Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan dies at age 85

81369015-chicago-bears-defensive-coordinator-buddy-ryan-super-bowl-xx-850x560A sad day indeed. I think all of us remember if we’re old enough when pro football was fun. Yeah, we all cared you who won and lost, that’s what competition is all about but we also knew that other things were more important than football. I grew up around Chicago, in Northwest Indiana, and I can remember a bunch of us who played high school football, going down to Rensselaer, Indiana to watch the Bears summer camp. I can also remember Walter Peyton, Sweetness himself, running up and down the dunes at Dunes State Park, in full pads, for hours. If you wonder why his knees held out for all those years, well, a lot of it was conditioning.

But in ’85, as we watched daBears, we had a saying, “If they don’t score, we can’t lose”. We said that because the Bears had quite likely the best defense ever seen, anywhere, and a lot of that was Buddy Ryan. Yep, he had trouble getting along with Ditka. Talk about two strong personalities yoked unwillingly together! But they managed, somehow.

And the lessons they taught, first they taught us to work hard and win, that we had to really want to succeed, and do it right, and with discipline and teamwork. They also taught us to relish the fight and to have fun while we did it. Looking back, there was something very American indeed, about that team, some of them just plain didn’t like each other, but when the ball kicked off, that simply didn’t matter, it was time to play the game, and to win it. A lesson many of us need to learn again. It wouldn’t hurt if we also relearned the lesson about leaving the game on the field.

Buddy died last Tuesday, from cancer, and something in me died with him. When I played the game, I was a defensive tackle, and watching how his teams did it was inspirational.

From NFL.com

Oklahoma born and bred, Ryan entered the coaching profession in 1961 with the University of Buffalo following his service in the military. From there, a career as a defensive troubadour began, winding its way through New York, Minnesota, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston and Arizona.

“Without Buddy Ryan … I’m just a guy,” legendary Bears linebacker Mike Singletary said on an ESPN documentary about the 1985 Bears. “He’s someone that you meet, and you think he’s the toughest, meanest guy that you’ll ever meet. But he loves you. He just doesn’t know how to express it. But you know it when he looks at you.”

Added Mike Ditka, the head coach of the 1985 Bears, on Tuesday morning: “Buddy was such an integral part of the Chicago Bears and the ’85 Bears, it was unbelievable.

“There’s no way we win anything without that defense, without his coaching and I think everybody understands that. We won because of our defense, we can never forget that. That’s just the way it was.”

Ryan turned conventional football wisdom on its head early on in his career. He never understood the coddling of NFL quarterbacks, and famously surmised that “a quarterback has never completed a pass when he was flat on his back.” He believed that quarterbacks made too much money, attracted too much attention and acted with an unfair sense of entitlement — and he spent nearly his entire career torturing them.

Bears chairman George H. McCaskey issued the following sentiment:

“Buddy Ryan was the architect of the greatest defense our league has seen. He was brilliant when it came to the X’s and O’s of the game, but what made him special was his ability to create an unwavering confidence in the players he coached. From the day he was hired in 1978, his defenses bought into more than the scheme, they bought into him and took on his personality. Buddy was brash, intelligent and tough. He was a perfect match for our city and team, which is why George Halas took the extraordinary step of keeping him at the behest of his defensive players while transitioning to a new coaching staff in 1982. We will always be grateful for Buddy’s contribution to the Bears. He is one of the team’s all-time greats. Our prayers are with his family.”

via Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan dies at age 85 – NFL.com

So are mine, He was one of the greats, to be associated in our minds forever with the likes of Sweetness, Papa Bear, Ditka, Mike Singletary, and the rest of those guys who we simply loved watching, and you know, we met a surprising number of them, and they were pretty great guys as well. And even more, they gave back to the community, and they had fun through it all.

See your later, Coach, and rest in peace.

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9 Responses to Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan dies at age 85

  1. the unit says:

    Yes those were the days when it was fun. To play as youngsters and watch later. I guess though I haven’t watched a complete game in years. And for me watching the teams and favorite players, like Payton and before Jim Taylor (GB) and many others through the years.
    I remember reading much about the head coaches, but being far away can’t remember much about those under them.
    Enjoy reading of the past greats in all aspects of the game. Had we had internet would undoubtedly know more.
    Coach Ryan would have been one to follow for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      Yep, he sure would have been.

      Yep it was fun back in the day, when it was a game, important, but about something besides money. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    Right. A long time ago I read the salaries players like Charlie Conerly, Johnny U., and Bart Starr got. Maybe it was pretty good for the times, but doubt they could have retired and lived the rest of their lives on it. I know Starr became a business man, car dealerships in Alabama. I guess the fame helped them there though.
    I couldn’t believe it listening to the car radio in the early 60’s. Joe Namath signed for 4 million! What 4 million?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep, same with all those guys, they had to work after football, Peyton for example was a fairly important business man in Chicago, even when he was playing, and more so after he retired, until he died, far too young!

      The fame helped, but they still had to do the job.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. the unit says:

    Seems like I remember Conerly, U., and others back in their early years played for like 11 to 14k a year, until fame. I couldn’t fathom Joe signing for 4 million (and probably multi-year, but still).
    I guess that was the start of the big salaries.
    Yeah, they worked and didn’t think of themselves as kings.

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      Barely a stipend, for most of those years, yep Nanath broke that ceiling, and likely he was worth it.

      Nope, they were just guys, I don’t begrudge the current guys the money, but I wish they were more like their forebearers in other ways, and that goes for the owners as well, maybe more so.

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        Yep. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. PatriotUSA says:

    Great man and football mind. Makes me feel a bit older and closer to being called home as these great ones slip away from us. Back when the Faiders kicked, punched, gouged and played rough as hell to win. Even Al Davis, nasty as he was has a place at the table with these great men of football. Where to now Kenny Stabler……..

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      It does. Scary how long ago so much of that was. Yep, he did, none of them pretended to be perfect, after all.

      Liked by 1 person

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