Finding Ways to Honor Shula ... And Why Bud Grant Was Right

Alain Poupart

The Miami Dolphins already have announced that they plan to properly honor Don Shula when circumstances allow, and one of his rival coaches has a way for the NFL to recognize him.

Appearing on a Minnesota radio station, longtime Vikings head coach Bud Grant said the NFL should name the Coach of the Year after Shula.

The NFL currently has six major awards named after key figures in league history. The Super Bowl Trophy is named after longtime Packers head coach Vince Lombardi; the AFC championship trophy is named after longtime Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt; the NFC championship trophy is named after longtime Bears coach/owner George Halas; the Super Bowl MVP trophy is named after longtime NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle; the Man of the Year award is named after longtime Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton; and the Sportsmanship Award is named after original Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney.

"He had a great record and was a great competitor," Grant told radio station KFAN. "They have the Lombardi Trophy, which I'm not a big fan of Vince. He's a great coach, but I don't think he did anything near what Shula has done in the coaching field. I think they should have some kind of trophy, some kind of a recognition, for Don Shula for the job he did in the many years he was in the NFL."

Grant, who turned 93 on Wednesday, coached the Vikings from 1967-85 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

Grant's Vikings gave the Dolphins their closest call during the perfect season of 1972, as they led 14-9 before Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jim Mandich with 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.

When the Dolphins repeated as Super Bowl champions in 1973, they defeated Grant's Vikings, 24-7.

Grant was named AP Coach of the Year in 1969 after Shula shared the award with George Allen in 1967 and won it outright in 1968.

Shula was AP Coach of the Year with the Baltimore Colts in 1964 and the only time he won the award with the Dolphins was for the 1972 season.

The Dolphins organization is allowing fans to drive to Hard Rock Stadium on Friday and Saturday for them to pay their respects to Shula by visiting his statue, which depicts him being carried off the field after the Dolphins completed their perfect by defeating the Washington Redskins, 14-7, in Super Bowl VII.

The Don Shula statue outside Hard Rock Stadium
Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

The Bears put a GSH patch on their jerseys to honor Halas after his passing, while the Raiders had an AL sticker on their helmets to honor the memory of owner Al Davis.

It would be easy to see the Dolphins do something similar with Shula with his initials DFS (Donald Francis Shula).

And that's just from an organization standpoint. Grant makes a valid argument about Lombardi. If he's being recognized with a trophy named after him, why shouldn't the same honor be bestowed upon Shula considering he's the one who has the only perfect season in NFL history and he's the one who's the winningest coach?

Don Shula gets a victory ride after becoming the winningest coach in NFL history
Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins