The never ending NFL news cycle careens from one item to the next, often with specific stories not getting the attention they deserve before yielding to the next one.
The passing earlier this month of Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula is one of those stories that perhaps didn’t get the full attention it should have because there’s always something else coming along that pushes a headline down the stack.
So let’s hit rewind and point out recent comments from fellow Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant. Appearing with Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton and Paul Allen on KFAN, Grant made an important suggestion regarding the man who beat Grant in Super Bowl VIII.
“They should have a trophy for Shula,” Grant said. “I mean, they got the Lombardi Trophy, which I don’t think — I’m not a big fan of Vince’s. He’s a great coach, but I think he did nothing near what Shula has done in the coaching field in the NFL. I think they should have some kind of a trophy, some kind of a recognition for Don Shula for the job that he did in the many years that he was in the NFL.”
Tarkenton agreed, pointing to among other things the undefeated season of 1972.
“He almost didn’t have an undefeated season,” Grant said. “He beat us in Minnesota. I think it was 16-14 or 18-16 or something like that. [Bob] Lurtsema got a penalty at the end that allowed them to . . . beat us.”
The final score was indeed 16-14, and the Vikings led by eight with fewer than five minutes to play. A 51-yard field goal from Garo Yepremian cut the score to 14-9 with 4:15 to go, and the Lurtesma penalty for roughing the passer fueled what became the game-winning touchdown drive.
“That was the worst call ever,” Lurtsema said in 2019. “Without that, they wouldn’t have made history. I’ve told [Griese] that before, ‘I never roughed you, you faker.’ . . . I turned around to watch the ball and Griese made a fake fall. I never touched him. He had brushed into me. When I saw the flag, I thought maybe it was holding on Miami.”
It was only the third game of the year, long before the Dolphins were in the final stages of the chase for perfection. But the Vikings and Grant could have derailed 17-0 before it became 3-0.
Regardless, Grant’s point is a good one: The league needs a permanent honor for Don Shula. Whether it’s naming the coach of the year award after Shula or creating a trophy for the best regular-season team in each conference (Don Shula AFC, Tom Landry NFC), the league should consider a way to give Shula the credit he deserves.
Ditto for the Dolphins. As we’ve previously written, the Miami uniform should include a perpetual honor to Don Shula, like the George Halas initials on the sleeve of the Bears’ jersey and the Al Davis stick on the back of the Raiders’ helmet.