be the 1972 Miami Dolphins, coached by Don Shula. 

2) Every team wins and loses under certain circumstances. If a team won a Super Bowl championship and managed an undefeated record against a "weak schedule," do you think any other circumstances could possibly mitigate the supposed schedule weakness? How about if that undefeated championship team played 9 of 14 regular season games and two of its three post-season wins starting its BACKUP QUARTERBACK? Because that's what Coach Shula's Dolphins did, and the starting QB that had to be replaced was a future Hall of Famer. For perspective: In recent memory, a vaunted, championship-caliber New England team lost its future Hall-of-Fame QB for a season, and the excellent coach Bill Belichick managed to scrape together an 11-5 record and playoff appearance with a back-up QB named Matt Cassel. Belichick did a superior job ... but was still unable to win the Super Bowl or come close to going undefeated with his back-up QB.

3) If you think the Dolphins' and Coach Shula's 1972 team was a flash in the pan or a one-year fluke, consider the following facts:

a) The 1971 Dolphins were a Super Bowl team and the 1973 Dolphins won the Super Bowl, making Shula's '71-'73 Dolphins the first team to play in three consecutive Super Bowls.

b) The Dolphins' three-year record from '71-'73 (44-6-1) remains the best three-year winning percentage in NFL history -- you could look it up.


But hey, bitter Bob from Baltimore is the NFL historian here...


Scott Small

Los Angeles, Calif.

rskins09
rskins09

@Rickapolis   Plenty of Coaches did the same  thing ..Bil played  football @ Maryland in the early 1960's..  Not four practices a day , but drinking water was a big NO NO ...

rskins09
rskins09

@Baconpizza    Statistics lie .... Just think back to Fran tarkenton ...He was the darling of the NFL for   a few years  and look at all the records he broke ..HOF QB yes , but I don't even put him in the Top Twenty QB of all time ..Way overhyped and a tad over rated ..Emmitt  Smith  - look at the OL he had in front of him ..Tony Dorsett was better ..  

SandHills
SandHills

@Baconpizza 

I agree, with a caveat....

Shula coached the best year of any NFL coach ever, no question, no debate.  

But maybe even more so than stats for QBs, winning championships (and that has meant Super Bowls since 1967) determine greatness.  So Chuck Noll, and other coaches who have won 3 have to be ranked higher than Shula as NFL coaches.  

Then there is Lombardi....

As well as "The Bear" for college football....

Who cares what the cold stats say regarding them, they are greater than the sum of their stats and championships and sit atop any Mount Olympus for football coaches.  It's enough to say Shula is in a select group...but anything more is hyperbole. 

DogJones
DogJones

@WCoastPro Then again how long will Brady play he says up to 55 - even if he did how effective would he be. A large part of the success of Belichick has been Brady - so I agree with you no way!

sefira
sefira

@mystafugee @FAS1 Is this a negative comment about Joe Paterno? I just want to be clear I understand you.

rskins09
rskins09

@Translucent @Rob56   Your right ..Shula  27-2  over a two year period ..won two super Bowls in a row ..What's wrong with that ..and 2nd  SB in a row he just out coached Bud Grant (Vikings )   with the miss direction plays  . via Howard Shellenburger (sp) ..Viking had one of the best Defensive lines ever ..larry Csonka   had a field day     & Bob Griese  only threw seven passes the whole game ...

SandHills
SandHills

@Baconpizza @WCoastPro 


....and has a better chance of equalling Noll's four SBs (or surpassing it) than Eldrick Woods has to overtake the Golden Bear in Majors....

rskins09
rskins09

@mystafugee @JoeCabot @DavidHarte    If the darn, obnoxious  Jets  went  17-0  say in the 1980's  they would  rent , lease  a  Goodyear blimp  and fly it over the Super Bowl every year during the game  with a gigantic sign saying "  hey, look we were undefeated in  1980 "  ands we are great....Are the Dolphins supposed to apologize  for being undefeated ? ..By the way, KC had a great team that year  the Dolphins beat in double  OT --one of the most exciting games I've ever seen ..   

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