The Legend that is Don Shula

Tonight the NFL Network will be airing their series A Football Life, profiling the legendary Don Shula (we’re not worthy! we’re not worthy!).

I grew up watching Don Shula when he coached the Miami Dolphins in the late ‘80s and throughout the ‘90s. I remember his cool and calm demeanor on the sidelines and those vintage sunglasses that remind me of Al Pacino in the movie Donnie Brasco. Shula never got too high or too low. I think the most emotion I ever saw from him was when they carried him off the field after career win number 325.
ESPN ran a series of segments this summer on the Greatest Coaches in NFL History. There is no doubt that number one on their list, Vince Lombardi, was a great coach. But the argument can be made that, in fact, Don Shula is the greatest coach in NFL history. Let’s look at the numbers, shall we.

When it comes to titles, Lombardi and George Halas have the edge with five and six respectively. But Shula holds his own with two back to back Super Bowl wins as well as a record six Super Bowl appearances. One of his two wins was delivered by the only undefeated team in NFL history, the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Shula also led his teams, the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins to a record 19 playoff appearances. He was also the first coach to reach the Super Bowl in three consecutive seasons (1971-1973). Impressive huh? It gets better.
Shula has more wins than Lombardi, Halas, George Allen, Tom Landry, Paul Brown, Chuck Knoll, and Marty Schottenheimer. His winning percentage is higher than the great Bill Walsh, Joe Gibbs, and Bill Belichick. And in the ‘70s he and defensive coordinator Bill Arnsparger (No-Name Defense) were instrumental in bringing the 3-4 defensive scheme to the NFL.

But perhaps what made Shula so great was his ability to adapt to his players. His teams of the ‘70s were defined by the hardnosed running of Larry Csonka. In the ‘80s and ‘90s he attacked his opponents with his Marino missile launcher. He coached three Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese, and Dan Marino, along with many other Hall of Fame players at various positions. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on July 26, 1997.

Maybe I’m a little biased but it’s hard to deny the facts. Tune in tonight at 9:00 pm EST to NFL Network and get to know the legend that is Don Shula, the most underrated yet greatest coach in NFL history.



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