“Miami–Greatness Has Left Us”
Don Shula….Father…Grandfather…Iconic coach…..Patriarch has died.
He passed quietly just outside Miami Lakes at age 90, leaving behind a legacy of success everywhere he went.
Shula, the steel jawed leader of the Dolphins, went from small college football, to NFL star cornerback, to the youngest coach at that time in the National Football League.
He leaves behind the greatest winning record of any coach in the NFL, (347-190-6), better than George Halas back then, and modern day legend Bill Belicheck now.
The accomplishments are staggering. 31-winning seasons in 33-years, first as coach of the old Baltimore Colts to the modern day Dolphins.
He led Miami to the only unbeaten season ever in the game, (17-0) in 1972. He won back to back Super Bowls with the Dolphins, and drove the Colts to a Super Bowl game.
The memorable wins include the perfect ’72 Super Bowl season. It also includes the stunning loss to the upstart Joe Namath-Weeb Ewbank led AFL-New York Jets in an early Super Bowl.
Steel jawed, a Man’s Man, Shula went to tiny John Carroll University outside of Cleveland, near his hometown of Painesville. He starred for legendary Paul Brown in the 1950s, when Cleveland owned the NFL, intercepting 21-passes in 6-seasons.
If Halas and Brown were the early day legends on the sidelines, Shula became the group of the next generation of greats, along with Chuck Noll and Tom Landry as the 60s became the 70s into the 80s.
He wanted to be a priest, but became a coach, and at 33-was the youngest head coach ever in pro football back in the day.
His Miami tenure spread from Bob Griese to Dan Marino.
As times changed, so did he, handling, tolerating the likes of Mercury Morris and Garo Yepremian, to so many other diverse personalities.
He created the ‘No Name Defense’, pioneered by Nick Buonoconti and Manny Fernandez. Names like Jake Scott and Bill Stanfill became adored figures in South Florida.
He had the ‘Marx Brothers’, Clayton and Duper. He brought in Larry Csonka-Jim Kiick-Paul Warfield in the ‘Butch Cassidy & Sundance’ era .
Inheriting the Dolphins of the old AFL, he took a team that had gone (15-39-2), and promptly went (37-7-1) in his first three years, just like that, the fastest turnaround from bad to good in league history.
He made the Dolphins important in Miami and at the historic Orange Bowl, before the other Miami (Hurricanes) became relevant.
He was a potpourri of personality. Passionate, popular, pushy. He cared about family-faith-football every minute of everyday.
Don Shula-a very special person–someone we will never likely see again.