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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Shula Showdown: Son Takes On Legend

LOS ANGELES -- This landmark meeting between a father and a son will be celebrated, fittingly, with a family reunion.


On Saturday at the son's house in suburban Cincinnati, three generations of Shulas will gather to hug and laugh about football and life.


They will talk about a first game, the son's, when he was 5 and watched his father's team lose a National Football League championship game.


The son said it was then he realized the power of his father's sport, because it was the first time he had seen grown men cry.


They will talk about a 484th game, the father's, the one in which he became the most winning coach in NFL history.


Watching the highlights on television, the son saw a grown man cry on that day, too.


It will be a night rich in emotion. But before the memories have slowed to a trickle, it will become clear that someone is missing.


That someone will be the father.


Laying the ground rules for the first professional sports meeting between father and son head coaches, Don Shula said he would skip the niceties and concentrate on the game Sunday night between his Miami Dolphins and son Dave's Cincinnati Bengals.


"He's got his team, I've got my team," Don said Monday. "I've got things I've always done with my team on Saturday, and that's not going to change.


"It will be a proud and special day, but once the game starts, that is all I'll be thinking about," Don said.


And doesn't Dave know it.


Amid a losing streak that might well cost him his job, probably the worst person Dave Shula could face Sunday is his father.


No coach will prepare for it more. And no coach will want it as badly.


Renowned for his devotion to his five children -- he openly lobbied for a contract extension for Dave on Monday -- Don Shula is equally renowned for his devotion to winning.


This is a man who has coached against teams employing his two sons five times in the NFL -- and never lost.


Four of those victories were over teams that had Dave as either a player or coach. The other was against son Mike, currently an assistant coach with the Chicago Bears.


He has outscored them, 129-69.


"I really enjoyed those games where I was on the other side of the field from him," Dave said wistfully. "Now, I'd like to find out what it's like to win one of them."


He needs that to happen Sunday, with his team winless in four games and his head coaching record at 8-28. Bruce Coslet, the Bengals' new offensive coordinator, is waiting to take his job. Dwindling numbers of Bengal fans are waiting to embarrass him in front of a national television audience.


And whom must he outsmart? A man who has won 322 more NFL games than he.


A man who has taught him everything.


The irony is not lost on the rest of the family, most of which is cheering for Dave.


"It's a case of rooting for the one who needs it more -- and in this case, that's obvious," said Jim Shula, Don's brother and Dave's uncle. "This could be the game that puts Dave over the hump. This game will tell a lot about what his team thinks of him. If they think a lot of him, they will play hard."


Said Dave with a laugh: "There are no maybes about it. My three sisters are rooting for me and so is Mike. If he says he's not, well, he's not telling the truth."