Sad day in the NFL world on Monday as Hall of Fame coach Don Shula, who holds the league record with 347 combined regular-season and playoff wins and led the 1972 Miami Dolphins to the NFL's lone unbeaten season that also concluded in a championship, died at age 90 "peacefully at his home," according to a statement from the Dolphins.
Shula began his head coaching career at age 33 – then the youngest coach in history -- with the Baltimore Colts. Of course, the 1968 Colts reached Super Bowl III but were upset by the AFL's New York Jets in the Joe Namath game; that result helped lead to the AFL/NFL merger before the 1970 season.
After the 1969 season, Joe Robbie, owner of the Dolphins, signed Shula to become Miami's second head coach. He would never leave south Florida, guiding the Fins to five Super Bowls. They won it in 1972 & '73 but lost 24-3 to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl VI, 27-17 to the Washington Redskins in SB XVII, and 38-16 to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX.
Shula's 347 career wins might be surpassed by New England's Bill Belichick, who has 304 combined regular-season and playoff victories. Although, now that Tom Brady is in Tampa, perhaps the 68-year-old Belichick doesn't stick around long enough to get to 348 (or maybe his teams are no longer good enough sans Brady). New England has a win total of 9 for this season on William Hill sportsbook's NFL futures odds. Belichick's 2007 Patriots were unbeaten entering Super Bowl XLII but were upset by the New York Giants.
It seems very unlikely, though, that any team will finish with a championship unbeaten season in the modern-day NFL. Another record Shula is likely to keep: 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. No other coach has led more than three.
No doubt that the 2020 Dolphins will be wearing some sort of patch/sticker to honor Shula this season.
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