Don Shula was already a legendary head coach, the proper coach of the proper 1972 Tremendous Bowl VII Dolphins, once I began masking the Walt Michaels 1977 Jets.
And right here’s what I bear in mind about Shula: Each time I requested to interview him, he would at all times name. It was intimidating for a younger reporter, particularly when he would bark over the cellphone following a query he didn’t significantly take care of, or was simply plain dumb, however he would at all times name. And he didn’t know me from Adam.
A few years later, throughout a Tremendous Bowl week — when he had develop into a kinder, gentler Don, however ceaselessly The Don of soccer coaches and the Don of Miami — I requested him what his response was when the Jets handed on Dan Marino within the 1983 draft and chosen Ken O’Brien as an alternative.
Shula’s face lit up like a Christmas tree, and with the unbridled pleasure of a younger boy, he smiled a smile for the ages and roared: “Yay!”
Shula, 90, died Monday morning at his South Florida dwelling.
Former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi labored for the Baltimore Colts for many of the 1970s and was their GM in 1982 and ’83. He arrived in Baltimore as public relations director in 1970, when Shula was lured away from the Colts by Dolphins proprietor Joe Robbie.
Accorsi was a longtime witness to Shula’s greatness, to why he would win 347 video games and develop into the NFL’s winningest coach.
“His groups had been so fantastically orchestrated,” Accorsi instructed The Submit. “The whole lot was precision. … They didn’t make any errors. They weren’t gonna beat themselves, they weren’t gonna provide the sport, they by no means fumbled, they by no means jumped offside. He took the expertise he had and used it completely.
“It appeared prefer it was at all times second-and-5. He would give the ball to [Larry] Csonka and he’d get 5 yards on that. Now you bought [Paul] Warfield and Mercury Morris and [Bob] Griese can do something they wish to you.
“However enjoying towards him was like a sluggish demise. I imply, they might simply methodically transfer down the sphere, they usually simply would by no means make a mistake. They had been simply fantastically coached.”
Shula, his well-known jaw ceaselessly jutting from right here to John Carroll College, the place he performed, coached John Unitas in Baltimore, Bob Griese and Dan Marino in Miami. He gained his two Tremendous Bowls with Griese, misplaced to the Tremendous Bowl III Jets with Earl Morrall and a wounded Unitas in reduction, misplaced with Griese to Tom Landry’s “Doomsday” Cowboys, and misplaced to the Invoice Walsh-Joe Montana 49ers with Marino.
“You by no means noticed Shula with a headset,” Accorsi mentioned. “They might name a play on a timeout or one thing, however for probably the most half, he had sensible quarterbacks, he ready them completely they usually referred to as the performs.”
Shula regretted failing to win a championship with Marino.
“It wasn’t a sluggish demise with Marino. It was a quick-striking demise,” Accorsi mentioned with amusing, of Shula’s shift in offensive technique. “He tailored, that’s the wonderful factor about him. “
When Griese was sidelined with a fractured fibula and dislocated ankle in Week 5, Morrall led the Dolphins to 11 consecutive wins throughout the good season.
“He performed along with his backup quarterback most of that season,” Accorsi mentioned. “As he did in ’68 in Baltimore. So the one factor about Don is he would adapt to no matter his personnel was.”
And, a lot to the 1982 Jets chagrin, to the climate as nicely. Michaels was furious that Shula hadn’t lined the Orange Bowl with a tarpaulin throughout a digital monsoon earlier than the 1982 AFC Championship sport — aka the Mud Bowl — when Richard Todd threw 5 interceptions in what turned out to be Michaels’ final sport.
“Shula was a competitor, now,” Accorsi mentioned.
The remainder of the league had a far totally different opinion of Shula than Michaels and the Jets did.
“As an individual, he had unimpeachable integrity,” Accorsi mentioned. “I used to be in lots of competitors committee conferences through the years the place he was co-chairman with [former Giants GM] George Younger for some time. And it was at all times the league first and the principles first. You might belief what he was gonna assume, that’s simply the way in which he was.”
He was 2-Four within the Tremendous Bowl. Nevertheless it didn’t cease the NFL from remembering Don Shula as its good coach.