It's never easy to say goodbye to a football legend, even if he's not your legend. And many members and fans of the Jets family feel sad about the passing of Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula.
Shula, 90, whose death was announced today by the Miami Dolphins, sent his teams up against the Jets and all other NFL goes many times over the decades. And while he could be a stern taskmaster with his own teams, and he was a fierce competitor to every opponent, when all was said and done, he was beloved by the Dolphins family and had the respect of Jets fans and a long list of NFL members and fans.
One of many who have spoken about one of the NFL's titans today is Jets head coach Adam Gase, who had many interactions with Shula when he took over as Dolphins head coach from 2016-18.
"I want to extend my deepest condolences to Coach Shula's family and the Miami Dolphins community," Gase said. "Any time I got to spend with him was always the best part of my day. I truly enjoyed getting to know him and treasured each and every interaction we had. He was a fountain of information who was readily available to assist when asked. Coach Shula was rightly revered, as a great coach and a better person. He will be missed tremendously."
Of the 56 games between the Jets and Don's Baltimore and Miami teams, Jets Nation remembers the first meeting as if it were yesterday. It was their only game against Shula as head coach of the Colts.
In Super Bowl III, the Jets of head coach Weeb Ewbank, champions of the "upstart" American Football League, went up against Shula's Colts, champs of the NFL, for all the pro football marbles. The Jets prevailed, 16-7, to shock the football world. And Shula's highly successful rule as the Horseshoes' young sideline skipper was all but over.
Despite seven seasons of winning records, the '68 NFL crown and the Super Bowl appearance, Shula announced after the 1969 season that he was leaving Baltimore to become head coach and part owner of the expansion Miami Dolphins.
And he remained in charge in South Florida until he retired after the 1995 season, and after guiding the 'Fins to the only unbeaten season (playoffs included) in league history in '72, five more Super Bowl appearances and two wins in the big game, and 12 AFC East titles, and becoming the winningest coach in NFL football history.
"Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years," the team 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."
Jets fans had their own perspective on the empire Shula was building. They had to play the Dolphins twice a year. Eleven times in his 26 years at the helm they were swept by Don's Aqua & Coral, including an 0-for-3 in 1982 that included losing to the Dolphins in the "Mud Bowl" for that year's AFC Championship. Another bitter loss was the Dan Marino fake spike game in the Meadowlands in 1994
Shula wound up leading his teams against the Jets in 56 games, the most by any opposing HC. His 32 wins over the Jets are second-most by any coach, with all 32 coming as HC of the Dolphins, the most by any one coach with one team. The Jets' 18 road losses to Shula teams are also the most against any coach.
Among his many achievements detailed all around the Internet today, Shula was also famous for his coaching aphorisms — he co-authored three books, after all. "I have no magic formula. The only way I know to win is through hard work," he was known to say, as well as "I don't know any other way to lead but by example."
The example Shula set over the last half century is being honored now after his passing.