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Don Shula: An incredible man who 'brought the winning edge' to Miami

  • The life and career of Don Shula is being celebrated after the Dolphins announced his death at the age of 90.
Omnisport
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Modified 04 May 2020, 22:34 IST
Shula - Cropped
Don Shula with President Obama at a ceremony for the 1972 Dolphins which was held in 2013

Don Shula, the winningest head coach in NFL history and leader of the only undefeated team in league history, died in his home on Monday at the age of 90.
  
"Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years," the team said in a statement confirming the news.

"He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and the city of Miami in the national sports scene."

Shula's 347 career wins as a head coach, including 19 postseason victories, are the most in league history.

Perhaps more astounding is the fact that in his 33-year career as an NFL head coach, he only had two losing seasons.  

He broke George Halas' mark for career wins in 1993 and retired two years later with a regular season record of 328-156-6.

The two-time Super Bowl champion was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.  

"The game has lost one of the greats today, but we have all lost a truly incredible man," Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said in a statement.

"[Shula] served as an ambassador for this great game for more than half a century."

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Shula was at the helm of the 1972 Dolphins, one of the unforgettable teams in league history. They finished 17-0 and won Super Bowl VII – still the only NFL team to complete a perfect season.

The 1973 team finished 15-2 and repeated as Super Bowl champions.  

He presided over the Dolphins for 26 seasons, from the smash-mouth running of Larry Csonka to the record-setting passing of Dan Marino. Since his retirement, Miami are yet to appear in a single conference championship game.  

Although he is best known for his time with the Dolphins, Shula began his head coaching career with the Baltimore Colts in 1963 and ended up coaching three Hall of Fame quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese and Marino.  

While with Baltimore, Shula was on the losing end of Super Bowl III, when Joe Namath guaranteed a win for the New York Jets, the first American Football League team to win a Super Bowl.  

Shula had playoff victories in four different decades and was a constant in the NFL from the pre-Super Bowl era to the Dallas Cowboys' dynasty in the mid-1990s.

Small in stature, he became a giant of the game as it blossomed into the most popular sport in the U.S. 

Shula was the youngest coach in the NFL when he was hired by the Colts at 33, and early in his career he had built the reputation of a great regular season coach who faltered in the postseason.

In all, Shula coached in six Super Bowls with four different starting quarterbacks. 

The four-time Coach of the Year was one of the head coaches named in the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team and he was honoured on the field before Super Bowl LIV in February.

Shula supported multiple charities, and he founded the Don Shula Foundation as a tribute to his late wife, Dorothy. The foundation primarily focuses on breast cancer research funding.  

They were married for 32 years and raised five children before her death in 1991. 

Shula then married Mary Anne Stephens in 1993. 

His oldest son, David, coached the Cincinnati Bengals from 1992-96 and was able to play against his father in 1994, marking the first father-son head coaching matchup in NFL history. Don won 23-7. 

Another son, Mike, has had several NFL assistant coaching jobs and was head coach at Alabama in 2003-06. 

Shula is survived by his wife Mary Anne and his children Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne and Mike.  

Published 04 May 2020, 22:34 IST
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