"Who's Shula?" Hilton said. "I didn't play for him. I was just on the team. I never came into direct contact with Shula, but he'd find a way to chew you out one way or the other. No matter what you did, it wasn't enough."
If football's strange science of opposites dictates that the easy-riding Miami team needed an ambitious martinet like Don Shula, it also dictates that the sore-oppressed Baltimore players needed a Spockian coach like Don McCafferty, who stepped into Shula's shoes after 11 years in the shadows. The towering, soft-spoken McCafferty does not knock Shula, and vice versa; the two are mutual admirers. But they are as different as Joe Robbie's stiletto and Carroll Rosenbloom's air-to-air rockets.
"I never did like to scream," McCafferty said. "I never liked to be yelled at when I was a player. If you treat players like men, they'll perform like men. If they don't, then get rid of them. Sometimes you'll lose anyway, but there's no sense dwelling on it. As I said after we lost to Kansas City, 'There's no use looking up a dead horse's butt.' People are human beings, not machines. Far as working long hours is concerned, I have a sign somewhere that says, 'It's not how many hours you put in, but what you put in your hours.' "
When Baltimore lost to Kansas City 44-24 early this season McCafferty said, "We stunk out the joint; it was a real team effort," and closed the book on the subject. He intended to ignore the game film entirely, but compromised with other members of the coaching staff by running it without comment.
"How can you not love a guy like that?" said Bubba Smith, who said last year that he was tired of being "yelled at just for the sake of being yelled at." Said Smith, "I'm down to 264 from 280. It's the lightest I've weighed in years and as a result I'm moving better. That's because a guy like Don McCafferty makes you want to play for him. Why, the first thing he did when he was named coach, he called the ballplayers in one by one and talked to them. Me he asked, 'Bubba, why is it in training camp all the black ballplayers sit at one table and the whites at another?' He's been worried about things like that, working on them, and as a result we're getting our thing together, blacks and whites, all of us. Why, Billy Ray Smith, he's my roommate and he's from Arkansas and Billy Ray's about as Southern white as you can get. You know what I mean? But, man, when I say something to Billy Ray now he says, 'Right on, baby,' he says, 'Right on, brother.' I don't say Billy Ray's seen the whole truth yet, but he's trying, he's trying."
Football teams respond to a number of stimuli, and strychnine to one is ambrosia to another. By the time the insulted and overworked Dolphins had made regular-season contact with the relaxed and freewheeling Colts on Sunday, the game had become a battle for first place in the AFC East, and while the front offices were trying to sink harpoons into each other the players were trying hard to concentrate on the important task at hand. "It'll be like playing against ourselves," said Mike Curtis just before the game. "With Shula, Miami's our mirror image." "They use the same plays," said Billy Ray Smith. "Two-thirds of the time they run on first down. Second and short, they're going to run. They throw only when it's obvious."
"I know one thing," team leader John Mackey warned. "They'll come in here ready to knock us off for one simple reason: because he's coaching them. He'll have them higher than the clouds. Hell, I didn't always get along with Shula either, but I also know that when I line up to play Sunday I can't worry about him. If we go in there uptight and thinking we're going to whip on Shula's ass, we're going to miss the whole point. This isn't the front office playing the front office, man."
But for all the skills displayed in the first half, it might as well have been Robbie vs. Rosenbloom. While a plane circled overhead pulling a DON SHULA HELLO AGAIN banner, the Colts and the Dolphins seemed to be playing in one of those poker games where the pot goes to the worst hand. Perhaps it was tension, but both teams performed as though Pat Palenka was playing every position. Bubba Smith was so eager to get to Quarterback Bob Griese, he was blowing in like an Olympic sprint champion and, given a boost in the wrong direction by double-team blocking, running right past Griese, who stepped up into the pocket, waited for the wind to subside and fired his passes straight into the butterfingers of Marv Fleming and Paul Warfield, who dropped them. A high pass from center snuffed out one Baltimore field-goal attempt, and the Colts flubbed another by taking too long to line up. A Miami player hit Baltimore's Ron Gardin after he called for a fair catch, and somehow Don Shula never changed expression as the official marked off 15 yards.
Ineptness followed ineptness. Griese tried an end-around to Warfield and, harried by a blitz, bumped into one of his own men before making the hand-off. Baltimore Back Norm Bulaich dropped a short pass, and two plays later was running in the clear when the ball squirted out of his hands for no visible reason, nullifying a splendid John Unitas call and an 18-yard gain. The only offensive punch was provided by Gardin, who took a punt on the dead run and scooted 80 yards for a touchdown. Later the flustered Griese threw his second interception and Unitas cashed in on one of his patented two-minute drills for a 14-0 halftime lead.
With 17 seconds gone in the third quarter, the ball game ended. Baltimore's Jim Duncan took a Garo Yepremian kickoff 99 yards, making the score 21-0 and forcing Miami out of its bread-and-butter running game and into a world it had never known—throwing passes into the Colts' zone, which features a three-man pass rush (if you count Bubba Smith as a single man), four linebackers and four deep backs. The result was predictable. Baltimore, tranquilized by its three-touchdown advantage, settled down to crisp efficiency, and the desperate Dolphins floundered to the 35-0 loss. "Well, we knew it would be a bodybuilder," said Miami Assistant Coach Monte Clark. Said McCafferty, "We're getting better every game."