Buddy Ryan

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For the Major League Baseball outfielder, see Buddy Ryan (baseball).
Buddy Ryan
Photograph of Ryan wearing dark pinstripe shirt
Ryan at the White House in 2011
Personal information
Date of birth: (1931-02-17)February 17, 1931
Place of birth: Frederick, Oklahoma
Date of death: June 28, 2016(2016-06-28) (aged 85)
Place of death: Shelbyville, Kentucky
Career information
College: Oklahoma State
Career history
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Regular season: 55–55–1 (.500)
Postseason: 0–3 (.000)
Career: 55–58–1 (.487)
Coaching stats at PFR

James David "Buddy" Ryan (February 17, 1931 – June 28, 2016) was an American football coach in the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL). During his 35-season coaching career, Ryan served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, and the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears and Houston Oilers of the NFL.

Ryan began his professional coaching career as the defensive line coach for the New York Jets of the AFL for the team's Super Bowl III victory. He became the defensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings, overseeing the Purple People Eaters. He then became the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, who won Super Bowl XX. As defensive coordinator of the Bears, he created the 46 defense, and the 1985 team led the league in nearly all defensive statistical categories. Ryan then coached the Eagles, served as defensive coordinator of the Oilers, and coached the Cardinals. He was the father of NFL coaches Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan.

Early years[edit]

Ryan was born on February 17, 1931,[1] and raised in a "small, agricultural-based community" outside of Frederick, Oklahoma.[2] His obituary in The New York Times references the confusion about the year Ryan was born: "His birth year was often listed as 1934; as Rex Ryan said in his memoir, his father had subtracted a few years from his true age to come off as more youthful when first looking for an NFL job."[1] Ryan played college football for Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State) where he earned four letters as a guard between 1952 and 1955. He served as a sergeant in the United States Army during the Korean War.[3]

Coaching[edit]

High school[edit]

Ryan began his coaching career at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Texas, in 1957 as an assistant coach under Dub Wooten. When Wooten became head coach at Marshall High School in 1959, Ryan was promoted to head coach at Gainesville. After one season at Gainesville, he "spent one year as high-school athletic director in Marshall, Texas."[4]

College[edit]

In 1961, after completing service in the military, (which included playing on the Fourth Army championship football team in Japan)[4] Ryan was determined to continue coaching football when he returned, and not at the high school ranks. However, with so many great coaches already in Texas, college jobs were hard to find. Carl Speegle, a former coach of Ryan's, contacted Dick Offenhamer, the head coach of the Buffalo Bulls of the University at Buffalo (UB), who needed a defensive line coach and was also preparing for the program's first season at the NCAA Division I level. From 1962 through 1965, the Bulls defense ranked among the national leaders, posting 12 shutouts in that span as well as producing Gerry Philbin. In 1964, Lou Saban, the head coach of the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League (AFL), reportedly offered Ryan a similar job with the Bills, but Ryan received a $2,000 raise from UB to stay. In 1965, Ryan took a job at Pacific, before finishing his college coaching career the following season with Vanderbilt.[5]

New York Jets[edit]

Ryan joined the New York Jets of the AFL in 1968. His and Walt Michaels' defensive game plan was instrumental in holding the NFL's Baltimore Colts to seven points in Super Bowl III and earning Ryan his first Super Bowl ring. Seeing the emphasis that Weeb Ewbank placed on protecting Joe Namath and his fragile knees, Ryan created multiple blitz packages (i.e. the "59 blitz", the "Taco Bell blitz", and the "Cheeseburger blitz") reasoning that the quarterback is the focal point of any offense, and that a defense must attack the offense's strength and centerpiece.[6]

Minnesota Vikings[edit]

In 1976 and 1977, Ryan served as defensive line coach for the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings' defensive line, known as the "Purple People Eaters", was heralded for ability to punish rivals.[7] The 1976 Vikings won the NFC Championship and appeared in Super Bowl XI. In 1977, the Vikings won the NFC Central and reached the NFC Championship game.[8] During his time with the Vikings, Ryan started working on a defensive nickel scheme designed to disrupt the passing game. That formed the early basis of the 46 defense.[9]

Chicago Bears[edit]

In 1978, George Halas brought in Ryan as defensive coordinator. With the Bears, Ryan created the 46 defense, named after then Bears safety Doug Plank, but it wasn't until 1981 that the scheme was perfected.[9] This was due in large part because of Mike Singletary's ability to single-handedly dominate the middle of the field.[10] When Bears head coach Neill Armstrong was fired in 1982,[11] the "defensive players lobbied Bears owner George Halas to let Ryan take over.",[12] or pleaded "for the owner to retain Ryan as defensive coordinator".[11] Mike Ditka was hired as the head coach. Ryan and Ditka "feuded openly",[13][14] though Ditka "delegated the defense to Buddy and left him in charge."[15] "Ditka challenged Ryan to a fight during halftime"[16] of the Bears' 1985 matchup versus the Miami Dolphins, with the team at 12–0 and trailing 31–10 in a nationally televised Monday Night Football broadcast. "The guys on the team had to separate them—the offense getting Ditka away from Ryan and defensive guys holding Buddy."[17] The Bears went on to lose the game 38–24, which was their only loss of the season. However the team would go on to Super Bowl XX where they would dominate the New England Patriots 46–10. The Bears defense carried Ryan off the field on their shoulders[18] "...right behind Mike Ditka", who was also being carried off the field.[14] This was the first time two coaches ever got carried off the field at the Super Bowl.[19]

The Bears defense set several NFL records in 1985, and led the league in turnovers forced and surrendered the fewest yards, points, and first downs.[20]

Philadelphia Eagles[edit]

That offseason, Ryan was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles as their head coach.[21] Ryan released running back Earnest Jackson, who had rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both of the previous two seasons,[22] and limiting the playing time of veteran quarterback Ron Jaworski. Ryan coached players such as Randall Cunningham, Reggie White, and Andre Waters and drafted Pro Bowlers Seth Joyner, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Eric Allen, Cris Carter, Fred Barnett, and Keith Jackson. The Eagles made the playoffs in 1988, 1989, and 1990.[23]

On October 25, 1987, he came under fire after a game against the Dallas Cowboys by scoring a touchdown in the final seconds, when the outcome was no longer in doubt.[24] This was apparently Ryan's revenge against Dallas head coach Tom Landry, who Ryan felt had run up the score against the Eagles' replacement players during the 1987 players' strike, using many of the Cowboys players that had crossed the picket line.[25] On November 22, 1989, Ryan found himself at the center of another scandal, when Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson alleged Ryan had taken out a "bounty" on two Cowboys players—then-current Dallas (and former Philadelphia) placekicker Luis Zendejas and quarterback Troy Aikman in a game dubbed "Bounty Bowl" played on Thanksgiving Day at Texas Stadium.[26][27] Ryan's Eagles compiled an 8–2 record against the Cowboys.

Ryan was fired by the Eagles in 1991 after going 43–38–1 in five seasons, a total that included an 0–3 record in playoff games.[28] Ryan subsequently became an NFL commentator for CNN.[29]

Houston Oilers[edit]

Ryan became the defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers in 1993, and his defensive team helped propel the Oilers to an 11-game winning streak at the end of the 1993 NFL season. On January 2, 1994, in the last game of the regular season against the New York Jets, Ryan was involved in a sideline altercation with the Oilers' offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride during the nationally-telecast game.[30]

Ryan had been criticizing Gilbride's "run and shoot", referring to it as the "chuck and duck."[31] Ryan thought that last-minute defensive stands lost him two players to injuries when the offense could have simply run the clock out. At the end of the first half in the game against the Jets, Gilbride called a pass play, and when Cody Carlson fumbled the snap, Ryan started yelling at Gilbride, who then started walking towards Ryan, yelling back. When they were at arm's length, "Ryan ... attempted to punch Gilbride in the jaw"[31] before linebacker Keith McCants and several other Oilers players separated them.[32]

Arizona Cardinals[edit]

After being given a large share of the credit for the success in Houston in 1993, he was named head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 1994.[33] On arriving in Phoenix, Buddy Ryan announced, "You've got a winner in town."[34] Also named general manager of the Cardinals, Ryan went 8–8 his first year, but had a 4–12 record the following season. He spent two seasons there[34] and compiled a record of 12–20.[35]

Legacy[edit]

Ryan was an assistant on three different teams to make the Super Bowl (New York Jets, Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings). Ryan built his reputation as a defensive specialist and was largely credited with implementing and perfecting the 46 defense.[9]

As of January 2016, Ryan's twin sons are both on the coaching staff of the Buffalo Bills: Rex Ryan is head coach, and Rob Ryan is assistant head coach of defense.[36]

Personal life[edit]

Ryan was previously married to Doris Ryan, and had three sons: Jim and fraternal twins, Rex and Rob. Ryan and Doris divorced after 11 years of marriage, eight months after Rex and Rob were born.[37]

Ryan met his second wife, Joanie Ryan, in 1968 when the two lived in the same apartment building in the Bayside neighborhood of Queens, while Ryan was an assistant coach with the New York Jets. The two married in 1970. Joanie died in September 2013 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.[38]

Ryan died on June 28, 2016, on his ranch in Shelbyville, Kentucky after a lengthy illness. He will be buried at Lawrenceburg Cemetery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, where he also had a farm.[39] Ryan had battled cancer and suffered a major stroke in recent years.[40]

Head coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular season Post-season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
PHI 1986 5 10 1 .344 4th in NFC East
PHI 1987 7 8 0 .467 2nd in NFC East
PHI 1988 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Chicago Bears in NFC Divisional Game.
PHI 1989 11 5 0 .688 2nd in NFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Los Angeles Rams in NFC Wild Card Game.
PHI 1990 10 6 0 .625 2nd in NFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Washington Redskins in NFC Wild Card Game.
PHI Total 43 35 1 .551 0 3 .000
ARI 1994 8 8 0 .500 3rd in NFC East
ARI 1995 4 12 0 .250 5th in NFC East
ARI Total 12 20 0 .375 0 0 .000
Total 55 55 1 .500 0 3 .000

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Goldstein, Richard (June 28, 2016). "Buddy Ryan, Combative Defensive Genius in the N.F.L., Dies at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  2. ^ Mark Bowden Bringing the Heat, p.78, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87113-772-0
  3. ^ Ray Didinger and Robert S. Lyons The Eagles Encyclopedia, p. 119, Temple University Press, 2005, ISBN 1-59213-449-1
  4. ^ a b Mark Bowden Bringing the Heat, p. 79, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87113-772-0.
  5. ^ Roy Taylor, "Chicago Bears History" p. 59, Arcadia Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-7385-3319-X
  6. ^ Mark Bowden Bringing the Heat, p.80, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1994, ISBN 0-87113-772-0
  7. ^ "Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan dies at age 85". NFL.com. July 21, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Condolences to the family of Buddy Ryan from the Minnesota Vikings – Story | KMSP". Fox9.com. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c "Buddy Ryan, defensive architect of 1985 Bears, dies at 85". Chicago Tribune. June 28, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2016. 
  10. ^ Sean Lahman The Pro Football Historical Abstract: A Hardcore Fan's Guide to All-Time Player Rankings", p.205, Lyons Press, 2008, ISBN 978-1-59228-940-0
  11. ^ a b Roy Taylor, "Chicago Bears History" p. 69, Arcadia Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-7385-3319-X
  12. ^ Jonathan Rand 300 Pounds of Attitude: The Wildest Stories and Craziest Characters the NFL Has Ever Seen, pp. 58–59, Lyons Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59921-176-3
  13. ^ "The Chicago Bears win the 1986 Super Bowl". Chicago Tribune. January 27, 2015. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Walter Harvey, "The Super Bowl's most wanted: the top 10 book of big-game heroes, pigskin zeroes, and championship oddities", p. 193, Brassey's Inc., 2004, ISBN 1-57488-889-7
  15. ^ Ray Didinger, "Game Plans for Success: Winning Strategies for Business and Life from 10 Top NFL Head Coaches", Mike Ditka, "Hands-on Management" pp. 49–70, p. 58, Contemporary Books, Inc., 1995, ISBN 0-8092-3171-9
  16. ^ Jonathan Rand 300 Pounds of Attitude: The Wildest Stories and Craziest Characters the NFL Has Ever Seen, p. 58, Lyons Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59921-176-3
  17. ^ Steve McMichael and Phil Ariva, "Steve McMichael's Tales from the Chicago Bears Sideline", p. 98, Sports Publishing L.L.C, 2004, ISBN 1-58261-800-3
  18. ^ Merrill Reese and Mark Eckel Merrill Reese "It's Gooooood!", p. 95, Sports Publishing Inc., 1998 ISBN 1-58261-000-2
  19. ^ Steve McMichael and Phil Ariva, "Steve McMichael's Tales from the Chicago Bears Sideline", p. 128, Sports Publishing L.L.C, 2004, ISBN 1-58261-800-3
  20. ^ "1985 Chicago Bears Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Ryan Signs 5-Year Eagle Contract". Los Angeles Times. January 29, 1986. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  22. ^ Heidorn Jr., Rich (September 17, 1986). "Earnest Jackson Is Waived Runner Is 7th '85 Starter Dumped By Ryan". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved June 29, 2016. 
  23. ^ Aaron Kasinitz (June 28, 2016). Buddy Ryan's legacy lives on in this 1988 Philadelphia Eagles rap video. PennLive. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  24. ^ "He's sure no Buddy to the Cowboys". Eugene Register-Guard. October 27, 1987. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Pro Football: Ryan Gets Revenge in the End". Los Angeles Times. October 26, 1987. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  26. ^ Anderson, Dave (November 26, 1989). "Sports of The Times – The Backfire From Buddy Ryan's 'Bounties'". NYTimes.com. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  27. ^ "17 fined for 'Bounty Bowl'". Boca Raton News. Associated Press. December 22, 1989. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Ryan Out In Philly". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. January 9, 1991. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  29. ^ Eagles vs. Redskins always a hot rivalry. Bangor Daily News. Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  30. ^ Litsky, Frank. "PRO FOOTBALL; Trying To Keep A Lid On Ryan". Archived from the original on June 28, 2016. Retrieved January 10, 2010. 
  31. ^ a b Jonathan Rand 300 Pounds of Attitude: The Wildest Stories and Craziest Characters the NFL Has Ever Seen, p. 69, Lyons Press, 2006, ISBN 978-1-59921-176-3
  32. ^ Lapointe, Joe (January 4, 1994). "Pro Football; Is Game Still Football? Oilers Think It's Boxing". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  33. ^ "On Ryan's Farm, Memories Fresh and Fading". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  34. ^ a b Pierre Mornell, "45 Effective Ways for Hiring Smart! : How to Predict Winners and Losers in the Incredibly Expensive People-Reading Game", p. 131, Ten Speed Press, 1998, ISBN 1-58008-514-8
  35. ^ "Former Cardinals coach, defensive mastermind, Buddy Ryan dies at 85". The Daily Courier. Associated Press. June 28, 2016. Retrieved July 1, 2016. 
  36. ^ "Rex Ryan of Buffalo Bills hires Rob Ryan for defense". Espn.go.com. January 11, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  37. ^ Graham, Tim (June 20, 2015). "The wild early years and the football family that shaped Bills coach Rex Ryan". The Buffalo News. Retrieved July 1, 2016. 
  38. ^ Armstrong, Kevin (September 30, 2013). "Buddy Ryan's wife dies after Alzheimer's battle". New York Daily News. Retrieved June 28, 2016. 
  39. ^ "Former NFL coach, defensive guru Buddy Ryan dies at age 85". Espn.go.com. ESPN. June 28, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016. .
  40. ^ Eckel, Mark. "Former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan was one of a kind". NJ.com. Retrieved June 29, 2016.