Baltimore freelance writer Jack Gilden's new book, "Collision of Wills: Johnny Unitas, Don Shula, and the Rise of the Modern NFL" (University of Nebraska Press) is a reminder of a time when the Baltimore Colts were among the classiest teams in NFL history (and the Orioles were still among baseball's classiest). It offers a revealing behind-the-scenes look at one of the game's most idolized players and one of its most triumphant coaches -- and how the two men won with remarkable consistency despite their sheer contempt for each other.
It's a mark of our changing journalism that nobody in that decade, starting in 1963, reported the tension between the two key figures on that ballclub. Shula was a control freak who wanted to call the offensive plays. Unitas was the game's brightest star, and a brilliant, seasoned play-caller, who resented anyone telling him how to run his offense.
Unitas was the last of a breed when quarterbacks figuratively drew pass patterns in the dirt. Shula was the uninvited visitor from a mechanized future that would evolve into robotic quarterbacks receiving plays dictated into their helmets.
What's more, Unitas had won two NFL championships under Weeb Ewbank, who treated him in a fatherly fashion. Unitas loved him for that. Shula was a screamer. Unitas hated him for that.
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