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Sports Then and Now



Remembering Legendary Coach Don Shula 1

Posted on May 14, 2020 by Dean Hybl

The sports world lost one of the most accomplished coaches in modern history with the recent passing of longtime NFL coach Don Shula at the age of 90.

While Shula is recognized as the NFL’s career leader with 328 regular season coaching victories and 347 total including the playoffs, he was also a great tactician and innovator.

A former player under legendary coaches Paul Brown and Weeb Ewbank, Shula spent seven seasons as a defensive back for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins. He finished his career with 21 career interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

After retiring following the 1957 season, Shula spent two years as a college assistant coach, first at the University of Virginia and then at the University of Kentucky.

In 1960 he joined the staff of NFL head coach George Wilson with the Detroit Lions. He was Defensive Backs Coach in 1960 and then served as the Defensive Coordinator in 1961-62. In 1962 the Lions posted an 11-3 record, which was the best record in team history.

Following three seasons in Detroit, the 33-year old Shula returned to Baltimore to replace Ewbank as head coach of the Colts. At the time, Shula was the youngest coach in NFL history and younger or a similar age to many of his players, several of whom were his former teammates.

After posting an 8-6 record in 1963, Shula led the Colts to a 12-2 record and the NFL Championship Game in 1964. The Colts lost the title game to the Cleveland Browns 27-0, the first of a number of disappointing losses by Shula coached teams in championship games.

In 1968 the Colts posted an NFL best 13-1 record and defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-14 and the Cleveland Browns 34-0 to win the NFL Championship. Heavily favored in Super Bowl III, the Colts lost to the Weeb Ewbank coached New York Jets 16-7.

Shula spent one more season with the Colts, but a disappointing 8-5-1 record in 1969 as well as continued tension with ownership following the loss to the Jets the previous season led to his exit from Baltimore.

It didn’t take Shula long to find a new home as he, ironically, replaced his former boss George Wilson as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Wilson had been the first coach of the AFL expansion team in 1966 and won only 15 games in four seasons.

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