Fifty years in the past, Don Shula taught us about ardour.
For a child rising up in Florida, a minimum of that’s what it felt like. Till then, we had been the orphans of the sports activities world. Those pressured to comply with superstars from someplace extra essential than Tampa Bay.
Atlanta had Aaron. Baltimore had Unitas. New York had everybody else. It wasn’t till Shula deserted the Colts to return to Miami in 1970 that it felt like big-time sports activities had lastly arrived round right here.
By then, he was already a star. Within the period of Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, no NFL coach had gained extra video games than Shula within the earlier seven seasons, together with an NFL Championship in 1968.
He was solely 40 however already walked like a legend. His jaw was sq. and his method was impeccable. He was a technology’s first introduction to the phrase stoic.
The growth Dolphins had already been round for 4 years, however had by no means gained greater than 5 video games in a season. In Shula’s first 12 months, they gained 10. By his second 12 months, they have been within the Tremendous Bowl.
By his third season, they have been good.
That’s the place most of right this moment’s obituaries will most likely begin. Shula, who handed away Monday at age 90, was the coach of the only NFL team to have an undefeated season from beginning to end.
It’s pretty much as good an epitaph as any, however it barely scratches the floor. Anybody can have a particular season. And lots of have gained Tremendous Bowls, earlier than and since. What Shula did in a profession that spanned eras was unprecedented.
In his first season as a head coach, the league MVP was Y.A. Tittle. In his last season, it was Brett Favre. The league went from 14 groups and a single championship sport in 1963 to 30 groups and a month-long postseason by 1995.
And thru all of it, Shula had the bearing of a deity of the sideline. Chuck Noll gained extra Tremendous Bowls and George Halas had a barely higher profitable share, however no coach ever gained as constantly or via the a long time the way in which Shula did.
He was a head coach for 33 years and had solely two dropping seasons. Two! Not that you just want reminding, however up to now 33 years the Bucs have had 22 dropping seasons.
Seems, Don Shula additionally taught us about excellence.
Earlier than Shula, most of us had inherited our heroes from our dad and mom. A Willie Mays in our home, or an Ernie Banks for the youngsters subsequent door from Chicago. Shula and the Dolphins gave us one thing totally different. A staff of our very personal, even when Miami was half a state away.
On Christmas Day, 1973, I taped up posters of Bob Griese, Paul Warfield and Larry Csonka on my bed room wall and so they remained there even after the Buccaneers have been born a number of years later.
We had by no means fairly seen something just like the Dolphins in Florida. From 1970-75, they’d an .804 profitable share, went to a few Tremendous Bowls and gained two of them.
And whereas most coaches have a selected signature (the defenses of Noll’s Steelers or the offensive improvements of Invoice Walsh’s 49ers) Shula was consistently evolving. His Colts had the No. 1 scoring offense within the NFL in 1964 and ’67, he had the No. 1 scoring protection in 1972 and ’73, then the No. 1 offense once more in 1984 and ’86.
The genius of Shula wasn’t essentially within the Xs and Os. It was at all times within the wins and losses. It wasn’t that he was humorous or considerate and even significantly lovable. It was that he was the most effective, and for a very long time that’s all we wanted.
Even when it appeared like occasions have been altering and Shula’s gruffness was in peril of rising dated, the Dolphins stored profitable. In his final six seasons, solely 4 groups had a greater report than Miami’s 59-37.
But, by the tip, he had grown sufferer of his personal success. The Dolphins stored profitable, however not fairly on the tempo they’d earlier than. There have been whispers that Shula was not made for this technology, and the reality is, he most likely wasn’t.
He had coached screwballs and malcontents in each decade, however the energy was slowly shifting from coaches to stars. If acquiescing was going to be a part of the job description, then it wasn’t the job for him.
Shula nonetheless had a 12 months remaining on his contract when he selected to retire after the 1995 season and a first-round playoff loss. He left as he arrived, together with his dignity and satisfaction nonetheless intact.
By then, Florida had develop into wealthy with groups and stars. There have been now three NFL franchises, two NHL groups, two NBA groups and soon-to-be two MLB groups, all arriving after Shula did in 1970.
We’ve seen Shaq and LeBron, Sapp and Marino, Longoria and Stamkos since then. We’ve seen glib coaches and flashy gamers. The state has seen a Stanley Cup title, two World Sequence winners, two NBA championships and a Bucs Tremendous Bowl win since Shula retired.
However for Florida, Shula will at all times be the primary.
And in quite a lot of methods, the most effective.
— to www.tampabay.com