Shula will be heading to Santa Clara, California, to support his son Mike in his role as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers.
“I’m feeling so proud and I can’t wait to get out there and spend some time and to be there for Michael when the game starts and hopefully root him in,” Shula said in a phone interview Monday. “This is going to be totally different for me because when you’re in it you’re always preparing with your staff and you’ve got a million things to do. Now, I’m just going to sit back and be there for Mike and support him every way I can.”
Shula is tied with Bill Belichick for most Super Bowl appearances for a head coach with six and, of course, won the Lombardi Trophy with the Dolphins in 1972 and 1973.
While the Super Bowl drew a lot of attention even when Don Shula was head coach, he’s amazed by how much bigger the hoopla has become.
“It’s amazing how much hype and attention that the game just gathers, but that’s how big it is now,” Shula said. “It just fits that television and the tube and people all over the country, all over the world want to see the Super Bowl. That’s how big it is. To have your son in there makes you feel very proud.”
Mike Shula deserves more than his share of credit for the Panthers reaching the Super Bowl. While the Carolina defense gets a lot of the headlines, the Panthers led the NFL in scoring in 2015 and put up 31 and 49 points in their two playoff victories.
Thanks in part to their explosive offense, the Panthers made a run at a perfect season and duplicating the Dolphins’ perfect season of 1972 — at least in the regular season.
Don Shula said, however, that wasn’t a big topic of conversation with his son throughout the regular season.
“It was just always talking about his team and what opportunities that they have, who they’re playing,” Don Shula said. “A lot of people ask me if I was worried about Mike breaking my record. And I would have been the most happy and proud father if that happened. That would have been unbelievable for Mike to have that opportunity. He’s certainly earned it on his own with what he’s doing as a coach.”
Shula also had a conversation with another coach recently when he was visited by new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase.
Interestingly, the 37-year-old Gase replaced Shula as the youngest full-time head coach in franchise history.
“I enjoyed meeting and talking to him,” Shula said. “I think he’s the right man for the job. They hired a guy with a good coaching background and I think they investigated and they interviewed a lot of people and I think they made a good choice with the guy that they hired. I was impressed with him.”
As for what advice he shared with Gase, Shula said: “I think that the big thing I tried to stress to him was don’t assume anything. Because something has happened in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to happen in the future unless you prepare your players for all the things that they’re going to be faced with. That’s what I tried to stress to him is no matter how small the topic may be, make sure you take the time to cover it so that he’s prepared and aware.”
Shula was reunited a little more than a month ago with a lot of his former players when the Dolphins held their 50th Anniversary gala three nights before the Monday night game against the New York Giants.
“That was like old home week,” Shula joked. “I really enjoyed that night and thank the Dolphins. It was a wonderful evening. As I mentioned that night, seeing all these people brought back a lot of memories, most of them great. But then there was Mercury Morris .... I’m only kidding. We had a lot of good times together.”
These indeed are happy days for Shula, particularly because of the great success enjoyed by Mike this season.
As he wrapped up his interview, Shula had one final message.