Pro Football Hall of Fame Head Coach Don Shula, the winningest head coach and the architect of the only undefeated team in NFL history, passed away Monday at the age of 90.
"I am saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Shula today," Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. "He was the ultimate coach on and off the field. A teacher of excellence, integrity, and character with his friends, family, players, and all who came in contact with him. An incredible person. My deepest condolences to his wonderful wife Mary Anne and the entire Shula family."
Head Coach Doug Pederson's NFL career began under Shula's tutelage as a rookie free agent in 1991 with the Miami Dolphins. Two years later, Pederson threw his first career pass attempt in a historic win over the Eagles. Pederson was pressed into duty when starting quarterback Scott Mitchell left the game with a shoulder injury. In the second half, he helped guide Miami to a 19-14 win that marked Shula's 325th career victory, setting the record for most in NFL history.
"They made it pretty easy for me. I threw easy passes. I only had to throw it six times," Pederson told Dolphins reporters on a conference call last season about the '93 win. "I was excited. I led two drives that we kicked field goals on and it was enough to win the game. My throws were easy ones – underneath stuff, high-percentage throws.
"We won the game and it was a great feeling. I'm a very small part of that piece in NFL history. I'm a footnote, I guess you'd say. I'm not even sure how many people know that I was the quarterback who came in and played."
"Doug did a heck of a job," Shula said in his postgame remarks. "He kept his cool and he made the plays. He hadn't played any kind of real football to speak of, but he got the job done."
Pederson reflected on the impact that Shula had – and continues to have – on his career.
"Coach Don Shula has been an inspiration to me throughout my entire career, not only as a player in the NFL but also now as a head coach. He believed enough in me as an undrafted player in 1991 to give me an opportunity in the league, and it was truly an honor to play for him," Pederson said in a statement. "He taught me how to be a professional both on and off the field through his attention to detail. I learned so much from him about how to relate to players and how to lead your team.
"He is one of the greatest coaches in the history of our sport, and his impact will be long lasting. It is with deepest sympathy that my thoughts and prayers go out to the Shula family."