Donald Francis Shula (born January 4, 1930 in Grand River, Ohio) is an American former professional football coach in the National Football League.
Don Shula was born in the cradle of coaches that is northern Ohio in 1930. He grew up in suburban Cleveland, graduating from Harvey High School in Painesville, then moving on to John Carroll University. He played football at both career stops.
In 1951, Shula was signed by the Cleveland Browns as a defensive back. He played under Paul Brown. He then moved to the Baltimore Colts for the 1953 season. He played with Baltimore for four seasons before finishing his playing career with the Washington Redskins.
Shula intercepted 21 passes in his seven NFL seasons but his true calling was coaching. He played under both the aforementioned Brown and Weeb Ewbank, a Brown disciple, who is also in the Hall of Fame. In fact, upon his retirement, Ewbank hired Shula as an assistant coach.
When Ewbank left to coach the New York Jets in 1963, Shula was hired by owner Carroll Rosenbloom to coach Baltimore although he was only 33 years old.
Shula took the controls and led the Colts to an 8-6 record in 1963. He was extremely successful in the regular season for Baltimore. He had a 71-23-4 record in seven seasons with the club but he was just 2-3 in the postseason losing twice in the NFL Championship Game.
Joe Robbie, owner of the Miami Dolphins, made a bold move after the 1969 season - he traded a first round draft pick for the rights to make Shula his coach.
Shula had unparalleled success with Miami in the 1970s. His teams were known for a strong running game and a solid quarterback, with a defense that worked well as a cohesive unit. Using what he learned from Brown and Ewbank, Shula led the Dolphins to two Super Bowl wins and seven playoff appearances in the 1970s.
In 1972, the Dolphins became the only team in the modern NFL to go undefeated (14-0) in the regular season. They swept the playoffs finishing at 17-0, a mark still unequalled. Including the Dolphins' 12-2 mark in 1973, the club also set a record with a 32-2 regular-season record over two seasons.
Shula also changed his coaching strategy as his personnel changed. His Super Bowl teams in 1972, 1973 and 1982 were keyed by a run-first offensive strategy and a dominating defense. In 1983, shortly after losing Super Bowl XVII to the Washington Redskins, the Dolphins drafted quarterback Dan Marino out of the University of Pittsburgh. Marino won the starting job halfway through the 1983 regular season, and by 1984 the Dolphins were back in the Super Bowl thanks largely to Marino's record 5,048 yards through the air and 48 touchdown passes. Shula's offensive strategies helped Marino over his career rewrite the NFL record book for quarterbacks.
After the Dolphins' 1973 Super Bowl win over the Minnesota Vikings, it was expected that Shula would win several more championships. Despite consistent success in the regular season, Shula was unable to capture another title, failing in 11 trips to the playoffs -- including two more Super Bowl appearances -- before retiring after the 1995 season.
Shula set numerous records in his 33 seasons as a head coach. He holds NFL records for regular season wins (328), total victories (347), single season win percentage (1.000 in 1972), most games coached (516), and consecutive seasons coached.
Shula left quite a legacy. He is honored at the Don Shula Sports Center at John Carroll, and the Don Shula Expressway in Miami. His sons David and Mike have become successful coaches.
In retirement, Shula has lent his name to a chain of popular steakhouses bearing his name.