Shula in 2009
|No. 96, 44, 25, 26|
|Born:||January 4, 1930|
Grand River, Ohio
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||190 lb (86 kg)|
|High school:||Painesville (OH) Harvey|
|NFL Draft:||1951 / Round: 9 / Pick: 110|
|Career highlights and awards
|Career NFL statistics|
|Head coaching record|
Donald Francis Shula (born January 4, 1930) is an American former professional football coach and player who is best known as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, the team he led to two Super Bowl victories, and to the only perfect season in the history of the National Football League (NFL). He was previously the head coach of the Baltimore Colts, with whom he won the 1968 NFL Championship. Shula was drafted out of John Carroll University in the 1951 NFL Draft, and he played professionally as a defensive back for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and Washington Redskins.
Shula was named 1993 Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated. He had only two losing seasons in his 33-year career as a head coach in the NFL. He led his teams to six Super Bowls. In his first Super Bowl, the Colts set the record for the longest period to be shut out, not scoring until 3:19 remained in the game, which was later broken in Super Bowl VII. At his next Super Bowl, the Dolphins set the Super Bowl record for the lowest points scored by any team, with one field goal. The following year, he coached a perfect season and broke the record of longest shutout, this time with his team on the winning side, not giving up any points until 2:07 remained. The Dolphins repeated as Super Bowl champions the following season, as they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24–7. He currently holds the NFL record for most career wins as a head coach, with 347. Shula was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Early life and college
Shula was born in Grand River, Ohio, a small town along the Lake Erie shore in the northeastern part of the state. His parents, Dan and Mary, were of Hungarian origin, having immigrated when they were children. Shula's father Dan worked for $9 a week at a rose nursery and saved up to buy the small house where Shula spent his early childhood. The house was next door to a grocery store in Grand River owned by Mary's parents. Shula played football in his neighborhood as a child, but his parents forbade it after he got a gash on his face when he was 11.
As Shula's family expanded—he had six siblings, including a set of triplets born in 1936—his father got a job in the local fishing industry for $15 a week, and later worked at a rayon plant in nearby Painesville, Ohio. Shula attended elementary school at St. Mary's, a private Catholic school in Painesville; his mother was a devout Catholic, and his father converted to that denomination when they married. He later attended Thomas W. Harvey in Painesville and played on its football team starting in 1945. He did not try out for the team because of both his mother's prohibition on him playing and he was recovering from a bout of pneumonia, but an assistant football coach noticed him in a gym class and convinced him to join. Shula forged his parents' signatures to sign up.
Within weeks of joining Harvey's football team, Shula was a starting left halfback in the school's single-wing offense. He handled a large portion of the team's rushing and passing duties, and helped lead the team to a 7–3 win–loss record in his senior year. It was the first time in 18 years that Harvey had a seven-win season. The team would have won a league title had it not lost an early game to Willoughby. Shula also ran track at Harvey and was an 11-time letterman in his three years there.
As Shula prepared to graduate from high school in 1947, many men whose football careers were delayed by service in World War II were returning and competing for athletic scholarships. As a result, Shula was unable to get a scholarship and contemplated working for a year before going to college. That summer, however, he had a chance meeting at a gas station with former Painesville football coach Howard Bauchman, who suggested he ask about a scholarship at John Carroll University. Shula got a one-year scholarship at the private Jesuit school in University Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. It was extended to a full scholarship after Shula performed well in his freshman year, including in a win over Youngstown State in October 1948. He ran for 175 yards and scored two touchdowns substituting for the injured starting halfback. The same year, Shula considered joining the Catholic priesthood after a three-day retreat at John Carroll, but decided against it because of his commitment to football. During his senior year in 1950, he rushed for 125 yards in a win over a heavily favored Syracuse team.
Shula graduated in 1951 as a sociology major with a minor in mathematics, and was offered a job teaching and coaching at Canton Lincoln High School in Canton, Ohio for $3,750 a year ($31,706 in 2022). The Cleveland Browns of the National Football League, however, had selected him in the ninth round of the 1951 draft that January. Cleveland had won the NFL championship the previous year behind a staunch defense and an offense led by quarterback Otto Graham, fullback Marion Motley and end Dante Lavelli.:177–182 Shula was joined in the Browns' training camp by John Carroll teammate Carl Taseff, whom Cleveland coach Paul Brown selected in the 22nd round.:220 Brown made the selections in part because John Carroll coach Herb Eisele attended his coaching clinics and used similar schemes and terminology as Brown did. Shula and Taseff both made the team and were its only two rookies in 1951.:220 Shula signed a $5,000-a-year contract and played as a defensive back alongside Warren Lahr and Tommy James.:220
Shula played in all 12 of Cleveland's games in 1951, making his first appearance as a starter in October, and recorded four interceptions. The Browns, meanwhile, finished with an 11–1 record and advanced to the championship game for a second straight year. The team lost the game 24–17 to the Los Angeles Rams in Los Angeles.:233–234
Shula was a member of an Ohio National Guard unit that was activated the following January amid the Korean War. Military service in Ohio and at Fort Polk in Louisiana kept Shula away from football until the unit was deactivated that November. Returning to the Browns, Shula signed a $5,500-a-year contract and played in five games at the end of the season, having become a full-time starter because of injuries to other players.:247 The Browns again advanced to the championship game and again lost, this time to the Detroit Lions.:251–253 In early 1953, Brown traded Shula along with Taseff and eight other players to the Baltimore Colts in exchange for five Colts players including tackles Mike McCormack and Don Colo.:264 Before joining Baltimore, Shula finished a master's degree in physical education at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Shula signed a $6,500-a-year contract with Baltimore, which was preparing for its first season after relocating from Dallas, where the franchise had been called the Dallas Texans. The team replaced an earlier Colts franchise that folded after the 1950 season. The Colts finished with a 3–9 record in 1953 despite leading the NFL in defensive takeaways, including three interceptions by Shula. Baltimore continued to struggle the following year under new head coach Weeb Ewbank, a former Browns assistant. The team again finished 3–9 for last place in the NFL West, although Shula had a career-high five interceptions.
Shula had five interceptions again in 1955, but the Colts finished 5–6–1, well out of contention for the divisional championship. Shula missed the final three games of the season because of a broken jaw suffered in a 17–17 tie with the Los Angeles Rams. Ewbank brought in future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas as a backup in 1956, but the Colts posted a losing record even after he became the starter partway through the season. Shula had just one interception that year. The Colts waived Shula at the end of training camp in 1957 season, and the Washington Redskins picked him up. Shula spent one season with the Redskins before retiring. In his seven NFL seasons, he played in 73 games, intercepted 21 passes and recovered four fumbles.
Early years (1958–1962)
Shula got his first coaching job shortly after ending his playing career, signing as an assistant at the University of Virginia under Dick Voris in February 1958, before being an assistant at Iowa State University. Virginia finished with a 1–9 record that year. Shula got married in the summer before the season to Dorothy Bartish, who grew up near Painesville. Shula and Bartish had begun dating after he graduated from John Carroll; she was working as a teacher in Hawaii when he proposed.
After one season at Virginia, Shula moved to an assistant coaching job at the University of Kentucky in 1959 under head coach Blanton Collier. Collier had been an assistant to Paul Brown when Shula played in Cleveland.:17–18 After one season in Kentucky, Shula got his first NFL coaching job as the defensive backfield coach for the Detroit Lions in 1960. The Lions posted winning records in each of Shula's three seasons there under head coach George Wilson and finished in second place in the NFL West in 1961 and 1962. Detroit's defense was near the top of the league in fewest points allowed when Shula coached there, including a second-place finish in 1962. The defense also led the league that year in fewest yards allowed, with 3,217. Detroit's defense featured a group of linemen dubbed the "Fearsome Foursome" in 1962, consisting of defensive tackles Roger Brown and Alex Karras and defensive ends Darris McCord and Sam Williams.
Baltimore Colts (1963–1969)
Weeb Ewbank, under whom Shula had played in Cleveland and Baltimore, was fired as the Colts' head coach in 1963 following a string of losing seasons and disagreements over team strategy and organization with owner Carroll Rosenbloom. Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom immediately named Shula as the team's next head coach, having recruited him for the job earlier. Shula was only 33 years old, making him the youngest coach in league history at the time, but Rosenbloom was familiar with his personality and approach from his playing days in Baltimore. While Rosenbloom said he realized he was "out on a limb" in hiring Shula, he felt it would bring a sense of team spirit back to the Colts. While Shula had only been an average player, he was "always... taking pictures, talking football", said Rosenbloom. "He had always wanted to coach".
Shula lost his first regular-season game, a September 15 matchup against the Giants. The 1963 Colts won their next game, however, and went on to finish the season with an 8–6 record for third place in the NFL West. The team was still led by Unitas, who was Shula's teammate during his final year as a player in Baltimore and had helped the Colts win championships in 1958 and 1959. The team's primary receivers were end Raymond Berry and tight end John Mackey, while defensive end Gino Marchetti anchored the defense.
Shula guided the team to a 12–2 record in his second year as coach.:123 That put the Colts on top of the NFL West and earned a spot in the NFL championship against the Browns, which by then were coached by Collier.:121–123 The Colts were heavily favored to win even by sportswriters in Cleveland, due in large part to their strong receiving corps and Unitas, who had 2,824 passing yards and won the league's Most Valuable Player award.:122 Halfback Lenny Moore also had 19 touchdowns, setting an NFL record.:123 In addition to having the NFL's top-scoring offense, the Colts defense allowed the fewest points in the NFL.:124 Before the championship, Collier said Shula had always thought about coaching even during his playing career, giving him "the experience of a man in the profession for ten years.":123 The Colts, however, lost to the Browns 27–0 in the title game.:151 Despite the loss, Shula won the NFL's Coach of the Year Award.:123
The Colts tied the Green Bay Packers with a 10–3–1 record at the end of the 1965 season, forcing a playoff to determine which of them would play in the championship game. The Colts had lost twice to the Packers during the regular season, and Unitas and backup Gary Cuozzo were sidelined by injuries as the playoffs approached. Baltimore got out to a 10–0 lead at halftime while using halfback Tom Matte at quarterback, but the Packers, coached by Vince Lombardi, made a comeback in the second half and tied the score at the end of regulation. The Colts stopped the Packers on their opening drive in the sudden-death overtime, but the ensuing drive ended with a missed field goal by placekicker Lou Michaels. The Packers then drove for a field goal of their own, winning 13–10. Shula said after the game that while his team could not expect to execute its usual strategy without Unitas and Cuozzo, the Colts "don't belong in this league" if they could not beat Green Bay once in three tries.
The Colts fell to second place in the NFL West the following season, the first year a Super Bowl was played between the NFL champion and the winner of the rival American Football League. In 1967, the Colts again failed to make the playoffs despite a regular-season record of 11–1–2, losing the newly created Coastal Division on a tiebreaker with the Los Angeles Rams because the Rams scored more points in the games between the two clubs. The Colts' only loss was a 34–10 setback to the Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on the final Sunday of the season. Though the season ended in disappointment, Shula won his second Coach of the Year award, and Unitas was again the league's MVP.
Before the 1968 season began, Unitas injured his elbow and was replaced by backup Earl Morrall. Expectations for Morrall were low, but the veteran quarterback led the Colts to a string of wins at the beginning of the season. Shula tried to ease Unitas back into the lineup, but the quarterback's injury flared up numerous times, culminating with a game against Cleveland when he had just one completion and three interceptions. That turned out to be the only loss of the season for Baltimore, which finished with a league-leading 13–1 record. The Colts beat the Minnesota Vikings in the Western Conference championship game, and then beat the Browns 34–0 in the NFL Championship Game the following week. That set up a matchup with the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. The Jets were led by quarterback Joe Namath, who guaranteed a victory before the game despite being the underdog. New York won the game 16–7.
Shula spent one more season as the head coach of the 8-5-1 Colts, and missed the playoffs. He compiled a 71–23–4 record in seven seasons with Baltimore, but was just 2–3 in the postseason, including upset losses in the 1964 NFL Championship Game and Super Bowl III, where the Colts were heavy favorites.
Miami Dolphins (1970–1995)
After the 1969 season, Joe Robbie, owner of the Miami Dolphins, signed Shula to a contract to become Miami's second head coach. As a result of Shula's signing, the team was charged with tampering by the NFL, which forced the Dolphins to give their first-round pick to the Colts. The decision was controversial because Shula and Robbie's negotiations and signing were conducted before and after the official NFL/AFL merger, respectively. Had the negotiations been concluded before the merger, while the NFL and AFL were rivals, the NFL's antitampering rules could not have been applied.
Shula's Miami teams were known for great offensive lines (led by Larry Little, Jim Langer, and Bob Kuechenberg), strong running games (featuring Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Mercury Morris), solid quarterbacking (by Bob Griese and Earl Morrall), excellent receivers (in Paul Warfield, Howard Twilley, and TE Jim Mandich) and a defense that worked well as a cohesive unit. The Dolphins were known as "The No-Name Defense", though they had a number of great players, including DT Manny Fernandez and MLB Nick Buoniconti.
In 1972, the Dolphins were unbeaten in the regular season, 14–0–0. They swept the playoffs and finished 17–0–0.
Shula changed his coaching strategy as his personnel changed. His Super Bowl teams in 1971, 1972, 1973, and 1982 were keyed by a run-first offensive strategy and a dominating defense. In 1983, shortly after losing Super Bowl XVII to the Washington Redskins, the Dolphins drafted quarterback Dan Marino out of the University of Pittsburgh. Marino won the starting job halfway through the 1983 regular season, and by 1984, the Dolphins were back in the Super Bowl, due largely to Marino's record 5,084 yards through the air and 48 touchdown passes.
For all his success, the Dolphins' January, 1974 Super Bowl win over the Minnesota Vikings proved to be Shula's last championship. Despite consistent success in the regular season, Shula was unable to win in the postseason, failing in 12 trips to the playoffs—including two more Super Bowl appearances—before retiring after the 1995 season.
His retirement following that regular season ended one of the greatest coaching legacies in NFL history. He set numerous records in his 33 seasons as a head coach. He is first in most games coached (526) and most consecutive seasons coached (33). Shula had a 2–4 record in his 6 Super Bowl appearances.
Shula was the head coach of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, which finished a perfect 17–0 and won the Super Bowl VII 14–7 over the Washington Redskins. Shula's 1973 team repeated as NFL champions, winning the 1974 Super Bowl over the Minnesota Vikings. The following season, the Dolphins had a chance to win a third title in three years, but they fell to the Oakland Raiders 28–26, in an AFC divisional playoff game in one of the more popular playoff games ever played. With 35 seconds remaining in the game, Ken Stabler was in the process of being sacked by Vern Den Herder. Just before he was tackled, he threw a completed desperation forward pass to his running back Clarence Davis in the game's final moments, and in doing so, ended Miami's two-year dominance. The Dolphins team was decimated the following season by the creation of the now defunct World Football League and their inability to match contract offers to three of its star players—Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield—to the rival league. The Dolphin franchise has never been able to duplicate the success of 1971–74.
In retirement, Shula has lent his name to a chain of steakhouses, Shula's Steakhouse, and a line of condiments. He appeared in NutriSystem commercials with Dan Marino and other former NFL players.
Shula also has a hotel in Miami Lakes, Florida, which is home to the Original Shula's Steak House, The Senator Course at Shula's Golf Club, The Spa at Shula's, and Shula's Athletic Club. The hotel has 205 guest rooms and specializes in college and professional sport travel.
In 1999, Shula was honored with the "Lombardi Award of Excellence" from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation. The award was created to honor coach Vince Lombardi's legacy, and is awarded annually to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of the coach.
As part of a government public awareness campaign, he was the first American to sign up for Medicare Part D prescription drug plan benefits, enrolling just after midnight on November 15, 2005.
In 2007, in Miami Gardens at Super Bowl XLI, Shula took part in the Vince Lombardi Trophy presentation. On March 25, 2007, Shula presented the Winners Cup to Tiger Woods, winner of the 2007 WGC-CA Golf Tournament held at the Doral Resort in Miami. On February 3, 2008, he participated in the opening of Super Bowl XLII.
In 2011, he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in recognition of his humanitarian efforts.
At John Carroll University, he endowed the Don Shula Chair in Philosophy, which supports the Philosophy Department by presenting programs of interest to philosophers and the general public.
Shula married Painesville native Dorothy Bartish on July 19, 1958. They had five children: Dave Shula (b. May 28, 1959), Donna (b. April 28, 1961), Sharon (b. June 30, 1962), Anne (b. May 7, 1964), and Mike Shula (b. June 3, 1965). Dorothy died of breast cancer on February 25, 1991. That same year, the Don Shula Foundation for Breast Cancer Research was founded.
He married Mary Anne Stephens on October 16, 1993. On November 25, 1996, he was added to the Miami Dolphin Honor Roll. In 2007, ads for NutriSystem geared for people age 60 and older featuring the Shulas aired. They reside in Indian Creek, Florida, in the home Mary Anne received in her divorce settlement from her third husband, investment banker Jackson Stephens.
Shula has been deeply religious throughout his life. He said in 1974, at the peak of his coaching career, that he attended mass every morning. Shula once considered becoming a Catholic priest, but decided he could not commit to being both priest and coach.
Shula set numerous records in his 33 seasons as a head coach. He is the all-time leader in victories with 347. He is first in most games coached (526), most consecutive seasons coached (33), and Super Bowl losses (four, tied with Bud Grant, Dan Reeves, and Marv Levy). His teams won seven NFL conference titles: 1964, 1968, 1971–73, 1982, and 1984. Shula's teams were consistently among the least penalized in the NFL, and Shula served on the Rules Committee, to help change the game to a more pass-oriented league. He had a winning record against almost every coach he faced, with several exceptions: Levy, against whom he was 5–14 during the regular season and 0–3 in the playoffs; John Madden, against whom he was 2–2 in the regular season and 1–2 in the playoffs for a total of 3–4; and Bill Cowher, against whom Shula was 1–2 late in his career. Don Shula also had losing records against Tom Flores(1-6) Raymond Berry (3-8), Walt Michaels (5-7-1), and Vince Lombardi (5-8).
Shula also holds the distinction of having coached five different quarterbacks to Super Bowl appearances (Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall in 1968, Bob Griese in 1971, 1972, and 1973, David Woodley in 1982, and Dan Marino in 1984), three of them (Unitas, Griese, and Marino) future Hall of Famers. He also coached Johnny Unitas to another World Championship appearance (in the pre-Super Bowl era) in 1964. The only other NFL coach to approach this distinction is Joe Gibbs, who coached four Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien), winning three times.
Shula is honored at the Don Shula Stadium at John Carroll University, and the Don Shula Expressway in Miami. An annual college football game between South Florida schools Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University is named the Shula Bowl in his honor. The game's winner receives a traveling trophy named the Don Shula Award. On January 31, 2010, a statue of him was unveiled at Hard Rock Stadium.
He has co-authored three books: The Winning Edge (1973) with Lou Sahadi ISBN 0-525-23500-0, Everyone's a Coach (1995) ISBN 0-310-20815-7, and The Little Black Book of Coaching: Motivating People to be Winners (2001); ISBN 0-06-662103-8, both with Ken Blanchard (author of The One Minute Manager).
Head coaching record
|Won||Lost||Ties||Win %||Finish||Won||Lost||Win %||Result|
|BAL||1963||8||6||0||.571||3rd in Western Conference||—||—||—||—|
|BAL||1964||12||2||0||.857||1st in Western Conference||0||1||.000||Lost to Cleveland Browns in NFL Championship Game.|
|BAL||1965||10||3||1||.769||2nd in Western Conference||0||1||.000||Lost to Green Bay Packers in Western Conference Playoff.|
|BAL||1966||9||5||0||.643||2nd in Western Conference||—||—||—||—|
|BAL||1967||11||1||2||.917||2nd in Coastal Division||—||—||—||—|
|BAL||1968||13||1||0||.929||1st in Coastal Division||2||1||.667||Won 1968 NFL Championship. Lost to New York Jets in Super Bowl III.|
|BAL||1969||8||5||1||.615||2nd in Coastal Division||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1970||10||4||0||.714||2nd in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Oakland Raiders in AFC Divisional Game.|
|MIA||1971||10||3||1||.769||1st in AFC East||2||1||.667||Lost to Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI.|
|MIA||1972||14||0||0||1.000||1st in AFC East||3||0||1.000||Super Bowl VII Champions.|
|MIA||1973||12||2||0||.857||1st in AFC East||3||0||1.000||Super Bowl VIII Champions.|
|MIA||1974||11||3||0||.786||1st in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Oakland Raiders in AFC Divisional Game.|
|MIA||1975||10||4||0||.714||2nd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1976||6||8||0||.429||3rd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1977||10||4||0||.714||2nd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1978||11||5||0||.688||2nd in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Houston Oilers in AFC Wild-Card Game.|
|MIA||1979||10||6||0||.625||1st in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Divisional Game.|
|MIA||1980||8||8||0||.500||3rd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1981||11||4||1||.733||1st in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to San Diego Chargers in AFC Divisional Game.|
|MIA||1982*||7||2||0||.778||1st in AFC East||3||1||.750||Lost to Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVII.|
|MIA||1983||12||4||0||.750||1st in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Seattle Seahawks in AFC Divisional Game.|
|MIA||1984||14||2||0||.875||1st in AFC East||2||1||.667||Lost to San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX.|
|MIA||1985||12||4||0||.750||1st in AFC East||1||1||.500||Lost to New England Patriots in AFC Championship Game.|
|MIA||1986||8||8||0||.500||3rd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1987||8||7||0||.533||3rd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1988||6||10||0||.375||5th in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1989||8||8||0||.500||2nd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1990||12||4||0||.750||2nd in AFC East||1||1||.500||Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFC Divisional Game.|
|MIA||1991||8||8||0||.500||3rd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1992||11||5||0||.688||1st in AFC East||1||1||.500||Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFC Championship Game.|
|MIA||1993||9||7||0||.563||2nd in AFC East||—||—||—||—|
|MIA||1994||10||6||0||.625||1st in AFC East||1||1||.500||Lost to San Diego Chargers in AFC Divisional Game.|
|MIA||1995||9||7||0||.563||3rd in AFC East||0||1||.000||Lost to Buffalo Bills in AFC Wild-Card Game.|
*57-day long players' strike reduced the 1982 season from a 16-game schedule per team to 9
- List of National Football League head coaches with 50 wins
- List of professional gridiron football coaches with 200 wins
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- Don Shula Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks - Pro-Football-Reference.com
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