MIAMI — Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino has spent the past 20 years watching new-era players break his numerous records, but there’s one Miami Dolphins family mark that he wholeheartedly wants to see preserved: Don Shula’s NFL-best 328 wins (347 including playoffs).
Shula, who coached Marino for the first 13 years of the quarterback’s 17-year Dolphins career, surpassed George Halas as the NFL’s winningest coach in 1993. Shula still held the record upon his death on May 4, 2020, at the age of 90.
But New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is lurking in the wings with 280 wins, just 48 shy of matching Shula as the NFL’s winningest coach. It could take Belichick at least another four strong years to reach that mark.
“I hope he don’t get it,” Marino said emphatically. “I’m a Dolphin for life. Coach Shula for life. I don’t want him to get it.”
During an interview with ESPN this week, Marino promoted his return to a Nutrisystem diet and discussed a wide variety of football topics. Talking about Shula was one subject that made Marino light up with pride.
Shula and Marino are certainly unanimous selections on the Dolphins’ Mount Rushmore of key figures, but both would admit they wouldn’t have been as good without the other. The Dolphins wore Shula “347” patches throughout the 2020 season to honor their legendary former head coach. Fans honor Marino every Sunday by filling up Hard Rock Stadium wearing his jersey.
As he reminisced about his relationship with Shula, Marino said one memory stood out — and it took him back to his rookie year, 1983.
“He was the best. He took care of me all the time. He was an incredible man and head coach. He taught me how to be in the community, be a leader, work hard. But from day one — which I thought was genius — he said, ‘I want you to be the starting QB, so you have to learn this quickly, and now you’re going to call all your plays in practice and exhibition games,'” Marino said. “It takes more work instead of a coach telling you what to run — you have to think about it beforehand, you have to prepare for it beforehand.
“I always thought that was special, and probably different than what a lot of people do now, I’d imagine. It would be a lot harder to do it now than it was then, but it did put a lot of pressure on me to learn quickly.”
Marino now works for the Dolphins as a team adviser, a role that often includes sitting in the QB room or meetings with coaches. He’s been a constant presence at the team’s facility for offseason workouts, and expressed optimism about the direction in which the team is headed under coach Brian Flores and about the future of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
While bridging the gap between his playing days and the 2021 Dolphins, Marino pointed out a few similarities between Shula and Flores that will only add to the enthusiasm surrounding the team’s future.
“It’s a different time. It’s different people. But the discipline factor, the fact that he demands the best all the time — they have those same characteristics,” Marino said. “That’s what you want from a head coach — be demanding, relate to the players and want the best out of them. They both have those characteristics.”