Don Shula: Reaction to passing of the Dolphins legend and NFL’s winningest coach

Tribune Content Agency

Legendary Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula has died at the age of 90, the team confirmed Monday morning.

“Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years,” the Dolphins said in a statement. “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 was a titan. A two-time Super Bowl champion. Four-time Coach of the Year. Most regular season wins (328) and total wins (347) in NFL history. The Perfect Season. And an absolute legend in South Florida.

Here is reaction to Shula’s passing from the world of sports and beyond:

— National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell: “Don Shula will always be remembered as one of the greatest coaches and contributors in the history of our game. He made an extraordinarily positive impact on so many lives.

“The winningest coach in NFL history and the only one to lead a team to a perfect season, Coach Shula lived an unparalleled football life. 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. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Don’s wife Mary Anne along to his children Dave, Donna, Sharon and Mike, the Shula family, and the Dolphins organization.”

— Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker: “The Game has lost one of the greats today, but we have all lost a truly incredible man. Hall of Fame Coach Don Shula served as an ambassador for this great game for more than half a century. His legendary feats on the gridiron led him to a record 347 wins to become the winningest coach in NFL history and allowed him to lead the 1972 Dolphins to the only perfect season in NFL history.

“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.

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Coach Shula. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Mary Anne and their entire family. The Hall of Fame flag will fly at half-staff and we will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”

— Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1989-2006): “Don Shula represented the highest standards of excellence by virtually any measure. His contributions to the NFL and the game of football extended far beyond his all-time record victory total. Don also was an all-time winner when it came to integrity, honesty and class. The NFL owes him a great deal for his tremendous loyalty and work on behalf of the league and football fans across America.

“My wife, Chan, and I extend deepest condolences to Mary Anne, his sons David and Mike and the entire Shula family.”

— Patriots coach Bill Belichick: “Don Shula is one of the all-time great coaching figures and the standard for consistency and leadership in the NFL. 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.”

— Hall of Fame coach Bill Cowher: “We lost one of the most iconic men in the history of NFL coaching in Don Shula. His leadership and wisdom helped to guide me and many others who have made a life in coaching football. Thank you Coach Shula. May your spirit and legacy live on forever. RIP”

— Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson: “Rip, one of the greatest of all time. Don Shula. He set the standard.”

— Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: “Coach Don Shula leaves behind an incomparable legacy as the NFL’s winningest coach and as the one who put Miami sports on the map. We will remember the great feats, like the only perfect season in NFL history, but also the qualities — hard work, character, decency — that made Don Shula not just a great coach, but also a great man.”

— Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez: “It could be argued that this community came together for the first time when the Dolphins began winning Super Bowl championships.” Gimenez, whose family came to Miami from Cuba in 1960, was fresh out of high school during the Dolphins perfect season in 1972. “Those were pretty good times. That’s when I think this community really gelled into one community. We became one.”

— University of Miami football coach Manny Diaz: “So thankful to grow up in Miami and watch greatness on the sidelines every weekend. Thank you for bringing your toughness, your class and your dignity to the @MiamiDolphins. You will forever be an inspiration to an entire generation of coaches including this one. #Shula”

— The Buffalo Bills: “We express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of former @MiamiDolphins Head Coach Don Shula who passed this morning.”

— Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem: “R.I.P to the great Coach Don Shula … . #finsup 4L #LEGEND”

— U.S. Men’s National Team soccer player Alejandro Bedoya: “RIP to the winningest coach in NFL history. One of the all time greats and an absolute legend in South Florida. His legacy will live on forever. #PerfectSeason”

— Inter Miami CF: “Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Don Shula. Thank you for all you have done to inspire and shape our community.”

— Florida Panthers CEO Matt Caldwell: “The Florida Panthers organization is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Don Shula. A true champion, an icon and a beloved figure at the heart of South Florida sports, Don was a talent that comes around once in a lifetime.”

— Miami Hurricanes athletic director Blake James: “On behalf of the entire University of Miami family, we extend our sympathy to the family and friends of the great Don Shula. Coach was an iconic community leader who helped change the face of our beloved City. He will forever be in our hearts.”

— Miami Heat: “Today is a very sad day for us all. We extend our most sincere thoughts and condolences to the family and friends of legendary coach Don Shula and the @MiamiDolphins organization.”

— Miami Marlins: “The Marlins organization joins the entire South Florida community in mourning the loss of a local icon. Don Shula’s Hall of Fame legacy defined Miami for more than a quarter century, including back-to-back championships, the NFL’s only perfect season, and a variety of thrilling victories at the Orange Bowl. Our thoughts are with the Shula family and the Dolphins organization.”



— Chairman of the board/managing general partner Stephen Ross: “If there were a Mt. Rushmore for the NFL, Don Shula certainly would be chiseled into the granite. He won more games than any coach in the NFL, and his 1972 “Perfect Season” team stands alone in the 100-year history of the league. His contributions to his sport, to the Miami Dolphins franchise, and to the South Florida community will have a lasting impact. We were so fortunate to have him associated with the Dolphins for 50 years, and he was a source of inspiration to me every time I was around him. There will never be anyone like him, and I want to extend my condolences to his wife, Mary Anne, and the entire Shula family.”

— CEO Tom Garfinkel: “Today is a sad day. Coach Shula was the rare man who exemplified true greatness in every aspect of his life. He will be so missed by so many but his legacy of character and excellence will endure. All my best to Mary Anne and the Shula family.”

— General manager Chris Grier: “No one had more of an impact on the success and winning tradition of the Miami Dolphins than Coach Shula. He was an incredible leader and an even better person. I am forever grateful for the interactions I have had with him over the past 20 years. I am thinking of Mary Anne and the rest of the Shula family.”

— Coach Brian Flores: “Don Shula is a legend who had an incredible impact on the game of football. He was an innovator who competed for championships over several eras of professional football. My conversations with him about team building revolved around toughness, intelligence and discipline. Coach Shula’s teams were all of those things and more. He could not have been more supportive when I became the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. In my opinion, the most impressive thing about Coach Shula was the impact he had on his players. My conversations with players like Larry Csonka, Dwight Stephenson, Bob Baumhower, Nat Moore and Dan Marino all centered around the lessons they learned from Coach Shula. His impact went far beyond games won and championships. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”



— Quarterback Dan Marino (1983-1999): Coach Shula- You will truly be missed! You embody the definition of ‘greatness.’ You brought that winning attitude with you every day and made everyone around you better. Thank you for always believing in me. You made me a better player and person. My thoughts & prayers are with the entire Shula family. Love you Coach! #RIP

— Running back Larry Csonka (1968-1974): “Hard to believe he’s gone. He was such a dominant force. I fully expected he’d live to see 100. Winning was critical to him but winning WITHIN THE RULES was more important. There was only 1 perfect team in the first 100 yrs of the NFL and Coach Shula is the reason! #FinsUp”

— Quarterback Bob Griese (1967-80): “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Shula. He was the driving force behind everything we accomplished with the Dolphins. Whether it was his force of will, his organization, his work ethic, sense of integrity, or his total focus on winning, he molded us into champions. And the entire time he was doing that, he served as a role model for all that was right in sports.

“While he started out as my coach, over time he became more than that. He became a mentor, and even better, a great friend. It was more than just a coach/player relationship; we had a personal bond that included our families that only two close friends could share. I cherish that part of my time with Coach Shula as much as the championships we won together.

“We lost someone who cannot be replaced, who cannot be equaled, and who personified everything that is right not only about our sport, but about the way we all should conduct ourselves. I want to pass along my condolences to Mary Anne and the entire Shula family. I will miss him.”

— Defensive tackle Bob Baumhower (1977-86): “I went to high school in Palm Beach Gardens and was a big fan of the Dolphins, so to be drafted by Coach Shula and the team was a dream come true. I had the opportunity to play under him for 10 years. When I look back at our time together, I realize how much I owe to him. He moved me to a position I never wanted to play (nose tackle) and that led to my career being as long as it was. Because he drafted me, I met my wife, had my children and even went into the restaurant business. He was such an important figure in my life. He will be remembered forever.”

— Guard Larry Little (1969-80): “It’s a very sad day to lose an icon like that. He was not only a great coach, but also a great person who had a huge impact on my career. He made me a captain his second year in Miami, and kept me a captain the rest of my career. I became a good player because of him, and I’ll always be grateful for that. In fact, I have so much respect for him I asked him to be my introducer when I was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s how much I thought of him.

“Coach Shula was a man of character, honesty, and integrity, and as I quickly found out, he let everyone know exactly how he felt. The very first time I met him was at his first press conference in Miami after becoming our head coach. I went up to him to introduce myself and said, ‘Coach, I’m Larry Little and I’m your right guard.’ He looked at me and asked me how much I weighed. When I told him I weighed 285 pounds, he shook his head and walked off. It wasn’t long before I got a letter from him telling me to report at 265. I had to lose 20 pounds for that man. But he was right – my career took off after that happened. I always appreciated everything he did for me and I’m sorry to learn of his passing.”

— Linebacker Twan Russell (2000-2002): There are nearly 7.8b people in the world. How many will say they’ve impacted as many people at @DonShula. He was an imperfect man striving for perfection and got it once. The rest of the time he came really close. What a legacy we were given. #RIPGOAT”

— Wide receiver Mark Clayton (1987-1990): “I was saddened to hear this morning of the passing of the greatest coach in NFL history. My coach for 10 years. Coach Shula took a chance on me and the rest is history. My condolences to the family. Best coach on earth, best coach in heaven. RIP Coach”

— Running back Kenyan Drake (2016-2019): “‘One thing I never want to be accused of is not working.’ RIP Coach Don Shula. Even though I never personally met Coach Shula that quote was on the wall above the doors before you walked out of the facility in Miami. Through the best and worst days it reminded me to never settle for less than my best. Thanks coach.”

— Quarterback Bernie Kosar (1994-1996): “Thanks For All You Taught Me. Luv You Coach.”

— Cornerback Patrick Surtain (1998-2004): “R.I.H Coach Shula … one of the best to ever do it. My condolences to his family.”

— Offensive lineman Richmond Webb (1990-2000): “Just got word that Coach Don Shula has passed away. Please keep his family in your prayers. Rest In Heaven Coach. Thank you. #Legend #HOF”

— Running back Troy Stradford (1987-1990): RIP Coach @DonShula!!! You’ve touched hundreds of thousands, you’ve coached thousands and each has their story. Thank you for touching me personally!!!



— Defensive lineman Davon Godchaux: “Rest In Peace ‘Don Shula’! Legendary.”

— Wide receiver DeVante Parker: “R.I.P. to the goat Don Shula.”

— Wide receiver Jakeem Grant: “RIP to the best there ever was! The Miami Legend!”

— Linebacker Raekwon McMillan: “Rest in Heaven Coach.”

— Linebacker Vince Biegel: “RIP to the greatest Don Shula.”


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