I answer that only one way. Why do they keep score? Why do they have records? When your record is undefeated, how can you say anything is better than undefeated?
Shula would return to the Super Bowl after a long gap. It was this time of year, 1983. It was after a strike-shortened season. The quarterback was David Woodley, just a few months before Miami would draft Dan Marino.
Losing a Super Bowl destroys all the good things that happened to get you there, Shula said. Woodley was an athlete we made into a quarterback. Marino was a quarterback playing quarterback.
Back soon after with Marino, it felt like the first of many title shots Shula and Marino might have, but it would be their only one, and it ended in a loss to the 49ers. It was this time of year, 1985.
We all felt thered be a lot more Super Bowls for us, Shula said. The fact we didnt get back was one of the great regrets of my life.
I smiled when noticing the cover of the latest ESPN The Magazine. It is their Super Bowl preview. They call it The Perfect Issue. There are features on the perfect quarterback, perfect matchups and perfect drive. There also is a long feature on Bill Walsh, who we may presume is thus the perfect coach.
In all, there are 19 pages of Super Bowl-related coverage in The Perfect Issue, with zero mention of the Perfect Season or of the coach who fashioned it.
Im not raising the no-respect banner on Shulas behalf here. That might be strange timing, on the very day CBS is premiering a documentary about him.
And yet there is the sense that Shula remains more a local treasure, revered in South Florida, than someone who gets the national and league-wide respect one might expect of the all-time winningest coach.
Vince Lombardis name is on the championship trophy. George Halas name is on the NFC trophy. Walsh gets lauded as the genius. Bill Belichick gets to be the modern genius. Tom Landry seems to be a larger figure nationally.
Shulas name is attached to the NFLs national high school coach of the year award.
There are awkward topics to broach with Shula.
One is his departure from the Dolphins. He was gently shown the door following the 1995 season in favor of an infatuation at the time with Jimmy Johnson. It didnt sit right with Shula then and in some ways still does not. He has admitted that to me.
Another sensitive subject is whether Shula feels he gets the national respect he deserves, something alluded to in the documentary premiering today. I asked him. For an answer he went straight to the irrefutable bottom line.
The 347 wins is the thing Im most proud of, he said. Nobodys even close to it.
That might sound like bragging, if it werent so true.