Home Shula vs. Schottenheimer: Remembering the Match-ups Between Late Coaching Legends

Shula vs. Schottenheimer: Remembering the Match-ups Between Late Coaching Legends

by Mike Ferguson

Photo via YouTube/ABC broadcast

In the history of the NFL, there have only been eight coaches who have won 200 games. Since early-May 2020, the football world has had to say goodbye to two of them.

On Monday, Marty Schottenheimer died at the age of 77 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. Schottenheimer ranks eighth all-time with 200 wins and took three different teams — the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers — to the playoffs.

On May 4, 2020, the all-time wins leader, Don Shula, passed away at the age of 90. Shula coached in six Super Bowls with the Baltimore Colts and Miami Dolphins, winning two.

Over the years, Schottenheimer and Shula met 11 times. Although Shula went 7-4, the contests were usually very competitive. In this piece, we’ll be remembering the match-ups between the two late legends.

The Postseason

Although Shula held the edge over the 11 meetings, Schottenheimer actually was even in the regular season. The coaches split eight match-ups in the regular season, 4-4. In the postseason however, Shula won all three match-ups. The first two were absolutely gut-wrenching for Schottenheimer’s teams.

In the AFC Divisional playoff during the 1985 season, Shula’s Dolphins completed the biggest playoff comeback in franchise history. The Browns raced to a 21-3 lead, but Miami rallied with the game’s final 21 points for a 24-21 victory.

Miami had actually finished with the best record in the AFC at 12-4. Cleveland was just 8-8, but that was good enough to win the AFC Central.

Cleveland used a pair of long touchdown runs by Earnest Byner to jump to an 18-point lead in the third quarter. The Dolphins were able to cut the lead to four with a third-quarter touchdown pass from Dan Marino to Nat Moore and a touchdown run by Ron Davenport. Davenport’s second touchdown came in the fourth quarter and served as the game-winner as the Dolphins completed the comeback.

Schottenheimer’s first playoff appearance in Kansas City was also Miami’s first playoff game at Joe Robbie Stadium. Once again, it took a comeback for Miami to emerge victorious.

In the AFC Wild Card game following the 1990 season, the Chiefs took a 16-3 lead into the fourth quarter. Again, Marino found some magic in his right arm.

Marino threw touchdown passes to Tony Paige and Mark Clayton in the final quarter to put Miami in front. The Chiefs reached field goal range on the final drive, but Nick Lowery’s 52-yard field goal attempt fell shot as the Dolphins emerged, 17-16.

Again in the Wild Card round following the 1994 season, a strong second half was the difference for Miami. In a match-up of not just coaching legends, but quarterback legends, Marino outdueled Kansas City’s Joe Montana for a 27-17 victory.

Behind a pair of touchdown passes from Montana, Kansas City raced to a 17-10 lead, but Miami scored the game’s final 17 points. After throwing the tying touchdown pass to Ronnie Williams late in the first half, Marino’s 7-yard scoring strike to Irving Fryar in the third quarter put Miami ahead for good.

Montana passed for 314 yards in the loss, but did throw a critical late interception. Marino threw for 257 yards in the victory. The contest served as the final game of Montana’s career and the final playoff win of Shula’s.

The Playoff Race is Over

Although Schottenheimer never beat Shula in the playoffs, he did eliminate his team from postseason contention. In the 1989 regular season finale, the Chiefs beat the Dolphins on Christmas Eve, 27-24, to end their playoff hopes.

Miami trailed 24-14 after three quarters, but drew even on Marino’s touchdown pass to Clayton. Lowery’s 41-yard field goal with 1:31 remaining served as the game-winner. Miami settled for an 8-8 finish while the Chiefs went 8-7-1 in Schottenheimer’s first season.

Monday Night Madness

Of the eight regular season meetings between Shula and Schottenheimer, four took place on Monday Night Football. In each case, the home team won.

The lone Monday night contest hosted by Schottenheimer came while he was in Cleveland. The Browns avenged the previous season’s playoff loss with a 26-16 victory on Nov. 10, 1986. Marino passed for 295 yards, but Cleveland’s Bernie Kosar bested that with 401 yards passing as the Browns finished with 558 yards of offense.

The Dolphins were just 5-9 when they hosted the 9-5 Browns for their final regular season home game of the season on Dec. 12, 1988. Despite twice trailing by 14 points, Cleveland drew even with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Reggie Langhorne.

It took the Dolphins just four plays and 25 seconds to pull in front as Lorenzo Hampton scored the game-winner from a yard out with 34 seconds remaining in a 38-31 win for the Dolphins. It would be Schottenheimer’s final regular season loss as Browns’ head coach.

During both the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Schottenheimer’s Chiefs made mid-December trips to Miami for Monday Night Football. With Joe Montana injured, the Chiefs turned to Steve Bono on Dec. 12, 1994. In a contest that saw non-offensive touchdowns on consecutive plays in the third quarter, the Dolphins clinched a playoff berth with a 45-28 victory.

Running back Bernie Parmalee rushed for 127 yards and found the end zone twice for the Dolphins. The Miami defense picked off Bono three times in the win.

When the teams met on Dec. 11, 1995, it was the Dolphins who were desperate for a victory. Miami was just 7-6 while Kansas City owned the best record in the AFC at 11-2. The Dolphins raced to a 13-0 lead, but were forced to hold on for a 13-6 victory.

With less than two minutes to play and Miami up a touchdown, Terrell Buckley knocked away Bono’s fourth-down throw into the end zone to seal the win. It would be the final home victory of Shula’s legendary career.

The Others

The other three match-ups between Shula and Schottenheimer weren’t particularly great games, but there was some significance. The only one of those that was competitive was a Dec. 3, 1989 contest at Arrowhead Stadium.

In the first of two meetings between the Dolphins and Chiefs during the 1989 regular season, Kansas City emerged victorious, 26-21. Marino passed for three touchdowns, but one came in garbage time. Miami had no answer for Kansas City’s Christian Okoye, who rushed for 148 yards and a touchdown.

As Schottenheimer’s Browns did in 1986, Kansas City avenged the prior season’s playoff loss to Miami with a 42-7 beatdown at Arrowhead Stadium on Oct. 13, 1991. Okoye rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns while Steve DeBerg threw for two more in the Chiefs’ win.

With Marino out of the game, it was Miami backup Scott Secules who broke up the shutout with a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Making History

The lone contest that did not feature Marino was an Oct. 31, 1993 contest at Joe Robbie Stadium. With Marino out for the season, Scott Mitchell performed admirably in a 30-10 Miami victory.


In a match-up of 5-1 teams, Mitchell passed for 344 yards and three touchdowns in the win. With the victory, Shula tied Halas for the most wins in NFL history.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.