Don Shula, RIP

I was a diehard Miami Dolphins fan until Don Shula retired. So sad to hear about the death of the winningest coach in NFL history.  My favorite line from the above video: “Garo IS off the hook and Garo will not throw any more passes.” (Dolphin fans and other football historians will definitely understand what this means).

Here is The Miami Herald:

He made us matter, nothing less. He put Miami on the national sports map, and helped us discover how one team — just the right one — can knit a community with the power to lift an entire city.

Donald Francis Shula was the perfect coach at the perfect time.

He passed away Monday morning at his home in the Miami suburb of Indian Creek, after a monumental life lived long and well. He was 90.

Shula is survived by wife, Mary Anne, and by five children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He held nothing in his life higher in importance than family and faith. He also leaves a successful national chain of eponymous restaurants.

Of course, it is football and his Miami Dolphins that formed the legacy and bond that made Shula one of those most admired, respected and beloved figures in our history, in or out of sports — our patriarch and patron saint. He is an enduring South Florida icon, and the present tense there is intended. His status only grows now as we reflect and appreciate all he meant.

We had time to be ready for this day. To expect it. Shula coached here for 26 NFL seasons, through 1995, but had been retired for nearly as long. He faded by degrees from public life, especially in recent years, when age saw his health ebb.

And yet the news Monday still hit like a punch unexpected. A punch to the heart.

We have lost a member of our family.

And to lose him now, in the midst of the global coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, means he will not have the huge public memorial his stature warranted. Someday. For now, we can only miss him at a social distance.

We don’t lose Shula, though, as he lapses into legend and cherished memory. He is still here, a young man balanced high on his Dolphins players’ broad shoulders, getting the victory ride of his life and taking all of us along with him.

Shula’s grand career has at the top of its marquee the 1972 Perfect Season, that still-unique diamond, the first of his consecutive Super Bowl championships. That frozen snapshot of him being carried off the field, 17-0, remains the picture of perfection almost 50 years later.

Only one coach, in any sport, at any time, at any level, anywhere, is famously associated with the word “perfect.”

“I like that,” Shula said, smiling, as we met in 2015 for an extensive interview related to the Dolphins’ approaching 50th anniversary season. “I like that word. Perfection. I like the sound of that.”

Just below perfection on that crowded Shula marquee: his NFL-record of 347 coaching victories including 328 in the regular season and 19 more in the playoffs. He sailed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Another team might finish a season with a perfect record someday (well, maybe). And another coach, perhaps Bill Belichick, might someday surpass his career victories total. Maybe.

But Shula died the perfect coach, and the winningest.

Read the entire piece here.