It's been a tradition that the winning Super Bowl coach gets a call from the president after the game. But in 1972, Don Shula received a phone call from President Richard Nixon before Super Bowl VI, a game that pitted Shula's Miami Dolphins against the Dallas Cowboys.
"They had the 'Nixon White House' on Key Biscayne," Shula, 83, told Yahoo! Sports recently. "He'd spend whatever time he could there. I guess he became a Dolphin fan."
On the arm of quarterback Bob Griese, the legs of running back Larry Csonka and the hands of wide receiver Paul Warfield, the 1971 Miami Dolphins cruised through the regular season with a 10-3-1 record.
Still, they entered Super Bowl VI in New Orleans a six-point underdog to the Cowboys, winners of nine straight. Nixon, apparently, thought the Dolphins could use some help.
"I still think you can hit Paul Warfield on that down-and-in pattern," Nixon reportedly told Shula.
"I said, 'Yeah, that's a good idea,' " Shula told Yahoo! Sports.
Folklore has it the call came on Jan. 3 at 1:30 a.m., though Shula disputes that now. Regardless of the timing, Nixon's advice was hardly a revelation for Shula; Warfield was Griese's favorite target.
"Warfield was a great receiver, one of our biggest threats," Shula explained, "so I'm sure we game-planned him to be a big part of what we were trying to do offensively."
On their eighth play from scrimmage, the Dolphins ran the slant to Warfield. The result? Cowboys linebacker Mel Renfro deflected it away for an incomplete pass.
Nixon's call to Shula may not have been his first to a head coach. Nixon is believed to have phoned Washington Redskins' coach George Allen a week earlier to recommend he run a flanker reverse with Roy Jefferson in the 'Skins playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. Another version of the story has Allen asking Nixon to recommend the play to quarterback Billy Kilmer. In any event, Nixon and Allen did talk, the Redskins ran the play from the 49ers' 8-yard line and Jefferson lost 13 yards. Washington subsequently missed a field goal and eventually lost 24-20.
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The Dolphins wound up losing Super Bowl VI to the Cowboys 24-3, becoming the first and still only team not to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
"The fact that he was so interested and a fan of football made me feel good," Shula said. "It was an honest effort on his part to help, so I enjoyed the conversation."
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