Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Buddy Ryan

Former NFL head coach and influential defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan died Tuesday. He was 82.

Ryan, who was outspoken and coached in the NFL for 26 seasons, was known for building some of football's top defenses with a relentlessness that focused on creating havoc on the field.

His death was confirmed by the Buffalo Bills, who employ twin sons Rex and Rob Ryan. James Solano, Buddy Ryan's agent, said he died in Kentucky, where he lived on a ranch in Shelbyville, but did not give a cause.

"I wonder who just lost their defensive-coordinating job in heaven," former Chicago Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael told ESPN on Tuesday.

James David Ryan was a Korean War veteran who went to Oklahoma State, then got a master's degree from Middle Tennessee State even while coaching. He got his first major job in the pros in New York, then of the American Football League, in 1968. Ryan was the linebackers coach for the Joe Namath-led Jets, a boastful, confident team that fit his personality.

Those Jets led the AFL in defense in his first season on staff, then shocked the Colts in the Super Bowl 16-7.

Buddy Ryan's first job as a defensive coordinator came in 1976 with the Minnesota Vikings under Bud Grant, like Ewbank a Hall of Fame coach. He spent two years there before moving to the rival Bears, where he concocted the 46 defense that overwhelmed the league with its aggressiveness and unpredictability.

With the Bears, Ryan's notoriety skyrocketed. The 46 defense was founded on sending more blitzing players than an offense could block. And in 1984, the Bears tallied 72 sacks, a record that still stands. The '85 Bears capped their Super Bowl title with seven sacks.

Ryan's defenders, featuring such Hall of Famers as linebacker Mike Singletary and ends Dan Hampton and Richard Dent, came from all angles and were nearly impossible to budge on the ground. Not that teams had more success in the air, either.

Ryan and head coach Mike Ditka often feuded during that 15-1 '85 season and Super Bowl run. They nearly slugged it out at halftime of Chicago's only defeat, at Miami on a Monday night in December. (Ryan later punched offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride on national TV on Jan. 2, 1994, when both were assistant coaches with the Houston Oilers.)

"We won a Super Bowl together, and we would have never did it without each other," Ditka told SportsCenter on Tuesday. "... Buddy was far before his time, really. He did things defensively that people had no concept of. It took a long time for people to figure out what to do against his defense, not that they ever figured it out.

"What Buddy did was genius. He was way ahead of his time."

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