Former Bengals coach Dave Shula returns to football after decades away

BENGALS BOY HEAD COACH, DAVID SHULA, AT PRACTICE.

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BENGALS BOY HEAD COACH, DAVID SHULA, AT PRACTICE.

Here’s a blast from the past for Bengals fans: Dave Shula is back in coaching.

Yes, that Dave Shula.

For those of you blessedly young enough to have missed pro football in Cincinnati in the 1990s, Shula helped kick off that disastrous decade as coach of the Bengals from 1992-96.

The son of legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula went 19-52 before his tenure mercifully ended seven games into the 1996 season.

While the father has the most coaching victories in the NFL, the son has the worst winning percentage in league history among those who coached at least 70 games.

Dave Shula spent the last two-plus decades running the family's restaurants, but he told the Miami Herald he always intended to continue coaching.

His football résumé is upside down. After 10 seasons as an NFL assistant coach — including seven with his father's Dolphins from 1982 to 1988 — and then another 4 ½ years as Bengals head coach, Shula is a first-time college coach.

The heir to his father's record-setting coaching genes but also to the weight of his shadow, Dave never quit on football or the NFL back in '96. The NFL quit on him.

Given that he didn’t have much of a resume before Mike Brown put him in charge of the previously respectable Bengals, that does not come as a huge surprise, but this country loves nothing more than a comeback story, so perhaps it was inevitable the younger Shula would get another chance.

His return to coaching also gave the Dartmouth sports information department a fun challenge: How do you brag about hiring the losing-est coach in NFL history?

Shula spent 15 seasons coaching in the NFL, the last five as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals (1992-96) as one of the youngest head coaches — 32 when he was hired — the league has ever had. His final full season in Cincinnati was his best, leading the squad to a 7-9 record and a tie for second place in the AFC Central in 1995.

The rest concentrates on his alleged role in mentoring Dolphins stars Dan Marino, Mark Duper and Mark Clayton while working for his father and Shula's helping to "start the rebuilding process under new head coach Jimmy Johnson" with the Cowboys.

As a former sports information department student intern, I can only tip my cap to the effort, especially not bothering to even include his overall record.

As bios go, this is nothing short of an SID work of art.

At any rate, good for Dave Shula if this is his passion.

Maybe his final football chapter will turn out to be a happy one after all.

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