Ex-Dolphins coach says opening day flop and injuries made season an uphill battle.
By HUBERT MIZELL
© St. Petersburg Times, published February 4, 2000
Don Shula was in St. Louis last month, cheering as Mike Shula's offense labored in its quest for a fourth-quarter touchdown that could have launched the Bucs into Super Bowl XXXIV.
Thursday, disappointment was in Don Shula's voice. He had talked with Mike, his 34-year-old son, after learning of his firing as Tampa Bay offensive coordinator.
"They were a couple of plays short of the Super Bowl, going with a rookie quarterback (Shaun King)," the elder Shula, 70, said from Miami. "Mike gave it everything he had. I thought he did well this season, considering the situation. Obviously, I'm disappointed."
It's an emotion the NFL coach with the most wins also felt when son David was fired as coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. David Shula now is president of Don Shula Steakhouses.
"It doesn't do any good to try to understand it," Don Shula said of Mike's dismissal. "Before moving on to a new challenge, I think he'll take some time, consider his options. I think he wants to continue in coaching.
"It's a tough business. We all know that. Mike being judged by the past couple of years is tough. You need a few more established players.
"Tampa Bay had a great preseason, followed by a disaster in the opener against the Giants. From there on, they went conservative. After the injury to (quarterback Trent) Dilfer, there was a question of how much they could do with a rookie.
"Obviously, you try to get (Mike) Alstott and (Warrick) Dunn as involved as possible. Tampa Bay was missing (offensive tackle Paul) Gruber in the playoffs, which had to hurt. I thought Mike did a good job with all the factors involved."
Don Shula said he pulled hard for St. Louis against Tennessee in the Super Bowl. "There were a couple of reasons," he said. "London Fletcher is a great story for the Rams, coming out of my alma mater (John Carroll University). Also, I was rooting for the team that had eliminated the Bucs."
What does he feel now about the Bucs? "I'm just disappointed," he said.