Don Shula, N.F.L.’s Winningest Head Coach, Dies at 90

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Shula, who was enshrined within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 1997, was the one coach to guide a workforce, the Dolphins, to an ideal season.

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Don Shula, the winningest head coach in Nationwide Soccer League historical past and the one one to guide a workforce to an ideal season, died on Monday at his house in Indian Creek, Fla., a village close to Miami Seaside. He was 90.

His dying was introduced by the Miami Dolphins on Twitter.

Shula, who was enshrined within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 1997, was a tactician and taskmaster who constructed a few of the most fearsome defenses and explosive offenses in league historical past. He took his groups to 6 Tremendous Bowls, profitable two, capping the 1972 and 1973 seasons.

The 1972 marketing campaign was historic: The Dolphins gained all 14 regular-season video games regardless of shedding Bob Griese, their beginning quarterback, to an harm within the fifth sport. With the top-ranked offense and protection, they then gained all three playoff video games and captured Tremendous Bowl VII, finishing what stays the league’s solely good season.

With a jutting jaw and stiff backbone, Shula had a fierce look whether or not pacing the apply subject or exhorting his groups from the sidelines, driving them to victory after victory. Few coaches in any sport might match his success.

In his 33 years as a head coach, seven with the Baltimore Colts (1963-69) and 26 with the Dolphins (1970-95), his groups gained 328 regular-season video games — nonetheless an N.F.L. document — misplaced 156 and tied 6. He nonetheless holds the N.F.L. data for video games coached (526) and complete victories (347 — 23 greater than the legendary George Halas of the Chicago Bears). His groups gained 10 or extra video games in a season 21 instances and reached the playoffs 19 instances.

Marv Levy, who coached the Buffalo Payments to 4 Tremendous Bowls, referred to as Shula “the best coach in skilled soccer historical past.”

Shula was additionally a longtime member of the N.F.L.’s influential competitors committee, which, amongst different issues, pushed to tighten guidelines in opposition to a protection’s holding vast receivers; with receivers freer to maneuver, the rule change tilted the benefit to the offense, ushering in an period of extra risk-taking and high-scoring contests dominated by the passing sport.

Shula coached three Corridor of Fame quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas at Baltimore and Bob Griese and Dan Marino at Miami. He fathered two coaches: His son Dave was head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals for elements of 5 seasons, and his son Mike was head coach on the College of Alabama and place coach with a number of N.F.L. groups; since 2013 he has been the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.

Don Shula turned a head coach at 33, Dave at 32 and Mike at 37.

Shula was well-known for working gamers exhausting throughout coaching camp, holding 4 exercises a day in South Florida’s steamy summers. Throughout his early years on the sideline, he was recognized to be short-tempered and fast guilty gamers when issues went badly.

“As a youthful coach, I used to be very intense,” he advised the columnist Dave Anderson of The New York Instances in 1983. “Typically I used to be lower than understanding. I hope I’ve been in a position to steadiness it out slightly, however I additionally hope that I by no means hand over being intense.”

By the Dolphins’ unbeaten season in 1972, Shula’s gamers had discovered a solution to ease the stress.

A few week earlier than the Tremendous Bowl, defensive linemen Invoice Stanfill and Manny Fernandez, each fun-loving characters, went fishing and caught and captured a three-foot alligator. After apply the following day, operating again Larry Csonka distracted Shula’s secretary in order that Fernandez might go away the alligator in Shula’s non-public bathe. When the coach stepped in, he discovered the alligator, screamed and bumped into the locker room to confront his gamers.

“I stated, ‘I don’t assume that’s very humorous,’” Shula stated, recounting the story in an interview for this obituary in 2016. “They stated, ‘Coach, can’t you are taking a joke?,’ and I stated, ‘A joke? A reside alligator?’ They stated, ‘We took a vote and also you solely handed by one vote on whether or not we should always tape up the mouth of the alligator.’”

Linebacker Nick Buoniconti stated Shula began laughing and the workforce quickly joined in. “It actually loosened everyone up,” Buoniconti stated.

The Dolphins went on to beat the Washington Redskins, 14-7, to win their first Tremendous Bowl and end the season 17-0.

“You have been now the coach that gained the large one, and that modified every thing in my teaching profession,” Shula stated.

The success appeared unbelievable in February 1970, when the Dolphins lured Shula away from the Colts, the place he had been voted N.F.L. coach of the 12 months thrice. Shula was underneath contract when the Dolphins’ proprietor, Joe Robbie, signed him, so the Colts filed a tampering cost with the N.F.L. The Dolphins have been compelled to surrender their first-round draft choose in 1971 as compensation. (The Colts picked the College of North Carolina operating again Don McCauley, who performed 11 seasons with them.)

After getting into the previous American Soccer League in 1966, the Dolphins had gained simply 15 video games of their first 4 seasons, and simply three video games the 12 months earlier than Shula arrived.

“Then issues modified drastically for the higher,” Csonka as soon as advised an interviewer.

In his first 12 months in Miami, Shula used an offensive line stocked with future Corridor of Fame gamers like Larry Little and Jim Langer to dam for Csonka and his fellow operating backs Jim Kiick and Mercury Morris. Large receiver Paul Warfield and tight finish Marv Fleming, who had gained league championships elsewhere, additionally arrived, giving Griese contemporary targets. The core of what turned often called the “No Title Protection” started to close down opposing offenses.

The workforce’s success turned Shula right into a hero in Miami. Within the early 1980s, an indication within the Orange Bowl, then the Dolphins’ house subject, learn: “Shula is god.” The Instances sportswriter Larry Dorman wrote “About the one argument it ever generated round city involved whether or not the letter ‘g’ needs to be higher or lowercase.”

A highway in Miami is known as Don Shula Expressway. At John Carroll College in Cleveland, his alma mater, soccer is performed within the Don Shula Stadium, and different sports activities occasions are held on the Don Shula Sports activities Middle.

Donald Francis Shula was born on Jan. 4, 1930, in Grand River, Ohio, about 40 miles east of Cleveland. He was a operating again at John Carroll and earned a bachelor’s diploma in sociology there with a minor in arithmetic in 1951. He acquired a grasp’s in bodily training at Western Reserve (now Case Western Reserve) in 1954.

In 1951, the Cleveland Browns drafted him within the ninth spherical and gave him a $5,000 wage. From 1951 to 1957 he performed defensive again for the Browns, underneath the longtime coach Paul Brown, in addition to the Colts and the Redskins. He ended his profession with 21 interceptions.

Shula was an assistant coach at Virginia in 1958, an assistant at Kentucky in 1959 and defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions from 1960 to 1962 earlier than taking on in Baltimore. Regardless of their success underneath Shula, the Colts misplaced Tremendous Bowl III to the New York Jets, who have been heavy underdogs, 16-7.

His transfer to Miami was sweetened by a 10 p.c share of possession, which he offered again to the workforce just a few years later.

Shula’s run of three straight Tremendous Bowls led to 1974, when Csonka, Kiick and Warfield left for the upstart World Soccer League. The Dolphins returned to playoffs repeatedly afterward, and appeared in two Tremendous Bowls within the 1980s, though they misplaced each. Regardless of Marino and one of many league’s most prolific offenses, the dynamic success of these early years by no means returned.

By 1995 Shula’s Dolphins had a leaky protection and barely made the playoffs that 12 months, with a 9-7 document; they have been eradicated within the first spherical once they misplaced a wild-card sport. Gamers overtly criticized coaches. One professional coach, Mike Ditka, referred to as the Dolphins “a workforce with out coronary heart”; one other, Ron Meyer, stated, “Shula has misplaced management of his workforce.”

Shula resigned after that season, the day after he turned 66.

“I’m unhappy that he was pushed out by all of the criticism, loads of it completely uncalled for,” Fernandez, his former defensive deal with, advised The Instances. “However I’m completely happy for him that it’s over. He doesn’t must put up with all this anymore.”

After soccer, Shula performed golf, owned a resort and golf membership, ran a sequence of steakhouses bearing his identify and made talking and charity appearances.

His first spouse, the previous Dorothy Bartish, died in 1991 after 32 years of marriage. He married Mary Anne Stephens in 1993, and he or she survives him together with together with eight youngsters, 16 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

Shula was not completely happy to cease teaching. “The hardest half shall be in September,” he stated after retiring, “when that ball is kicked off, and for the primary time in 43 years I gained’t be on the sidelines. That’s what I’ll miss most.”

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