CINCINNATI — The name is Shula, as in coaching dean Don Shula. Now it also means the youngest coach in the NFL and sets the stage for the NFL's first father-son matchup the next time the Cincinnati Bengals play the Miami Dolphins.
The Bengals on Friday chose David Shula as their new coach, making Don Shula's 32-year-old son the youngest coach in league history. Shula succeeds Sam Wyche, whose eight-year tenure ended Tuesday.
"I talked to my father several times in recent days, and he's very excited for me," David Shula said. "He kidded me, he said: 'You know you're going to break my record, don't you?' And I really hadn't thought about it at the time. He said: 'You're going to be the youngest head coach ever hired in the National Football League.'
"But he said: 'I'm all for you. The next record I hope you break is 300 wins.' I said I want to get one win first, and then we'll think about 300."
That victory probably won't come at his father's expense. The Bengals and Dolphins are not scheduled to play in 1992. Any meeting next season would have to come in the playoffs.
But before that, David Shula has a tough job ahead. The Bengals were 3-13--the worst record in franchise history. And they also had the league's worst defense.
Shula, the Bengals' wide receivers coach last season, has a simple game plan.
"My goals are simple: to win the Central Division, and if we don't win the Central Division, to qualify for the playoffs. And once in the playoffs, to win the Super Bowl," he said.
Boomer Esiason, critical of the Bengals for ousting Wyche, said he was relieved that the Bengals' basic offense will be retained.
"I can't tell you how happy I am that the same playbook is going to be there for the offense," Esiason said. "And I think that's really the key for us on offense."
A former wide receiver at Dartmouth, Shula has plenty of NFL experience.
"Some people are going to think that David is a little young to be an NFL head coach," Bengal General Manager Mike Brown said. "But you should bear in mind that he has been an NFL assistant for 10 years. Not only that, my first recollection of him is as a young boy on the sideline down at Miami next to his dad, taking down the plays during the game, keeping notes that way."
Shula's worked from 1982-88 as an assistant to his father, then spent two years with the Dallas Cowboys before joining the Bengals in January.
Brown said Shula has a three-year contract but declined to discuss salary.
With the Shula name, there has always been added pressure on David to excel. Don Shula, with 306 victories, is the winningest active coach in the NFL.
"There's certainly going to be pressure, with what's happening in the NFL in the coaching ranks," Don Shula said. "I don't know how you can get any more pressure than what you have now."
Shula follows in his father's footsteps as being a young head coach. Don Shula was the league's youngest coach when he got the top job with the Baltimore Colts in 1963 at age 33.
John Madden was 32 years 10 months old when he became head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1969. Shula is three months younger.
Brown acknowledged the close ties between his family and the Shulas. Don Shula once played defensive back for Paul Brown with the Cleveland Browns.
"He comes from a distinguished football family, and some us don't hold that against him," said Brown.
"I guess it's up to David to prove how smart I am."
Youngest NFL Coaches
The youngest coaches in the modern era of the NFL, including their age at the time of their appointment.
COACH TEAM AGE David Shula Cincinnati 32 John Madden Raiders 32 Don Shula Baltimore Colts 33 Mike Shanahan Raiders 36 Tom Landry Dallas 36 Chuck Noll Pittsburgh 37 Dan Reeves Denver 37 Les Steckel Minnesota 38 Ray Perkins New York Giants 38 Bill Belichick Cleveland 38 Sam Wyche Cincinnati 39 Al Saunders San Diego 39 Dick Vermeil Philadelphia 39
Note: David Shula's age at his head coach appointment was 32 years 7 months. John Madden's was 32 years 10 months.