Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history with a lifetime record of 347-173-6, passed away on Monday at age 90. Shula played pro football for several seasons as a defensive back before beginning his legendary coaching career, which included two Super Bowl victories with the Miami Dolphins, and the historic undefeated 17-0 season in 1972.
“Today is a sad day,” said Miami Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel. “Coach Shula was the rare man who exemplified true greatness in every aspect of his life. He will be so missed by so many, but his legacy of character and excellence will endure.”
Shula got his first head coaching job with the Baltimore Colts in 1963. After seven seasons, he amassed a 71-23-4 record with a 2-3 stint in the postseason. In 1968, Shula won the NGL Championship, but lost to Joe Namath and the New York Jets in Super Bowl III.
In 1970, Shula took over the Miami Dolphins. He roamed the sidelines in Miami until retiring at the end of the 1995 season. After 26 seasons with the Dolphins, Shula recorded a regular-season record of 257-133-2, and a postseason record 17-14 with a pair of Super Bowl victories in the early 1970s.
NFL All-Time Coaching Wins
Don Shula 347-173-6
George Halas 324-151-31
Bill Belichick 304-139
Tom Landry 270-178
Curley Lambeau 229-134
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick trails Shula by 43 victories due to his ridiculous 30-11 lifetime record in the postseason during the Tom Brady dynasty with the Patriots.
In terms of regular-season wins, Belichick ranks third all-time with 273, trailing George Halas (318) and Shula (328).
Don Shula: Player > Coach
Players used to joke with Coach Shula that he played pro ball back when teams used leather straps on their heads as helmets.
The Cleveland Browns drafted Shula with a ninth-round pick in the 1951 NFL Draft. He spent two seasons with the Browns as a defensive back, but had part of his second season cut short due to his participation in the Korean War. As a member of the Ohio National Guard, Shula’s unit got called up to service.
Shula spent four more seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts before he ended his career after one season with the Washington Redskins in 1957.
In total, Shula played seven seasons during the rough and tumbles days of the NFL in the 1950s. In 73 games, Shula recorded 21 interceptions.
When his pro career ended, Shula pivoted to coaching. He spent time at Virginia and Kentucky as a defensive coordinator before heading back to the NFL. Detroit Lions head coach George Wilson gave Shula his first NFL job. Shula served as Detroit’s defensive coordinator for three seasons in the early 1960s.
In 1963, Shula returned to the Baltimore Colts where he had played only seven years earlier. Shula posted seven winning seasons in Baltimore, but couldn’t get the Colts over the hump.
Shula and the Colts lost to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. It would be the first time an AFL team defeated an NFL team in the Super Bowl.
Back-to-Back Super Bowl Wins
In 1970, Shula arrived in Miami. In his second season, the Dolphins went 10-3-1 but got hot in the playoffs. The Dolphins reached Super Bowl VI, but lost to Tom Landry and the Dallas Cowboys.
In 1972, the Dolphins achieved perfection with a 14-0 regular-season record. They ran the table in the playoffs winning all three games including Super Bowl VII. The Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7 to secure their first Super Bowl win.
The Dolphins became the second team to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Shula and the Dolphins defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 to win in Super Bowl VIII.
With Dan Marino at quarterback in the 1980s, the Dolphins went to the Super Bowl twice, but failed to secure the franchise’s third title. The Washington Redskins edged out the Dolphins 27-17 to win Super Bowl XVII. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Dolphins 38-16 to win Super Bowl XIX.
The Miami Legend
Shula ended his career as the all-time winningest coach in Miami Dolphins history. Jimmy Johnson took over for Shula. Johnson had won a national college championship with the Miami Hurricanes and secured two Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys in the early 1990s.
In four seasons, Johnson guided the Dolphins to the playoffs three times. They won an AFC wild-card game twice under Johnson, but lost in the next round.
TOP 10 NFL Coaching – Regular-Season Wins
Don Shula 328
George Halas 318
Bill Belichick 273
Tom Landry 250
Curly Lambeau 226
Andy Reid 207
Marty Schottenheimer 200
Chuck Noll 193
Dan Reeves 190
Chuck Knox 186
The Dolphins haven’t been the same since Shula stepped down after the 1995 season. The Dolphins appeared in the postseason only three times in the 21st Century with a trio of wild-card losses
In recent years, the Dolphins sunk to the lowest depths of the NFL. Last season, many players on the Dolphins were in an open mutiny as the team failed to even tank properly by not securing the #1 pick int he draft. As much as the Dolphins were rumored to trade up in the draft to acquire Joe Burrow, the team stood pat. With the fourth overall pick, the Dolphins selected Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.