MIAMI LAKES (CBSMiami) – Legendary former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula thinks the Dolphins should make every effort to land Peyton Manning as their quarterback to make the Dolphins a force to be reckoned with, “again, like the Dolphins have been in the past.”
Speaking Thursday amid the furor produced by Manning’s free agency, the coach with 347 career victories and the NFL’s only perfect season said there’s no uncertainty about what he’s be doing if he were still at the helm of the Dolphins.
“If Don Shula were put in this position,” he said in an exclusive interview with CBS4 Sports. “I would be very interested in Peyton Manning, and I would do everything in my power to make sure that he ends up with that helmet with the Dolphin logo.”
“I would want Peyton Manning, no matter what.”
For Shula, it’s all about winning, but he sees Manning as more than someone who can points on the board. He believes Manning would bring the Dolphins two things that have lacked in recent years; leadership and respect.
“I think that’s so important. When you get a guy like Peyton Manning, I mean you’re talking about someone that’s very, very special. He’s been there, and done that, and he’s going to have the respect of everybody the minute he walks through the door, and hopefully he will walk in that door, and then immediately he’s going to have this leadership and respect of everybody else; you know, he’s been a winner and he’s going to make everybody else around him a winner.”
Shula believes Manning is key as the Dolphins try to win the respect of the fans and the other NFL teams, but he believes Manning is just the start.
“We’ve got to get that respect back, and it starts with the owner, Steve Ross, and it goes to the Coach, the new Coach. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with him and I think he’s going to do a good job, he comes from a good background there in Green Bay, and then also with the players,” Shula said.
With all the admiration he has for Manning and his skills, Coach Shula also cast a wary eye on Manning’s health, and his fitness to play. No matter what Manning brings to the table as a leader and inspiration, he said the Fins have to be satisfied he’ll be able to lead on the field.
“Certainly, you’re going to want to ask him how he feels, and whether or not he thinks he can continue to play in the National Football League, but obviously he does feel that he’s going to continue to be able to play,” Shula said.
“Then of course you’ve got to get all the medical opinions, you’ve got to get all those that you can get, and then find out that he’s not going to be the big risk that a lot of people think he will be, so I think that’s the big issue with Peyton right now, the question of how he’s going to be medically.”
Another issue is the high demand for Manning’s services. As many as 12 teams, including Miami, are said to have an interest. Miami has a new coach, and a lot of things broke that need fixing, so there’s a valid question; why would Peyton want to take on a team as it rebuilds?
“I would look for the organization, the history of the organization, the reputation of the organization. I’d look at ownership, the people in the management part of it, and I’d look to see the players they they have on their roster and the players they are capable of getting for the future, where they stand in the draft and what they plan on doing.
“All those things are so important,” said Shula, “and he’s got to have that conviction that the Dolphins want want him, and the Dolphins want to move ahead with him, you know, being the leader of a team that’s going to be reckoned with again, like the Dolphins have been in the past.”
If Manning likes the Fins and the Fins like him, that may not be enough unless Miami can lay enough money down on the table to win an expensive QB who is injured, aging, and has a question mark next to his name when it comes to the remaining days in his career.
When asked if Manning might be too expensive, Shula chuckled. “It’s not my money,” he said with a smile. “A coach never thinks it’s too much. He wants that player regardless. And I’m sure Steven Ross wants that. I’m sure that he wants the best player that he can get to help the Dolphins to get where he wants them to go.
“Hopefully he’s got some football left here in Miami.”