Don Shula, the winningest head coach in NFL history, died Monday morning at age 90, the Miami Dolphins confirmed in a team statement. Shula won 347 games in the regular season and postseason in his NFL career, including two Super Bowl titles with the Dolphins (1972 and 1973). He was an NFL head coach for 33 seasons.
"Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years," the team statement reads. "He brought the winning edge to our franchise and put the Dolphins and the city of Miami in the national sports scene. Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to Mary Anne, along with his children Dave, Donna, Sharon, Anne, and Mike."
Shula lifted the Dolphins to prominence in the 1970s, leading the 1972 team to the only perfect season in league history. The 1972 Dolphins finished the season 17-0 and were the only team to win their first 17 games in a season until the 2007 New England Patriots, who lost to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Shula won five AFC championships with the Dolphins and finished with a 257-133-2 (.659 win percentage) in his 26 seasons coaching the team. The Dolphins won 67 games in Shula's first seven seasons (1970 to 1976) and had a .788 win percentage during that stretch, the best in the NFL.
Shula finished with a 328-156-6 regular season record with the Dolphins and Baltimore Colts. His .677 win percentage is the seventh-best in NFL history (minimum 10 seasons coached).
"Don Shula will always be remembered as one of the greatest coaches and contributors in the history of our game," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He made an extraordinarily positive impact on so many lives.
"As a player, Hall of Fame coach, and long-time member and co-chair of the NFL Competition Committee, he was a remarkable teacher and mentor who for decades inspired excellence and exemplified integrity. His iconic legacy will endure through his family and continue to inspire generations to come."
Shula began his professional coaching career as a defensive backs coach with the Detroit Lions before being promoted to defensive coordinator after one season. He helped the Lions defense become the No. 1 ranked unit in the league in yards allowed in just his second season, which led to the Baltimore Colts hiring him as their head coach in 1963.
Shula took the Colts franchise to four NFL West titles in his seven seasons, culminating with a NFL championship in 1968. The Colts didn't win the Super Bowl until the year after Shula departed for Miami, but Shula went 71-23-4 (.755 win percentage) in his seven seasons in Baltimore. In Shula's first 13 seasons with the Colts and Dolphins, he went 138-39-5 (.758 win percentage) with two Super Bowl titles, an NFL championship and three conference titles (post AFL-NFL merger).
Shula had just two losing seasons in 33 years as a head coach and only six non-winning campaigns. He finished with a 19-17 record in the postseason (17-14 with the Dolphins and 2-3 with the Colts), winning two Super Bowls, five AFC championships, one NFL championship, and 15 division titles. His six Super Bowl appearances are the second-most in NFL history (along with six conference title wins). Shula is one of just 13 coaches to win multiple Super Bowls and one of 25 coaches to win two league titles. He is one of just six coaches to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles and was the second to accomplish the feat.
Shula's 19 playoff victories are third-most in league history and 19 playoff appearances are the most in NFL history. Shula finished 172 games over .500, also the most in NFL history. His 36 playoff games coached are tied with Tom Landry for the second-most in NFL history.
"The game has lost one of the greats today, but we have all lost a truly incredible man," Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said in a statement. "Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula served as an ambassador for this great game for more than half a century. Coach Shula was a man who truly loved the game and I have often been moved by the deep respect and affection he was always afforded by the men who played for him."
A former NFL defensive back, Shula had 21 interceptions in seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts and Washington Redskins. A ninth-round pick of the Browns, Shula was one of just two rookies to earn a roster spot in 1951. A member of the Ohio National Guard during his playing days, Shula left the NFL as the unit was activated amidst the Korean War. He returned to the Browns in 1952 and played five more seasons.
Shula earned his first coaching job as a defensive backs coach at the University of Virginia in 1958 before accepting a similar role at the University of Kentucky in 1959. He played college football at John Carroll University in Cleveland, nearly a half hour from his birthplace of Grand River, Ohio.
Both of Shula's sons embarked on journeys as NFL head coaches. Dave Shula was the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals from 1992 to 1996 and served under his father's coaching staff for seven seasons. He currently is the wide receivers coach at Dartmouth University. Mike Shula was the head coach at the University of Alabama from 2003 to 2006 and served as an offensive coordinator for several franchises, most recently the New York Giants over the past two seasons. He is currently the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos.
The most famous assistant on the Paul Brown coaching tree, Shula's coaching tree branches out to Bill Arnsparger (former Dolphins defensive coordinator), who hired Marty Schottenheimer to his staff when he was the head coach of the New York Giants. Schotternheimer hired Bill Cowher and Mike McCarthy on his coaching staffs over the years, along with Herm Edwards and Gunther Cunningham. Former New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Ray Perkins was a seventh-round pick of the Colts in 1967. Perkins never coached under Shula, but he hired Bill Parcells as defensive coordinator in 1981. Parcells hired Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and Tom Coughlin -- who have won a combined nine Super Bowls.