The Miami Dolphins will be looking for a new head coach at seasons end. Could Mike Shula be a serious option?
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Over the course of the next five weeks we will be profiling possible coaching candidates for the Dolphins who should be looking for a new head coach when the season concludes. This week we will start with the son of Dolphins former head coach and legend, Don Shula, Mike Shula.
Mike Shula is currently serving as the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator. He has turned Cam Newton into one of the best quarterbacks in the league and has put Newton in a position to have his name discussed as a possible NFL MVP candidate. Newton has a load of talent but Shula’s hand can not be understressed.
When Shula arrived in Carolina he spent hours and days pouring over Cam Newton’s college game tapes. He wanted to see what worked and what didn’t work for his starting quarterback. Then he adjusted his own offense to fit Newton’s abilities. It was worth the time. Carolina is a power producing attack that is doing so with almost a no-name offense.
Consider that Carolina’s starting wide-receivers are Ted Ginn, Jr. and Philly Brown. Behind them Devin Funchess and Jericho Cotchery. Any of them on your fantasy team? Probably not. Running the ball is Jonathan Stewart and while he is having a good year, he is hardly having a breakout year. He will almost assuredly eclipse the 1,000 yard plateau as he has over 800 yards but he has contributed only four rushing touchdowns to the offense.
The big play maker for the Panthers is Greg Olsen. The tight-end. Aside from that? The line is solid but also employs players like castoff lineman Michael Oher. The point is aside from Newton the Panthers are nothing special sans one thing. They are extremely well coached.
Perhaps when considering Mike Shula, this is what will stand out the most. He has a championship quality offense on a team void of names. He coaches them to play as a team, puts them in position to make plays by execution, and has them believing in what he is selling. Because he took the time to investigate what his players do well. Sound familiar? It should. For the better part of three decades Miami had a coach like that.
Obviously, Shula isn’t at the top of everyone’s wish list. He is still a bit raw and some will say inexperienced. That is not really true. Shula has a lot more experience than most give him credit for. From 200-2006 Shula served as the head coach at the University of Alabama. He compiled a 26-23 record. Not good enough for Alabama. He was replaced by Nick Saban.
After being fired by Alabama, Shula interviewed not once but twice for the Dolphins head coaching job. Wayne Huizenga eventually hired Cam Cameron over Shula. While Shula has four seasons of head coaching experience at the college level, he has worked his way through the ranks in the NFL.
From 1988-1990 Shula served with as an offensive assistant with the Buccaneers. The team he played for. From ’91-’92 he served as a coaching assistant under his father in Miami. Leaving the Dolphins, Shula spent three seasons as the Chicago Bears tight-ends coach then returned to Tampa from 96-99 as the teams offensive coordinator.
In his first season with the Buc’s the team finished 6-10 but rebounded the next year with a 10-6 record. Dropped to 8-8 the following year and then 11-5 the next season, Shula’s last in Tampa. After Shula left Tampa he returned again to the Dolphins as a quarterbacks coach from 2000 to 2002 working with Jay Fiedler.
Shula would return to the NFL after losing his job at Alabama. He would serve as quarterbacks coach for Jacksonville and Carolina from 2007-2012 before taking over the offense in Carolina at the start of the 2013 season. The Panthers finished 12-4 in 2013, 7-8-1 in 2014 and won their division, and are 11-0 this season. Needless to say, Shula is going to get a lot of interviews after the season.
The question is whether or not he is a candidate for the Miami Dolphins job. It’s a tough question to answer for certain. Shula returning to Miami has an obvious stigma attatched to it. Taking over a floundering Dolphins team that his father had made legendary. Can Mike Shula walk in the same shoes in the same halls that his father did? Will Miami fans expect far too much?
Another question is whether or not Shula has the coaching credibility to attract top offensive and defensive coaches to join Miami with him. It’s possible. He has a lot of respect around the league, carries the weight of a huge name, and has the coaching stability over the years to prove he can coach at this level. Furthermore, Shula has proven that he can lead men.
For the Dolphins, Shula may not be the big name or fish they are hoping to catch. Miami’s Stephen Ross will likely chase guys like Sean Payton, Hugh Jackson, and other current and former NFL head coaches. They may go after Jeff Fisher if he is fired in St. Louis. In fact, they may not even interview Shula at all.
It’s only a matter of time before Mike Shula gets his chance to be a head coach and when he does, he has a lot more potential than his brother David had when the coached Cincinnati. Maybe it should be in Miami. Maybe bringing a head coach to the Dolphins who clearly understands the teams history can get the team to start believing in itself again. Maybe a highly respected proven offensive coach can pour over Texas A&M game film and find out what works best for Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the offense.
Maybe. Would you want Mike Shula as the teams next head coach? Where would you rank him on your list?