Shula: The Coach of the NFL's Greatest Generation

Liveright: Norton. Aug. 2019. 400p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781631494604. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9781631494611. SPORTS.
Ribowsky (In the Name of the Father: Family, Football, and the Manning Dynasty; A Complete History of the Negro Leagues: 1884–1995) assays a football giant in Don Shula (b. 1930). Shula was a two-time Super Bowl champion and led the only undefeated team in league annals. The author details Shula’s problems with meddling owners; his sometimes-rocky relationships with star players such as Johnny Unitas, Larry Csonka, and Mercury Morris; and his emergence as a league eminence, while intimating he was perhaps not as pure as his cultivated image. Ribowsky relies primarily on interviews with Shula and on the written record; however, more interviews with players and colleagues would have been welcome. Shula’s greatest success came coaching the Miami Dolphins in the early 1970s. Ribowsky portrays a blunt, onetime NFL player noted for his aggressive play who was driven as much by failure as by success, in particular his troubles in playoff and championship games and failure to win a title in his final 22 years of coaching. ­
VERDICT This is the most thorough biography yet of this seminal NFL figure, but it does not equal Ribowsky’s best work.

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