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Don Shula: The head coach's greatest NFL moments

  • We take a look back at the NFL career highlights of former Dolphins and Colts head coach Don Shula, who has died aged 90.
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Modified 04 May 2020, 22:54 IST
Don Shula - cropped
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula

Few coaches in any sport can claim to have had the success that Don Shula enjoyed in the NFL.

The former Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins head coach, who died aged 90 on Monday, was a two-time Super Bowl winner and in charge of the only perfect season in NFL history.

He led the Colts to seven winning seasons in his seven years there before enjoying even more success during 26 years in Miami, where he had just two campaigns below .500.

We take a look at the highlights in Shula's incredible career.


1968 SEASON - COLTS CLAIM REVENGE OVER BROWNS IN NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

In 1963 the Colts, then based in Baltimore, made a 33-year-old Shula the youngest head coach in NFL history. 

While acknowledging that some of his players were older than their new coach, Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom said: "I feel strongly that he is going to be a great." Three Coach of the Year awards in seven seasons suggested he was right.

In Shula's second season, Baltimore were beaten 27-0 by the Cleveland Browns in the 1964 NFL Championship Game, during an era before the Super Bowl, but he would get a chance to avenge that defeat against the same opponent four years later.

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This time the Colts emerged victorious, 34-0, and advanced to Super Bowl III, where Joe Namath and the underdog New York Jets pulled off a shock victory their quarterback had "guaranteed" in Miami.


1972 SEASON - PERFECTION

A little over a year later, Miami would become Shula's home as the 40-year-old was hired by the Dolphins.

They had won a combined 19 games in their first four years of existence, but Shula would transform the team, taking them to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons in charge - with three of those campaigns ending up at the Super Bowl.

The crowning achievement was the undefeated '72 Dolphins, who remain the only NFL team to go through a regular season and postseason having won every game.

A year after falling to the Dallas Cowboys at the final hurdle in 1971, Shula's 'No Name Defense', an offensive line that featured two future Hall of Famers and fellow Canton residents Paul Warfield, Larry Csonka and Bob Griese proved unstoppable.

Miami completed a 17-0 run with a 14-7 Super Bowl VII triumph over the Washington Redskins.

1973 SEASON - BACK-TO-BACK LOMBARDIS

The '72 Dolphins obviously get plenty of attention, but the '73 version should not be forgotten.

Not only were they able to ensure another title was brought to South Beach, they repeated having gone 12-2 in the regular season despite facing the mighty Oakland Raiders, Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as 2,000-yard rusher O.J. Simpson, twice.

Shula's defense kept teams to 14 or fewer points on 11 occasions, and they gave up only 33 points in the playoffs, beating the Cincinnati Bengals, Raiders, and then the Minnesota Vikings, by 24-7, in Super Bowl VIII.


1984 SEASON - ANOTHER QB, A SIXTH SUPER BOWL

One of Shula's great strengths was his ability to win with a variety of different players at the game's most important position.

He coached three future Hall of Famers in Johnny Unitas, Griese and Dan Marino, but also used Earl Morrall and David Woodley under center at 'The Big Dance'.

While his 1970s Dolphins would destroy teams on the ground, Miami flipped the script when they drafted a sliding Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft as Shula's offense suddenly became one of the league's most potent through the air.

In 1984, Marino set NFL records in passing yardage (5,084 yards) and touchdown passes (48) that would stand for two decades, as Miami went 14-2 before Shula made a record sixth Super Bowl.

Unfortunately for Shula and Marino, they came up against Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and their great San Francisco 49ers team, who claimed the rings with a 38-16 triumph.

1993 SEASON - AN NFL RECORD FOR WINS

There were only two losing seasons in Shula's 33-year head-coaching career. It was no surprise, then, that he set the record for the most wins in NFL history towards the end of his time in charge of Miami.

That day came on November 14, 1993, when Miami beat the Philadelphia Eagles 19-14 to give Shula his 325th victory, one more than Chicago Bears great George Halas.

By the time he retired, aged 66, after the 1995 season, Shula had won 347 games - a record that still stands 25 years on.

Published 04 May 2020, 22:54 IST
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