Shula was born in Baltimore, Maryland on June 3, 1965. He is the son of Don Shula, the NFL's all-time winningest coach, and the younger brother of Dave Shula. Shula attended high school at Christopher Columbus High School, in Miami, Florida, where he won all-state honors and led his team to the state championship game. He enrolled at the University of Alabama, where he started at quarterback for three seasons and graduated with a degree in labor relations in 1987.
Shula's football career started with the Crimson Tide, where he was the starting quarterback from 1984 to 1986. The team's record during these three seasons was 24–11–1, with wins in the Aloha Bowl and the Sun Bowl, plus key victories over USC, Ohio State and Notre Dame. Despite a lack of overwhelming athletic ability or a particularly strong arm, Shula was known for his gutsy performances in big games. He engineered last minute comebacks against Georgia and rival Auburn, in the 1985 Iron Bowl. After graduating from Alabama, Shula was selected in the 12 round as the 313th overall pick of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he saw little playing time in 1987, his only season in the NFL.
Shula has served in assistant coaching positions in the NFL, twice with the Miami Dolphins plus stints with the Chicago Bears and the Buccaneers, where he was offensive coordinator from 1996 to 1999. As offensive coordinator under Tony Dungy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team enjoyed success and narrowly missed the Super Bowl after losing the NFC Championship Game against eventual Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams. Following that 1999 NFC Championship Game, Shula was fired as offensive coordinator after the Bucs finished no higher than 22nd in total offense during his tenure. After his firing from Tampa, Shula went on to be the quarterbacks coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2000-2002, then left to become the head coach of the University of Alabama football team.
Mike Shula was hired as head coach at Alabama in May 2003 after the termination of Mike Price. At the time of his arrival, the program was in great turmoil despite a 10-3 record the previous year. In that year, the program had been hammered by NCAA sanctions, and lost Dennis Franchione to Texas A&M, and subsequently fired Mike Price due to his off-field actions. At the time, he was the second-youngest coach in all of Division I-A football, at age 38.
He was hired on a six-year, $5.4 million contract.
2003 – With the loss of several players from the 2002 team, and an offense that was not fully installed due to time constraints, Alabama suffered through a 4–9 season in 2003. The season was marked by close losses and fourth quarter collapses. In games decided by one score or less, Alabama was 0–6 on the season. Alabama lost overtime games to Arkansas and Tennessee, and generally seemed to be close but not close enough to breaking through virtually all season.
2004 – The 2004 season got off to a quick start with Alabama quickly moving to 3–0 with blowout wins over Middle Tennessee, Mississippi, and Western Carolina. However, against Western Carolina, star quarterback Brodie Croyle tore his right ACL on a pass attempt, ending his season. The injury effectively marked the beginning of the end for the 2004 season. The offense sputtered the rest of the way while suffering even more injuries to several other key players. Starting tailback Ray Hudson suffered a season ending knee injury three weeks later against Kentucky, and starting fullback Tim Castille also suffered a season ending knee injury the following week in the fourth quarter against Tennessee. Backup quarterback Marc Guillon and backup tailback Kenneth Darby were also sidelined due to injuries. Alabama hobbled down the stretch to finish the year 6–6. By the time of the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide had a third-string quarterback, with a fourth-string tailback, two true freshman wide receivers, and a true freshman tight end. The season was, like the year before, marred by close losses. Shula did, however, lead Alabama to its first bowl game since the 2001 season, with a berth in the 2004 Music City Bowl against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Alabama lost the game after the third-string quarterback Spencer Pennington sailed a pass over the head of Tyrone Prothro, who was open in the back of the endzone, and failed to convert on a 4th-and-5.
2005 – The 2005 season would see fortunes turn around for Shula and his Alabama team. Despite a catastrophic leg injury suffered by star wide receiver Tyrone Prothro, Alabama went 10–2 with a victory in the 2006 Cotton Bowl Classic over the Mike Leach-led Texas Tech Red Raiders. The season included blowout wins over Florida and South Carolina, and also included a 6–3 win in a defensive classic over rival Tennessee. Alabama was ranked third in the nation and in the National Championship chase before losing at home in overtime to LSU and getting blown out by archrival Auburn on the road. The relative success gave Shula his first 10–win season in just his third year as head coach and also extended Alabama's lead in respect to having the most 10–win seasons of any program in the nation. Furthermore, the Cotton Bowl Classic appearance and victory extended Alabama's lead in playing in, and winning, more bowl games than any other major school. The Tide finished the season ranked eighth in the nation.
Following the season, the university gave Shula a contract extension—6 years, $1.8 million per year.
2006 – Although few expected Alabama to win 10 games again in 2006, expectations generally still called for a solid eight or nine win season. The Tide jumped out of the gate playing well, moving to 3–0 on the heels of clutch kicking and the solid quarterback play of John Parker Wilson. The team suffered two consecutive losses to the Arkansas Razorbacks and, the eventual national champion, Florida Gators. The Tide struggled the rest of the year, as the offense could not consistently move the ball once inside the red zone, and the defense played below previous standards. The Tide lost to long time rival Tennessee after leading for over fifty minutes. Alabama ended the season by losing their final three games to Mississippi State at home, LSU, and their fifth consecutive Iron Bowl loss to in state rival Auburn, ending with a 6–6 record. On November 26, one week after the Iron Bowl loss, Alabama athletic director Mal Moore notified Mike Shula that he would not be retained as the University of Alabama's head football coach for the 2007 season. The University of Alabama had to pay Shula $4 million left on his contract after they fired him.
On January 16, 2007 the Miami Herald reported that Mike Shula was a candidate to become the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins. At that point he'd already had two interviews for the job. If the job had gone to Shula, he would have obtained the job Nick Saban—the coach who took over at Alabama—had vacated. However, on January 19, 2007, the Miami Dolphins announced that Cam Cameron, then offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, had been appointed to the job.
On January 25, 2007, the Jacksonville Jaguars named Shula their quarterbacks coach. Shula oversaw quarterback David Garrard’s development from becoming a full-time starter in 2007 to making the Pro Bowl in 2009. In Shula’s first year with the Jaguars, Garrard ranked third in the NFL with a 102.2 passer rating – an almost 23-point improvement from the previous season – threw an NFL-low three interceptions and established a team record with a 64.0 completion percentage.
On January 21, 2011, the Carolina Panthers named Shula as their quarterbacks coach. In 2011, Shula helped quarterback Cam Newton earn Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year after turning in one of the most prolific rookie seasons in NFL history, passing for 4,051 yards and accounting for 35 total touchdowns. In 2012, under Shula's tutelage, Newton improved on his Rookie-of-the-Year quarterback rating from 2011 with an 86.2 mark while rushing for more than 700 yards for a second straight season. Newton's 7,920 passing yards in the 2011-12 season surpassed the previous mark for a player’s first two seasons held by Peyton Manning.
On January 18, 2013, the Panthers named Shula as their offensive coordinator. He was named Offensive Coordinator of the Year by Pro Football Focus during the 2015 NFL season.
In the 2015 season, Shula and the Panthers reached Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016. The Panthers fell to the Denver Broncos by a score of 24–10.
Mike Shula is Catholic and is married to Shari Shula. They have three daughters: Samantha, Brooke, and Ryan Lucy. Shula was interviewed by Ron Meyer for the national sports radio show Blessed2Play where he talked about the importance of his Christian faith in his football career.
Assistant coaches under Mike Shula who became NCAA head coaches:Sparky Woods: VMI (2008–2014)