The Covid-19 pandemic has led to uncertain times across the world at the moment.
I would have never imagined witnessing a pandemic; I did not start my sports broadcasting career while he was still coaching, however I am was grateful to see Don Shula coach the Miami Dolphins growing up in my hometown.
“In life as in football it takes a team,” Shula has been quoted saying.
It will take a team to end this global pandemic. It will no be easy.
Shula, the NFL’s winningest coach who led the Miami Dolphins to the league’s only undefeated season, died Monday. He was 90.
The Dolphins issued a statement saying Shula died “peacefully at his home.”
“Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years,” the statement added. “He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and the city of Miami in the national sports scene. Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to Mary Anne and his children Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Mike.”
Shula won an NFL-record 347 games, including playoff games. He coached the Dolphins to the league’s only undefeated season (17-0) in 1972, culminating in a 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
The Dolphins repeated as champions the next season, beating the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII. The third straight title game Miami had played in; the Dolphins lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.
In all, Shula guided the Dolphins to five Super Bowls, including losses to the Redskins (27-17 in Super Bowl XVII) and San Francisco 49ers (38-16 in Super Bowl XIX).
Coach Shula was such a rock. He was so exact in his feelings. He was so 100 percent this is the way it is, retired Dolphins fullback and Super Bowl VII MVP Larry Csonka shared. “You drew off that strength when you were around him without even realizing it.”
Before coming to Miami, Shula coached the Baltimore Colts, who made him the then-youngest NFL coach when they hired him at age 33 in 1963. He led the Colts to Super Bowl III, the first title game to officially have “Super Bowl” in its name. Baltimore lost 16-7 to quarterback Joe Namath and the New York Jets, who became the first AFL team to win a Super Bowl.
“He always made sure we were an intricate part the South Florida community,” Retired Dolphins wide receiver Nat Moore said.
By the time he resigned as Dolphins coach after the 1995 season, Shula had been an NFL head coach for 33 seasons, 26 with Miami. Only two of his Dolphins teams finished below .500. He finished with an overall coaching record of 347-173-6 (73-26-4 with Baltimore).
Shula coached three Hall of Fame quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese and Dan Marino. During his 26 seasons in Miami, he became an institution, and his name adorns an expressway, an athletic club and a steakhouse chain.
“He led by example so he expected you to come in and be the best you can be everyday,” Hall of fame quarterback Dan Marino shared. “We always had a winning attitude that was always projected.”
Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. He, George Halas, and Bill Belichick are the only coaches in NFL history to win more than 300 games.
“Don Shula is one of the all-time great coaching figures and the standard for consistency and leadership in the NFL,” Belichick said in a statement. “I was fortunate to grow up in Maryland as a fan of the Baltimore Colts who, under Coach Shula, were one of the outstanding teams of that era. My first connection to Coach Shula was through my father, whose friendship with Coach Shula went back to their days in northeast Ohio. I extend my deepest condolences to the Shula family and the Dolphins organization.”
Shula played seven seasons in the NFL as a defensive back after being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the ninth round (110th overall) of the 1951 draft out of John Carroll University in Cleveland. He had 21 career interceptions in seven NFL seasons for Cleveland (1951-52), Baltimore (1953-56), and Washington (1957).
347 wins; at the moment, Belichick is 43 wins behind Shula with 304. He is 68 years of age. There is a good chance that he will pass that win total, especially rebuilding the New England Patriots without quarterback Tom Brady. That will add fuel in him going through the process off reaching another Super Bowl moreover coaching another decade. He may break the record, but there will never be another Don Shula.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.