In 1972, the Miami Dolphins accomplished something no other team in the history of the NFL has done.
That season, Miami went undefeated on its way to winning a world title in Super Bowl VII.
Even more remarkable, the franchise went to three consecutive Super Bowls, winning two and posting a 36-5-1 record between 1971 and 1973.
The coach in charge of this lot was Don Shula.
THE GREAT DON SHULA DOLPHINS LEGEND R.I.P. GREAT MAN 🐬🐬🐬🐬🐬 pic.twitter.com/j83Vj6Nk2N
— the Poman20 (@homerun0620) May 4, 2020
Shula had come to Miami by way of the Baltimore Colts, an organization he led to a loss in Super Bowl III.
By the time he retired, Shula was the most successful coach in NFL history.
In 33 years as a head coach, he had only two losing seasons and led the league all-time in wins with 328 regular-season victories and 347 combined regular and postseason victories.
Without question, Shula’s ability to build a championship organization is nearly unparalleled.
Though many have tried to duplicate his formula, very few have succeeded.
This is the story of Don Shula.
Donald Francis Shula was born on January 4, 1930, in Grand River, Ohio.
The late Don Shula was born today in 1930 in Grand River, OH to Hungarian immigrants. He played football at John Carroll Univ before 7 seasons as a pro D-back.
As a 33 year NFL head coach, he had only 2 losing seasons and won 2 Super Bowls, including the perfect 1972 Dolphins. pic.twitter.com/ylktJH6VeJ
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) January 4, 2021
He fell in love with the game of football at an early age and would play the sport with friends in his neighborhood.
When Shula was 11, he came home with a cut on his face from playing football.
His parents were upset by the gash and forbade young Shula to play the sport.
This forbidden temptation stayed at bay for the next few years until Shula entered Harvey High School in Painesville, Ohio.
He desperately wanted to try out for the school’s football team but was still under strict orders not to from his parents.
Of course, there was nothing Shula’s parents could do to hide their son’s athleticism, which was on display during PE class.
His gym teacher was also an assistant coach for the football team and noticed Shula’s natural abilities.
The coach asked Shula to come out for football and Shula could resist no more.
Instead of asking and getting turned down again, Shula forged his parent’s signature on the permission slip and clandestinely went out for the ball team.
Sure enough, he became a starting halfback within weeks of joining the squad and the cat was out of the bag.
His parents reluctantly allowed Shula to play.
He then thanked his parents by returning a punt 75 yards for a touchdown in the first game they saw him play.
The Harvey High team used the single-wing offense, meaning Shula ended up with the lion’s share of the rushing and passing load.
During his senior year, Shula led the Red Raiders to a 7-3 record, the first time in program history that they won seven games.
Furthermore, the team just missed winning the league title.
While at Harvey, Shula also ran track and would garner 11 letters total during his prep sports career.
John Carroll University
Shula graduated high school in 1947 and at the same time, a number of servicemen who had served in World War II were returning home.
A large number of vets had delayed their athletic careers to join the war effort and looked to pick up where they left off.
That meant the competition for college athletic scholarships was fierce.
Shula thought about working for a year before college when he couldn’t get a scholarship.
By chance, Shula was filling up his car one day when a local football coach happened by.
He asked Shula about his plans and, when hearing about the lack of scholarship opportunities, suggested Shula ask for a scholarship at John Carroll University.
Shula gave it a try and contacted the school located outside of Cleveland.
He was awarded a one-year scholarship, which turned into a full scholarship after Shula did well on the gridiron during his freshman year.
Don Shula (1930-2020) played for John Carroll from 1948-50, their stadium is named after him. pic.twitter.com/YBnnB69EyW
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) May 4, 2020
During his four-year collegiate career, Shula continued to play tailback for the Blue Streaks.
Due in part to Shula and backfield mate Carl Taseff, John Carroll went 27-9-2 between 1947 and 1950.
Shula set a then program record with 6.6 yards per carry and was named an All-Big-Four honoree.
Drafted by the Browns
One of the benefits of playing college ball near Cleveland is that an NFL team was just down the road.
This was no ordinary team, either, but one coached by Paul Brown.
The Cleveland Browns had only been in existence for five years by the time Shula graduated from John Carroll.
At the time, the Browns had won four All-American Football Conference championships as well as the 1950 NFL Championship during the organization’s first year in the league.
Herb Eisele, Shula’s college coach, attended many of Paul Brown’s coaching clinics and used several schemes and terminology that the Browns used.
By virtue of that relationship, Brown drafted Shula as well as his John Carroll teammate, Taseff, in the later rounds of the 1951 NFL Draft.
Cleveland Browns and John Carroll pay tribute to Don Shulahttps://t.co/uXsPJdyIsQ pic.twitter.com/8JD23lrb3X
— WKYC 3News (@wkyc) May 4, 2020
Both men made the team and were the only two rookies on the squad that year.
Shula’s $5,000 per year contract was spent playing as a defensive back for Cleveland.
He played in 12 games during his rookie year and picked off four passes.
That season, the Browns returned to the NFL title game where they lost to the LA Rams.
In 1952, Shula began the year in Ohio and Louisiana as a member of the Ohio National Guard.
His unit was activated due to the Korean War but was deactivated in November of that year.
After returning to Cleveland, Shula became a starter for the last five games of the season.
Once again, the Browns returned to the league championship game where they were thwarted by the Detroit Lions.
Trade to Baltimore
In 1953, the Baltimore Colts became a “new” member of the NFL when the franchise relocated from Dallas (where they had been known as the “Texans”).
That same year, Shula, Taseff, and a number of Cleveland players were traded to the Colts by Brown.
Over the course of the next four years, Baltimore struggled to win games.
Shula, on the other hand, appeared to thrive in the environment.
From 1953 to 1956, he had 14 interceptions (the NFL did not keep track of tackles at the time).
NFL in Ballparks
Wrigley Field, Chicago, Oct 16, 1955 – Defensive back Don Shula (#25) of Baltimore Colts has tight coverage on Bears end Harlon Hill (#81) as Chicago won 38-10. Speaking of tight, this photo shows how a football gridiron barely fits in a venue made for baseball pic.twitter.com/Z8YtD7FbyN
— Old-Time Baseball Photos (@OTBaseballPhoto) September 19, 2021
During the ‘56 season, Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank brought in little-known Louisville quarterback Johnny Unitas.
Even with the future Hall of Famer inserted as a starter midway through the season, the Colts could only manage five wins.
At the end of training camp in 1957, Baltimore waived Shula and he was signed by the Washington Redskins.
In his lone season in Washington, Shula had three picks as the Redskins lumbered through a 5-6-1 regular season.
Young Don Shula when he played for the Redskins pic.twitter.com/TdFdJ4IfsW
— Sports Days Past (@SportsDaysPast) June 10, 2020
After the ‘57 season ended, Shula decided to retire as a player.
During his pro career, he played in 73 games, intercepted 21 passes, and recovered four fumbles.
Shula becomes a Coach
Shula took the knowledge he gained in the NFL and applied it immediately to coaching.
He got his first gig coaching defensive backs at the University of Virginia in 1958 under head coach Dick Voris.
The following year, Shula made his way to the University of Kentucky where he coached defensive backs for head coach Blanton Collier.
1959 – University of Kentucky's new football assistant coaches discuss plans for spring training in Lexington, Kentucky in February 1959. From left to right: Howard Schnellenberger, Don Shula, and head coach Blanton Collier. (AP Photo) pic.twitter.com/hif3PZ4F6V
— Lisa (@KYChaos) January 18, 2020
Collier already knew Shula from their time together in Cleveland where Collier was an assistant to Brown.
After only two years coaching in the college ranks, Shula returned to the NFL to coach the secondary for the Detroit Lions in 1960.
While he was in Detroit from 1960 through 1962, the Lions ranked near the top of the league in fewest points allowed.
In 1962, the Lions ranked second in the NFL in fewest points allowed and also led the league that year in fewest yards allowed, with 3,217.
Baltimore Hires Shula to Replace Ewbank
While Shula was on his assistant coach odyssey, the Baltimore Colts won back-to-back NFL titles in 1958 and 1959.
Then, from 1960 to 1962, the Colts posted a record above .500 only once.
After the ‘62 season, team owner Carroll Rosenbloom fired head coach Weeb Ewbank and looked for his replacement.
Gino Marchetti, Baltimore’s All-Pro lineman recommended Shula and Rosenbloom tapped him to become Baltimore’s new head coach.
“In 1963, Gino Marchetti, close to Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom, recommended that head coach Weeb Ewbank be fired from his post and that Don Shula be hired to replace him,” wrote Baltimore writer Jack Gilden in his 2018 book Collision of Wills. “Rosenbloom barely remembered Shula even though the granite-jawed young man played for the Colts himself for four seasons, calling all of the team’s defensive signals.
“You mean that guy who played here that wasn’t very good?” Rosenbloom asked Marchetti.
Shula accepted and, at just 33 years old, he was the youngest head coach in NFL history at the time.
He then worked with former teammate Unitas to help bring the franchise back to respectability.
In his quest to help the team improve, Shula ruffled a few feathers, including Unitas.
“Old Days”Don Shula and Johnny Unitas talk on the Colts sideline during a late 1960s game.#NFL #Colts #Baltimore #1960s #RIPDonShula pic.twitter.com/NGZvPvksjc
— Tom's Old Days (@sigg20) January 25, 2022
After scolding his signal-caller during a practice, Unitas had enough and threw the football at his coach.
“You want to be the quarterback? Here, do it!” said Unitas to Shula.
The Colts went 8-6 during 1963 and then powered through a 12-2 record in 1964.
In just his second year as Baltimore’s head coach, Shula had the team in the NFL Championship game for the first time since 1959.
Unfortunately, despite being heavily favored over the Cleveland Browns, the Colts were blanked 27-0.
Although the loss was unexpected, Shula took home the league’s Coach of the Year award while Unitas was named the NFL’s MVP.
1965 would see the team return to the playoffs after a 10-3-1 regular season only to lose to the Green Bay Packers in the Conference Playoffs.
A “Guaranteed” Upset in Super Bowl III
In 1966, Baltimore went 9-5, then only lost one game in 1967 on the way to an 11-1-2 record.
For the second time in four years, Shula was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year, and Unitas was named MVP after the ‘67 season.
The 1968 Colts were a team of destiny, or so the populace believed.
With the likes of Unitas, Earl Morrall, Tom Matte, John Mackey, Bubba Smith, and Mike Curtis, Baltimore went 13-1 and then defeated Minnesota and Cleveland in the first two rounds of the postseason.
With their victory over the Browns in the NFL Championship, the Colts advanced to play the New York Jets in Super Bowl III in Miami.
It just so happened that the Jets were coached well by Ewbank and Baltimore’s former coach had a brash, talented quarterback in Joe Namath.
"Teacher and Pupil"
Colts head coach Don Shula and Jets head coach Weeb Ewbank touch base before Super Bowl III, 53 years ago today in Miami. pic.twitter.com/8EFRUQfvRt
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 12, 2022
While attending an event at the Miami Touchdown Club a few days before the game, Namath was hounded repeatedly by reporters about New York’s chances in the game.
Tired of answering the same questions about the Colts’ tough squad, Namath responded with an off-the-cuff remark.
“We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it,” he said.
All eyebrows in the building rose to the occasion and Ewbank later remarked he “could have shot” his quarterback for making the statement.
Namath’s guarantee did nothing to affect the confidence of the Colts.
However, by halftime, Baltimore was down 7-0 and the Jets were clearly in control.
After the third quarter, it was 13-0, New York.
By the end of the quarter, Shula replaced Morrall (who had started during the season due to a Unitas injury in the preseason) with Unitas to hopefully provide a spark.
Unitas did engineer a score for Baltimore, but it didn’t come until 3:19 left in the game.
The Colts’ dream season ended with Namath’s prediction coming true as the Jets upset Baltimore 16-7.
OTD 1969 – 50th ANNIVERSARY
°° SUPER BOWL III °°
19-point underdog AFL #Jets shock the NFL Colts, 16-7, in one of sports history's greatest upsets. Game MVP Joe Namath calls a perfect game to make good on his guarantee.
• Matt Snell, George Sauer, O-line & entire defense shine pic.twitter.com/S6f9VzUcD7
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 12, 2019
Shula had been named the NFL’s Coach of the Year for the third time after the season, but the Super Bowl loss was devastating to him.
It was devastating to the Colts’ owner as well.
Shula Heads to Miami
In 1969, Baltimore and Shula went 8-5-1.
Although the franchise had never posted a losing record under Shula, Rosenbloom had grown weary of his coach after the Super Bowl III loss.
The relationship between the two fractured and only got worse as the ‘69 season progressed.
Thankfully, Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie offered Shula a $70,000 annual contract, general manager duties, and a 10% stake in the franchise to become the new coach of the Dolphins.
Don Shula was given a 10 percent piece of the Dolphins to coax him to leave the Colts in 1969.
The stake in the team at the time was worth $750,000. Shula sold it back a few years later to owner Joe Robbie.
That stake today, had he held on to it, would be worth at least $200M. pic.twitter.com/18aC8y2lul
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) May 5, 2020
The deal was too good for Shula to pass up.
He signed on the dotted line and headed south to the sun and beaches of Florida.
“After Super Bowl III, my relationship with Rosenbloom was not very pleasant,” Shula said in a 2008 interview. “I loved Baltimore—the people, the fans, and everything that Colts football stood for. But Rosenbloom’s New York buddies never let him forget [the heavily favored Colts’ loss], and he never let me forget it. If we had won that game and continued to win, I certainly wouldn’t have gone. I’d still be in Baltimore, eating crab cakes.”
When Shula arrived in Miami, he was inheriting a young team that had endured four losing seasons.
Those also happened to be the Dolphins’ first four years as a franchise.
Not to be deterred, Shula embarked on one of the quickest turnarounds in NFL history.
While new Baltimore head coach Don McCafferty led a squad Shula built to a victory in Super Bowl V in 1970, the Dolphins went 10-4 and lost to the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Their win total was seven victories better than in 1969.
In 1971, the Dolphins rode the arm of quarterback Bob Griese and the legs of running backs Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Mercury Morris to a 10-3-1 record.
After beating Kansas City in the Divisional round, Shula got a little payback when Miami trounced the Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship game.
On this day 50 years ago, Don Shula coached the Miami Dolphins past his former team, the Baltimore Colts and to their first Super Bowl with a 21-0 win in the AFC Championship: https://t.co/CAfhCunuOB pic.twitter.com/7zFokQN33G
— Fifth Quarter (@FifthQuarter) January 2, 2022
That advanced the Fins to Super Bowl VI against Dallas.
To Shula’s dismay, he experienced another title game loss when the Cowboys embarrassed Miami 24-3.
Perfect in 1972
Losing two career Super Bowls only made Shula strive harder in 1972 to get the Dolphins over the top.
He brought in his former Baltimore quarterback, Morrall, and soon needed him when Griese went down with a broken ankle in Week 5.
Although he was 38 years old, Morrall guided Miami well for the remainder of the regular season.
It helped that the team had not only Csonka, Kiick, and Morris in the backfield, but Paul Warfield at receiver and Bob Kuechenberg, Jim Langer, and Larry Little clearing a path up front.
Don Shula strategizes with QB Bob Griese and QB Earl Morrall during a game against the Baltimore Colts on December 16, 1972. Dolphins won 16-0 on their way to the #NFL only perfect season 🐬🆙@DolphinsHistory @ian693 pic.twitter.com/0ZJEaPVAX4
— Let’s Talk NFL 🏈 (@TalkFootball34) March 30, 2022
As the Dolphins finished the regular season 14-0, they also thrived with a “No Name” defense that was one of the best in the NFL at the time.
Of course, many of those “no-names” were actually well known and consisted of Manny Fernandez, Bill Stanfill, Nick Buoniconti, Dick Anderson, and Jake Scott.
Furthermore, if the offense stalled, which wasn’t often, the Fins could trot out All-Pro kicker Garo Yepremian.
Having a stacked unit on both sides of the ball hardly seemed fair and Shula was recognized for his success.
“Don Shula can take his’n and beat your’n,” Bum Phillips once said, “or he can take your’n and beat his’n.”
In the ‘72 playoffs, the Fins beat Cleveland in the Divisional Round and Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game.
Griese returned to play in part of the game and was also slated as the starter for Super Bowl VII.
By halftime of the game against the Washington Redskins, Miami led 14-0 after a touchdown pass from Griese to receiver Howard Twilley and a touchdown run by Kiick.
The score remained the same until a little over two minutes remained.
With Miami stalled at 4th and four at the Washington 34-yard line, Yepremian lined up for a field goal.
His kick was blocked and the ball bounced right back toward the kicker.
Yepremian picked up the ball and attempted to pass it to Csonka, who blocked during field goal attempts.
Instead, the ball slipped out of his hand and Yepremian then tried to knock the pigskin out of bounds.
Unfortunately, the ball went straight into the air where it was plucked by Redskins corner Mike Bass, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
Thankfully, “Garo’s Gaffe” only cost the team a touchdown and the final score was 14-7.
Perfection, today in 1973
Don Shula goes for a ride after his #Dolphins complete their unblemished 17-0 perfect season in Super Bowl VII. pic.twitter.com/u2jDTm5Uz1
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 14, 2022
Miami finished the season with a perfect 17-0 record and Shula was named NFL Coach of the Year for the fourth time.
“If we had won 16 games in a row and lost the Super Bowl, it would have been a disaster, especially for me,” Shula said in a 2007 interview. “That would have been my third Super Bowl loss. I was 0-2 in Super Bowls, and people always seemed to bring that up: ‘You can’t win the big one.'”
As of 2022, the Dolphins’ spotless record is still the only perfect season in NFL history.
Repeat in ‘73
In 1973, the gang returned, and essentially the same roster took the Dolphins to a 12-2 regular-season record and victories over Cincinnati and Oakland in the Divisional Round and AFC title game, respectively.
For the third year in a row, Miami was in a Super Bowl.
Don Shula smiles wide as his #Dolphins salt away their third consecutive AFC Championship, OTD in 1973. pic.twitter.com/Adhf2HuMuZ
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) December 31, 2021
This time they faced the Minnesota Vikings and their “Purple People Eaters” defense.
With the Dolphins scoring early and often, the Vikings’ defense went hungry.
By the end of the third quarter, Miami led 24-0 and Minnesota scored a meaningless touchdown in the fourth to make the final score 24-7.
Shula was vindicated.
After losing his first two Super Bowls, his squad had won two in a row including one at the back end of a perfect season.
Furthermore, after just four seasons in South Florida, Shula’s Dolphins had an overall record of 46-9-1.
An “Epic in Miami” and another Super Bowl Appearance
For the remainder of the 1970s, Miami continued to be competitive and returned to the playoffs three times.
In 1976, Shula experienced his first losing season as a head coach when the Dolphins finished the year 6-8.
After an 11-4-1 regular season in 1981, the Fins played the San Diego Chargers in the Divisional Playoffs.
The “Epic in Miami” turned out to be one of the most exciting postseason games in NFL history.
After the Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter, Miami battled back to close within 24-17 at halftime.
In the second half, both teams traded shots like boxers, and by the end of regulation, the score was tied at 38.
Overtime would see both teams miss on potential game-winning field goals before San Diego’s Rolf Benirschke kicked the winner.
Although the contest was in early January, the temperature was in the mid-70s and the humidity in Miami was 80%.
Kellen Winslow, the Charger’s future Hall of Fame tight end, was seen being carried off the field in sheer exhaustion by teammates after the game.
Today in 1982, Kellen Winslow catches 13 passes and blocks a field goal as the Chargers defeat the Dolphins 41-38 in a battle forever known as the "Epic in Miami." pic.twitter.com/bhrgjgT6K3
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) January 2, 2018
One year later, the NFL Players strike shortened the regular season to nine games and the Fins reached the postseason with a 7-2 record.
They advanced to Super Bowl XVII on the strength of their “Killer Bees” defense and the running of Pro Bowl back Andra Franklin.
In a repeat matchup of 10 years prior, the Dolphins lost to the Washington Redskins 27-17 to end their dream season.
Shula Drafts a Legend
During the offseason after the Super Bowl loss, Miami and Shula took a special interest in the upcoming 1983 NFL Draft.
The draft was heavy in exceptional quarterbacks that included names such as John Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien, and Dan Marino.
Shula wanted to upgrade his quarterback position despite the Fins’ appearance in Super Bowl XVII.
The team’s starting quarterback in ‘82 was David Woodley and the passing attack ranked last in the league with 1,401 total yards, eight touchdowns, and 13 interceptions.
With the 27th pick in the first round, Miami selected Marino.
On this day in 1983:
“With the 27th pick of the 1983 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select Dan Marino, Quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh”
And what a great pick it was!!!
🐐 #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/Jm3tqkNeCR
— Big E (@ian693) April 26, 2021
In the eighth round of the draft, the Dolphins grabbed Louisville receiver, Mark Clayton.
Clayton was paired with 1982 draft pick Mark Duper, a receiver from Northwest State in Louisiana.
Woodley started the ‘83 season but was replaced by Marino in Week 6.
The rookie lost the high-scoring game against the Buffalo Bills but made his claim as Miami’s new starter.
With Marino now in control, the Dolphins only lost one of their last 10 games to finish 12-4.
In the Divisional Playoffs, the Seattle Seahawks outlasted Miami to advance 27-20.
Return to the Super Bowl
Marino’s swift ascendance as an NFL starting quarterback was a welcome surprise to Dolphins fans.
In 1984, he frequently found his favorite targets in Clayton and Duper.
The “Marks Brothers” both caught over 70 passes and Clayton collected an NFL-best 18 receiving touchdowns.
Barber Shop Sports Talk.
Rookie quarterback Dan Marino bonds with his receivers Mark Duper (left) and Mark Clayton during training camp at St. Thomas University in 1983. From 1983 to 1992, Marino and the Marks Brothers would rewrite the NFL's passing records. pic.twitter.com/WnxuEXOl5V
— Byron Gray (@ByronGray6) February 11, 2022
Miami went 14-2 and beat Seattle and Pittsburgh by a combined 76-38 in the playoffs.
Then, it was on to Super Bowl XIX and a matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
The game provided a mouth-watering matchup between Marino and 49ers quarterback Joe Montana.
Miami moved the ball well in the first quarter and took a 10-7 lead.
Then, in the second quarter, Montana and Niner running back Roger Craig got to work and piled up 21 unanswered points to take a 28-16 lead at the half.
In the third quarter, San Francisco scored 10 more points while keeping Marino and the Fins out of the end zone.
In Super Bowl XIX, the #49ers sacked Dolphins QB Dan Marino four times and intercepted him twice, all after halftime.
The Niners' D was a legitimate force, something for which it rarely gets due credit.
NFL defensive ranks for the 49ers
2, 23, 4, 1, 2, 3, 3, 8, 3, 2 pic.twitter.com/5crlUo7PQL
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 21, 2022
At the end of the contest, Shula had lost his fourth Super Bowl as the Niners proved too much in a 38-16 win.
Once Super Bowl XIX concluded, the feeling among the football universe was that Shula and Marino would return to several more title games.
I thought he'd get back there.
Hell, we all thought he would.
A heartbreaking day for him in Super Bowl XIX. But man, what an absolutely epic 1984 season the #Dolphins' Dan Marino had. One for the ages pic.twitter.com/xKfwcFcdmg
— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) January 21, 2022
After all, the 1984 season was only Marino’s second year in the league.
Unfortunately, Shula and Marino would never again advance to the NFL’s biggest game.
During the next decade, Miami sniffed the Super Bowl a few times but was thwarted.
In 1985, the team lost to New England in the AFC Championship game and lost again in the AFC title game in 1992 against the Buffalo Bills.
Shula had only his second losing season as a head coach in 1988 when the Fins finished the regular season with a 6-10 record.
In October of 1994, Shula squared off against his son, David Shula, who was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.
On this day in 1994, Don Shula's Dolphins beat David Shula's Bengals 23-7 in the first-ever NFL meeting between father and son. pic.twitter.com/ebBno13SUN
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) October 2, 2020
The game was called the “Shula Bowl” and marked the first time in NFL history that a game matched father against son as head coaches.
Miami would win the contest 23-7.
After the Dolphins completed the 1995 regular season 9-7 and lost to Buffalo in the Wild Card round, Shula called it quits.
At the time, there was a rumor that Shula was forced out by second-year team owner Wayne Huizenga.
However, Shula squashed the rumors by saying that he was “at peace with myself” in retiring.
In 33 years as a head coach, Shula had a 328–156–6 regular-season record and is the all-time NFL leader in victories with 347 including the postseason.
He led Baltimore and Miami to six total Super Bowls, winning two of them.
Don Shula coached the Dolphins for 26 seasons (70'-95') and only twice did they have losing records during that time (76' & 88') 🐬🐬🐬 pic.twitter.com/PiHHcgAHU6
— Dolfan Derek (@Dolfin55) April 14, 2021
Remarkably, Shula had only two losing seasons in 33 years.
Life after Football and Death
After retiring, Shula primarily traveled the world with his wife, Mary Anne, visited with his grandchildren, read books, and watched late-night television.
As the years passed, he watched as Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined him and George Halas as the only NFL coaches to win more than 300 games (regular and postseason combined).
It wasn’t until after retiring that Shula realized just how much effort went into coaching.
“It’s demanding,” he said in 2005. “It totally takes over your life. It consumes you. That’s all you think about, morning, noon, and night. “You might try to think of something else, but it starts creeping in there. Next thing you know you’re getting up in the middle of the night thinking about what you should do, what you didn’t do, what you’d like to do. That hasn’t changed.”
That dedication to coaching was passed on to his sons, David and Mike, who spent time in the NFL.
In 1997, Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In honor of Don Shula #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/XA7BzC5kje
— Joshua Gutierrez (@JoshuaG90629038) October 3, 2021
He is also a member of the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team, 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll.
Shula was active in charity, co-authored three books, and owned several businesses including steakhouses, a golf club resort, and an athletic club.
On May 4, 2020, Shula passed away at the age of 90.
“Don Shula will always be remembered as one of the greatest coaches and contributors in the history of our game. He made an extraordinarily positive impact on so many lives,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
Shula leaves a lasting legacy as a master talent evaluator and football strategist.
“If I’m remembered for anything, I hope it’s for playing within the rules,” Shula once said. “I also hope it will be said that my teams showed class and dignity in victory or defeat.”
Leave a Reply