There's a good chance that Don Shula and Bill Belichick are going to go down as the two winningest coaches in NFL history, and although they'll always have that connection, it appears the two Super Bowl winning coaches didn't really connect on any other level.
As a matter of fact, Shula apparently had some beef with Belichick due to some of the allegedly rule-bending tactics that the six-time Super Bowl winning coach has used over the years. During an interview on CBS Sports Radio's "The DA Show" this week, one of Shula's former stars in Miami, Dick Anderson, explained why Shula showed so much disdain for the Patriots coach.
"He called Belichick, 'Beli-cheat,'" Anderson said. "He was straightforward. He was, 'This is how we have to do it, and these are the rules, and this is what we're going to follow.' He didn't like, I think, the people that didn't follow the rules, and he did."
Anderson isn't exaggerating, either, as Shula was quoted.
The two-time Super Bowl winning coach, who a recent interview, Shula was asked what he wanted his legacy to be, and well, he definitely mentioned something about the fact that he always followed the rules., possibly got in one other subtle dig at Belichick just before his death. During
"I want them to say, 'He won within the rules,'" Shula said. "That he had players that took a lot of pride in playing within the rules. I want them to say that we did it all the right way. Always the right way."
Shula's contempt for Belichick seems to date back to 2007 when the Patriots almost joined the 1972 Dolphins as the only team to NFL history to finish an entire season undefeated. Although the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season, they ended up finishing 18-1 after they lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl. At the time, Shula had said that if the Patriots won the Super Bowl, they should have asterisk next to their win.
"The Spygate thing has diminished what they've accomplished," Shula said shortly after Spygate. "I guess you got the same thing as putting an asterisk by Barry Bonds' home run record."
If Belichick feels the same way about Shula, he definitely didn't show it this week. After the NFL legend passed away, the Patriots coach released a statement in honor of Shula's memory.
"Don Shula is one of the all-time great coaching figures and the standard for consistency and leadership in the NFL," Belichick said. "I was fortunate to grow up in Maryland as a fan of the Baltimore Colts who, under Coach Shula, were one of the outstanding teams of that era. My first connection to coach Shula was through my father, whose friendship with coach Shula went back to their days in northeast Ohio. I extend my deepest condolences to the Shula family and the Dolphins organization."
Belichick and Shula actually coached against each other twice in the 1990s while Belichick was with the Browns, and Shula came away with a win in both games. Shula finished his career with 347 wins (including postseason), which stands as the all-time NFL record. Although the record once seemed unbreakable, Belichick is definitely within striking distance. The Patriots coach has 304 career victories and could surpass Shula in just four seasons if he can average 11 wins per year through the 2023 season.