(A Tribute To The Great Don Shula)
The Miami Dolphins (The Second Professional Football Team In Miami) was founded by attorney-politician Joe Robbie and actor-comedian Danny Thomas. They began play in the AFL in 1966. The Dolphins’ first head coach was George Wilson, former coach of the Detroit Lions. Under Wilson, the Dolphins had a combined 15–39–2 record in four seasons.When you look back at the greatest time in Miami Dolphins history it all started and ended with one man, Don Shula!
After the 1969 season, Joe Robbie, owner of the Miami Dolphins, signed Shula to a contract to become Miami’s second head coach. Don Shula, a former Paul Brown disciple who had been lured from the Baltimore Colts after losing Super Bowl III two seasons earlier to the AFL’s New York Jets and finishing 8–5–1 the following season, was hired as 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.
It was a heavy price to pay but as time would reveal it was well worth whatever it took to have hired the greatest coach in Miami Dolphins history.
Don Shula wasted no time turning the Dolphins into a contender and eventual championship team as well as the only team in NFL History to go undefeated the entire season culminating in a SB win 17-0 season.
In his first season 1970 the Dolphins went 10-4 (At that time the NFL played a 14 game season)
- 1970 10-4-0 (0-1 – Lost Divisional Playoffs) Roster
- 1971 10-3-1 (2-1 – Lost Superbowl) Roster
- 1972 14-0-0 (3-0 – Won Superbowl) Roster
- 1973 12-2-0 (3-0 – Won Superbowl) Roster
- 1974 11-3-1 (0-1 – Lost Divisional Playoffs) Roster
- 1975 10-4-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1976 6-8-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1977 10-4-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1978 11-5-0 (0-1 – Lost Wild Card Playoffs) Roster
- 1979 10-6-0 (0-1 – Lost Divisional Playoffs) Roster
- 1980 8-8-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1981 11-4-1 (0-1 – Lost Divisional Playoffs) Roster
- 1982 * 7-2-0 (3-1 – Lost Superbowl) Roster (Strike Shorten Season)
- 1983 12-4-0 (0-1 – Lost Divisional Playoffs) Roster
- 1984 14-2-0 (2-1 – Lost Superbowl) Roster
- 1985 12-4-0 (1-1 – Lost Conference Championship) Roster
- 1986 8-8-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1987 8-7-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1988 6-10-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1989 8-8-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1990 12-4-0 (1-1 – Lost Divisional Playoffs) Roster
- 1991 8-8-0 (No Postseason) Roster
- 1992 11-5-0 (1-1 – Lost Conference Championship) Roster
- 1993 9-7-0 ((No Postseason) Roster
- 1994 10-6-0 (1-1 – Lost Divisional Playoffs) Roster
- 1995 9-7-0 (0-1 – Lost Wild Card Playoffs) Roster
Don Shula’s 25 years coaching the Dolphins will never be surpassed by another Dolphins coach, in a age where a coach is lucky/good enough to last 3 years. In those 25 years coaching the Dolphins, Don Shula most accomplished feats were:
- 2× Super Bowl champion (VII, VIII)
- NFL champion (1968)
- 5× AFC champion (1971–1973, 1982, 1984)
- 4× AP NFL Coach of the Year (1964, 1967, 1968, 1972)
- Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (1993)
- NFL 1970s All-Decade Team
- Miami Dolphins Honor Roll
- Most regular season wins as head coach (328)
- Regular Season Record (328-156-6)
- Post Season Record (19-17)
- Career (347-173-6)
- Miami Dolphins Regular Season record (257-133-2) .659%
- Miami Dolphins Post Season Record (17-14) .548%
- 1972 Undefeated Season 14-0-0 still the only coach in NFL History to accomplish
- In his 25 years as Miami’s head Coach he has only 2 seasons under .500
Players who were developed and thrived under Don Shula
- Bob Griese
- Larry Csonka
- Paul Warfield
- Larry Little
- Nat Moore
- Earl Morrall
- Dan Marino
- Dwight Stephenson
- Mark Duper
- Nick Buoniconti
- Mercury Morris
- Jake Scott
- Bob Kuechenberg
- Richmond Webb
- Jim Langer
- Manny Fernandez
- Jim Kiick
- Dick Anderson
On March 31, 1974 — just two months after Miami won its second consecutive Super Bowl title — star fullback Larry Csonka, receiver Paul Warfield and tailback Jim Kiick — shocked the football world by announcing they had signed a package deal with the Toronto Northmen of the new World Football League. The deal paid the players a combined $3 million over three years. It was an unheard amount of money at the time.
Despite that setback of losing his quality players coach Don Shula continued to coach and to have success and with a little bit of luck as well as fortune coach Don Shula drafted what would become the greatest Dolphin quarterback in history as well as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
Best remembered for his quick release and powerful arm, Dan Marino helped the Dolphins become consistent postseason contenders, leading them to the playoffs ten times and one Super Bowl appearance in XIX, although a title victory ultimately eluded him during his career. Marino is considered by many to be one of the greatest players to never win a Super Bowl and has the most career victories of quarterbacks to not win a title at 155 (147–93 in regular season and 8–10 in playoffs).
A nine-time Pro Bowl selection, eight-time first or second team All-Pro, and All-AFC six times, Marino was voted NFL Rookie of the Year by Sporting News. The following season in 1984, Marino was the NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP), when he set single season records of 5,084 passing yards, 48 touchdown passes, nine 300-yard passing games, and four 400-yard passing games. He was voted the 1994 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and the 1998 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. At the time of his retirement, Marino held more than 40 NFL single season and career passing records (many of which have since been surpassed), including career passing attempts (8,358), completions (4,967), passing yards (61,361), and touchdown passes (420). Marino was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005 in his first year of eligibility, and is currently one of only three former Miami Dolphins to have his jersey number retired.
Despite many of Marino’s records being surpassed due in most part because of the relaxed rules that has allowed quarterbacks to do things in this era of football that they most likely would not have accomplished during Marino’s era.
Ever since the retirement of Don Shula and soon after Dan Marino the Miami Dolphins have been lost in the wilderness they spent the last 20 plus seasons in mediocrity and finally in 2019 decided to try a different strategy and commit to a total rebuild.
Long gone are the days of consistent playoff appearances and looking back on it the biggest failure of the Dolphins over the years Is to find anyone similar to the Man who has provided the Dolphins with the history that will always be remembered, the great Don Shula.
Now 89 years old and in the twilight of his life it’s a shame that somehow the Dolphins have allowed this man’s legacy to be mired by ineptness and their lack of productivity since his retirement.
I salute you Don Shula, the greatest coach of all time in my mind because you brought me so many great memories from the early 70’s up until your retirement having accomplished something that will most likely never be repeated and cannot be beaten (only tied) the perfect season.
* Thanks/Credit to Wikipedia the source of most of my information in this article
*(5/4/2020 R.I.P Don Shula who passed away today at 90 wonderful years)