Mandatory Credit: MiamiDolphins.com
No. 1 – Don Shula
If the Miami Dolphins had a great season, it happened under Don Shula’s watch.
Think about that for a second.
The team has never won 12 or more games under any other coach. That is absolutely horrifying to Dolphins fans but a testament to just how much of the good times were had when Shula was in charge.
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Johnson may have built one of the best defenses in the franchise, but Shula built two better defenses. Johnson seemed handcuffed by an established quarterback’s presence when he took over. When Shula arrived, he won with the team’s established quarterback.
This organization has never recovered from Don Shula’s departure. His football knowledge, leadership, and his constant presence made the team better.
Shula knew he had the next season to correct whatever issues the team had and he knew exactly how to fix those problems. Which is why his teams were never far from returning to the playoffs.
Yes, he had a few dry spells when the “No Name Defense” and the “Killer B’s” hit their respective twilights. But the franchise always rebounded. In the beginning of the 70s, 80s, and 90s the Dolphins made it to at least the AFC Championship game. The game never passed him by.
He was forced out by former owner Wayne Huizenga so that Jimmy Johnson could take over. However, the Dolphins haven’t made it past the second round of the NFL playoffs and have only made the playoffs six times since Shula left. So Huizenga’s roll of the dice came up as snake eyes.
The stability Shula provided is sorely missed by this franchise. The team has brought in eight different coaches in the 20 years Shula has been gone. Each one of those coaches stumbling over their own mistakes trying to emerge from this man’s shadow.
He went 257-133-2 as coach of the Dolphins and has 327 total victories making him the all-time winningest coach in the history of the NFL. He coached the only perfect team in NFL history. He groomed one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game, which in turn has led to a radical shift in the way the game is played today. He built possibly the greatest running back trifecta in league history.
Shula won through whatever strengths his team had and all of the greatest seasons in franchise history came when he was at the helm.
His 25 years as head coach is something that’ll never happen again. Especially now when not even college football teams retain their coaches to the length Shula stayed in Miami.
Ross has said he wants to find the next Don Shula. That will be impossible because Shula is a one of a kind coach. His legacy is unmatched and he will forever be not only this organization’s greatest coach, but greatest mind to ever grace this franchise.