By: Brandon Liguori
2020 has been a challenging year to swallow. The NBA family mourned the tragic passing of longtime commissioner David Stern and five-time champion Kobe Bryant this past January. Four months later, the NFL world was saddened to hear that Don Shula, the winning-est coach in NFL history, died peacefully in his home Monday morning at the age of 90, one of his children confirmed.
Compiling a total record of 347-173-6, Shula was best known for leading the NFL's only undefeated team in its 100-year history: the 1972 Miami Dolphins. In a team statement posted on their official Twitter account, the Miami Dolphins said “Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years.
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 along with his children Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Mike.” Before taking over as head coach of the Dolphins in 1970, Shula was a 7-year head coach for the Baltimore Colts, earning a 71-23-4 regular season mark and 2-3 postseason record.
During his 25-year tenure in South Florida, Shula earned back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 1972 and 1973. Shula’s Miami teams maintained stout offensive line play, strong running games, elite quarterback play, excellent wide receivers and a strong, ferocious defensive unit. A year after defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII, the Dolphins had a chance at completing a three-peat, but fell to the Oakland Raiders, 28-26 in the 1974 AFC Divisional round.
“Coach Shula will truly be missed. He embodied the definition of ‘greatness.’ He brought that winning attitude with him every day and made everyone around him better. I want to thank him for always believing in me. He made me a better player and person. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Shula family,” Dolphins Hall-of-Fame quarterback Dan Marino said.
Shula drafted Marino in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft from the University of Pittsburgh. Shula earned AP NFL Coach of the Year award a record four times (1964, 1967, 1968, 1972). “Don Shula is a legend who had an incredible impact on the game of football. He was an innovator who competed for championships and over several eras of professional football,” current head coach Brian Flores said. “My conversations with players like Larry Csonka, Dwight Stephenson, Bob Baumhower, Nat Moore and Dan Marino all centered around the lessons they learned from Coach Shula.
His impact went far beyond games won and championships. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.” Shula became the 11th member inducted into the Miami Dolphins Honor Roll on November 25, 1996, joining Joe Robbie, Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Paul Warfield, Nick Buoniconti, the 1972 undefeated team, Larry Little, Stephenson and Bob Kuechenberg. Prior to kickoff between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 54 this past February, Shula, Bill Belichick, Paul Brown, Joe Gibbs, George Halas, Curly Lambeau, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll and Bill Walsh were inducted into the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. “I was saddened to hear the passing of Coach Shula.
He was the driving force behind everything we accomplished with the Dolphins. Whether it was his force of will, his organization, his work ethic, sense of integrity, or his total focus on winning, he modeled us into champions,” former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese said. “I want to pass along my condolences to Mary Anne and the entire Shula family. I will miss him.” Shula became a South Florida sports icon for his dominance on and off the football field and Dolphins fans will forever be grateful for Shula’s intelligence. Thank you and may you forever Rest in Peace, Coach Shula.
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @BrandonRLiguori
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