Miami, May 4 (efe-epa).- Don Shula, who led the Miami Dolphins to two Super Bowl titles and won more games than any head coach in the history of the National Football League, died at his home on Monday, the Dolphins said. He was 90.
In a brief message on Twitter, that American football franchise said it was saddened to announce that Shula had passed away peacefully at his home in Miami Lakes, Florida.
A native of Grand River, Ohio, Shula played in the NFL for seven seasons as a defensive back for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins. But he had a much greater impact on the sport as a coach.
He served as an assistant coach at the university level and also was an assistant coach with the NFL’s Detroit Lions before finally landing his first head coaching job in 1963 with the Colts.
Then aged 33 and at that time the youngest head coach in NFL history, he quickly proved he was up to the task, leading the Colts to a 71-23-4 record over seven seasons and being named the Associated Press’ NFL Coach of the Year on three occasions.
He also led the Colts to the Super Bowl in January 1969, when the heavily favored Baltimore team was stunned 16-7 by the champion of the then-rival American Football League, the New York Jets, and its brash quarterback Joe Namath.
Still with more to prove, Shula moved on to the Miami Dolphins after the 1969 season and took up the challenge of transforming a talented roster of players into champions.
Although he suffered yet another major disappointment on the big stage when the Dolphins were routed 24-3 in the 1972 Super Bowl by the Dallas Cowboys, his team rebounded to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles in 1973 and 1974 and cement Shula’s legend as one of the greatest head coaches of all time.
The 1973 title was the most memorable one because it marks the only time in the sport’s history that a team completed a perfect, undefeated season.
The Dolphins went 17-0 in 1972-73, winning 14 regular season games and three post-season games, including a 14-7 victory over the Redskins in the Super Bowl. Shula also was named NFL Coach of the Year for a fourth time that season (still a league record).
The Miami team then followed that up by going 12-2 during the 1973 regular season and trouncing the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in the 1974 Super Bowl.
Those championship teams featured star players such as quarterback Bob Griese, running back Larry Csonka and wide receiver Paul Warfield.
But arguably the greatest player Shula ever coached was quarterback Dan Marino, who led the Dolphins to two more Super Bowl appearances in 1983 and 1985 (which ended in losses to the Redskins and San Francisco 49ers, respectively).
“Coach Shula – you will truly be missed! You embody the definition of ‘greatness.’ You brought that winning attitude with you every day and made everyone around you better,” Marino wrote Monday on Twitter. “Thank you for always believing in me. You made me a better player and person. My thoughts & prayers are with the entire Shula family. Love you Coach!”
Shula enjoyed success with different styles of teams, with the 1970s Dolphins known for their strong running game and defense and the 1980s and 1990s teams built around Marino and an explosive passing attack.
He retired in 1995 as a living legend of the NFL, having only had two losing seasons in his 33-year career as a head coach and setting a record – which still stands – for most regular-season games won by a head coach (328).
Shula is survived by his wife Mary Anne and five children from an earlier marriage to his first wife Dorothy, who died of cancer in 1991.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 1997. EFE-EPA