"He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n."
Though an impossible task, former NFL head coach Bum Phillips surmised the very trait that elevated Don Shula to the pinnacle of coaching in the National Football League.
Shula's 347 career victories rank number one all-time. He won two Super Bowls with the No Name Defense and a punishing ground game. Then, in the middle of his Dolphins tenure, evolved his style to fit the aerial prowess of a fellow legend in Dan Marino.
"Coach Shula will truly be missed," Marino said. "He embodied the definition of greatness. He brought that winning attitude with him every day and made everyone around him better. I want to thank him for always believing in me. He made me a better player and person. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Shula family."
Marino, like so many Dolphins alumni before him, viewed Coach Shula as a father figure. The measure of Shula's reach was apparent Monday morning with an overwhelming outpour of respect and admiration for the man who coached his team to 31 winning seasons out of 33 years at the helm.
Larry Csonka – Miami Dolphins Fullback (1968-1974, 1979)
"I was saddened and surprised to hear of Coach Shula's passing. He was always a source of strength and motivation for me, and it's hard to believe he's gone. He changed everything when he got to Miami. He simply would not accept losing."
Nat Moore – Miami Dolphins Wide Receiver (1974-1986)
"The thing that I remember most about Coach Shula was that he had plans always of how he wanted to use you and how he could get the most out of you. He was a guy that drove you, but wouldn't allow you to quit on yourself."
Bob Griese – Miami Dolphins Quarterback (1967-1980)
"He was the boss back then, but as years go by, we became friends, and we're kind of like equals. Not like he was the boss and I was the underling, and that's the way it was back then. I lost a good friend; I lost a great friend."
Brian Flores – Miami Dolphins Head Coach
"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 ere 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 eh 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."
Chris Grier – Miami Dolphins General Manager
"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."
Bill Cowher – Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Head Coach (1992-2006), Via Twitter
"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."
Bruce Arians – Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Via Twitter
"We lost the greatest coach of all time. RIP Coach Don Shula."
Chris Mortensen – ESPN Insider, via Twitter
"Don Shula was as fierce a competitor as I have met and covered in the NFL. He also exuded a fierce love for his family and players. There was so much I learned from him and I imagine there are countless people who can share the same or even more."
Pat Riley – Miami Heat President, via the Heat Official Twitter
"There was no better man or coach in the history of the profession than Coach Don Shula. He was tough, courageous and an authentic leader with great integrity in his pursuit of perfection, which he achieved!"
Carlos A. Gimenez – Miami-Dade County Mayor
"I'm deeply saddened by the passing of Dolphins coach Don Shula. He was the epitome of dignity, class and the pursuit of excellence. His legacy lives beyond the gridiron.
"The Miami Dolphins' 'Perfect Season' in 1972 under Coach Shula's leadership brought a rapidly growing and diverse community together. He made us One.
"As the winningest coach in NFL history, he put Miami-Dade on the national sports map. He stayed active as a businessman and community leader after retiring from coaching, always sharing his love for our county. Lourdes and I offer our heartfelt condolences to his family."
The Dolphins released the following statement regarding Shula's passing:
"Don Shula was the patriarch of the Miami Dolphins for 50 years. 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."