3. Don Shula
Before Bill Belichick, New York Jets fans had Don Shula to hate. He coached in 56 games against Gang Green, finishing with a 32–24 record. The former Dolphins patriarch holds the record for most wins by an opposing coach against the Jets
The winningest NFL coach of all-time wasn’t a vindictive man. He suffered through many disappointments early in his career and emerged a better coach and man for it. Still, it always looked like he took particular joy in sticking it to the Jets over the years from his spot on the opposite sideline. There are so many reasons for Gang Green Nation’s ire with Shula. For space reasons, here are three examples
It all started with Super Bowl III. Shula’s Baltimore Colts team destroyed the rest of the NFL in 1968 to the tune of 13–1. Along the way, their defense pitched three shutouts and held opponents to single digits in another five. They even avenged their only regular-season loss, with a 34–0 rout of Cleveland in the NFL Championship game. In that day and age, the Colts were like the 1986 Bears. It was no wonder they entered the matchup against the Jets as an 18-point favorite.
Baltimore didn’t take the AFL Champion Jets seriously. They were, for lack of a better term, very overconfident. Out in front was Shula stoic and unfazed. Leading up to the game, he and the rest of the Colts treated Weeb Ewbank’s team like an annoying fly, even after Joe Namath’s infamous guarantee. Gang Green fans know the result well. So did Shula, who took it up a notch when he took over the Miami Dolphins in 1970.
Fast forward to 1982. A player’s strike cut the season to nine precious games. The Dolphins and Jets finished one-two in the AFC East, respectively. Both teams won their first two games in the expanded playoffs to set up a showdown at the Orange Bowl for the AFC Championship.
Monsoon rains (and possibly some outside help) turned the stadium into a muddy quagmire. Conditions were so adverse that the contest was dubbed “The Mud Bowl.” Consequently, the Jets’ best weapon, running back Freeman McNeil, was neutralized. The Jets had to win via the pass. They couldn’t do it and lost 14-0. New York QB Richard Todd threw five picks in the second half to seal his team’s fate.
If 1982 showed Shula’s guile, the 1983 draft was a showcase for his cunning. Rumor has it that the Dolphins head coach let it be known the Marino liked to party. Consequently, the Pitt quarterback started to fall down the draft board. As mentioned earlier, the Jets passed on him at 23, and he fell to Miami at 26. Marino turned out to be a dedicated professional. The rest is history.