Don Shula passed away at the age of 90 on Monday

Don Shula had Bob Griese for 11 years and Dan Marino for 13, and even though the Hall of Fame quarterbacks delivered different styles and played in different eras, the Dolphins coach won big with both.

On Monday, after the passing of Shula at the age of 90, Griese and Marino reflected on a man who was not only their coach, but also a mentor.

“He was the driving force behind everything we accomplished with the Dolphins,“ Griese said. ”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.“

Griese was Miami’s quarterback from 1967-1980, appearing in eight Pro Bowls and leading the Dolphins to three Super Bowls, including Super Bowl victories in the 1972 and ’73 seasons.

“I cherish that part of my time with Coach Shula as much as the championships we won together,” Griese said. “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.”

Griese was the fourth player selected in the 1967 draft. Shula arrived three years later, from the Colts. Griese was known for his intelligence and poise as he guided a balanced, ball-control offense and was named Dolphins’ most valuable player six times.

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In Super Bowls VII and VIII, Griese was required to complete a total of only 14 passes, as the Dolphins leaned on their strong running game.

When professional football shifted toward a passing trend, Shula was later able to lean on rocket-armed Dan Marino, who led the Dolphins to the playoffs 10 times, including the Super Bowl in the 1984 season.

“He would listen to your ideas and listen to your thoughts,” Marino said, adding he was impressed by Shula’s ability to adapt. “He evolved to the talent he had and what they did best.”

Marino said Shula defined greatness and that he made everyone around him better. Marino said Shula’s decision to have him call his own plays early in his career created a pressure that benefited him in his career.

“He was a guy that understood to let your players play the game,” Marino said. “In the fake spike game, he let me take over and do my thing and take over and bring us back. He was smart and it was special.”

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Hall of Famers Shula and Marino totaled 116 career regular season victories together. Marino played for the Dolphins between 1983-99, including for Shula for the first 13 years of his career.

“Thank you for always believing in me,” Marino said. “You made me a better player and person. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Shula family.”

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Marino was a nine-time Pro Bowler and first-team All Pro in 1984, ’85 and ’86. Marino was NFL rookie of the year in 1983. Marino said Shula was tough and demanding and projected a winning attitude every day.

Marino said Shula helped him as a player and helped him as a human being. Marino cited Shula as a mentor and a father figure.

“Beautiful man,” Marino said. “Great person. The wins. His longevity. The number of wins. To coach for 33 years and do it at a high level.”

In his Hall of Fame speech, Marino called Shula the greatest coach ever.

“Coach, other than my father, you’re the most significant influence on my football career,” Marino said “You pushed me and demanded my best. Coach, you were always a true professional and I want to thank you for the example that you set for me on the field, but also in the community.”

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jschad@pbpost.com

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