Family Day, Shula style: It's Don vs. David

ON THE NFL

October 02, 1994|By VITO STELLINO

It's not unusual for a son to follow in the footsteps of a successful father.

In the pro football coaching ranks, though, it can be a rough road.

Wade Phillips, son of Bum Phillips, and David Shula, son of Don Shula, started out 0-4 in Denver and Cincinnati, respectively, this season.

Phillips has a bye week as he attempts to regroup. The comparisons with his father aren't as vivid because Bum Phillips has retired and never won a Super Bowl.

Shula, by contrast, not only has to live with the constant comparisons with his father, the winningest coach of all time, but he'll coach against him tonight when the Bengals play host to the Miami Dolphins.

The Cincinnati-Miami game is on TNT only because it's the first time a father has coached against a son in any major professional sport in this country.

It just has brought more attention to the fact that David Shula's record is 8-24 and his father's is 330-159.

In Cincinnati, it is being written that David may be asking his father for a job in the near future.

The owner, Mike Brown, who's also the son of an NFL legend (Paul Brown), is putting no public pressure on the younger Shula and has extended his contract through 1996.

"I'm satisfied with the job he's done. He's right for the team," Brown said.

Even though it's spotlighting his poor record, David Shula likes the emphasis the game is putting on his family. It's a tight-knit family of five children who have presented Don with five grandchildren and lived through the trauma of the death of Don's first wife, Dorothy, after 32 years of marriage and the joy of Don's second marriage.

"I think the focus on this event and the family issues is a positive thing and something that can be stressed," David said.

Don and David did national conference calls last week. David talked poignantly about the first game he saw at age 5 -- the 1964 Baltimore-Cleveland NFL title game when the Colts lost, 27-0, and he saw grown men cry in the locker room for the first time.

There'll be something of a family reunion in Cincinnati this weekend, and David's three sisters (his brother, Mike, is an assistant coach in Chicago) have made it clear they're rooting for their brother.

"If they're not, they're in big trouble because I'm the one getting them the tickets," David said.

Don Shula, though, didn't win 330 games by being sentimental. He can't get caught up in the father-son stuff.

"I can't think that way," he said. "My responsibility is to my team."

After the final whistle, Don Shula can console his son. Until then, he'll be doing his best to beat him.

Opinions

If you're confused by what the Los Angeles Rams are up to, you're not alone. Everybody has an opinion, and it's usually a different one.

The Orange Country Register reported that it's down to Anaheim, Calif., and St. Louis. Jim Gray reported on NBC-TV that Baltimore is the leader. Fred Edelstein said the team will remain in Anaheim and hire Jimmy Johnson.

There was a surge of sentiment for St. Louis last weekend when E. Stanley Kroenke, the Wal-Mart heir who's the money man in St. Louis, watched the game with Rams executive vice president John Shaw, who also invited members of the St. Louis media to meet with him.

Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins tried to pull a pre-emptive strike by getting the owners to vote to approve a move to the stadium in Laurel in Dallas last Wednesday.

John Kent Cooke, the son of owner Jack Kent Cooke, led the owners to believe that all the hurdles have been cleared in Laurel. There was no mention that the hearing officer, Robert Wilcox, hasn't ruled on their request for a zoning variance. They didn't mention their strange entry pass plan.

"They left the impression that it was all done," said one owner, who was surprised to hear that the zoning plan wasn't approved.

But if the Redskins were trying to close out Baltimore, they didn't succeed.

Despite the hostility toward Baltimore in the league office, it's a different story in the owners' ranks. "Baltimore still has a lot of friends in the league," one executive said.

Several owners asked what the impact was on Baltimore, and Shaw even asked what if he wanted to move there.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the Laurel move would have no impact on Baltimore. This would appear to mean the league won't mount a legal fight to keep a team out of Baltimore.

After the meeting, Shaw said publicly that Baltimore isn't out of it. Even if he just wants to use Baltimore for leverage, he wants it in the race as he mulls over offers from Anaheim and St. Louis.

The feeling around the league, though, is that if the Rams want the best deal, they'll go to Baltimore -- even if it means a fight with Cooke.

As one owner said: "Some people aren't going to want to cross the old man [Cooke], and Mrs. Ram [Georgia Frontiere] might be one of them. I don't know if she's up to the fight, but she's crazy if she doesn't go for it [Baltimore] because it's the best package you can get."

So what's going to happen? Probably even the Rams don't know yet.

Dropping names

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