SHELBYVILLE, KY—Tuesday, June 28, was a grave day for the NFL as it lost one of its legends. Coach and defensive guru Buddy Ryan passed away at the age of 82.
Ryan, who coached for 26 years in the NFL, was known for his defensive genius that focused on creating havoc on the field.
One of the greatest defenses in NFL history was the Ryan led ’85 Chicago Bears. He created a little known 46 scheme that put relentless pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That team went on to win the Super Bowl and produced numerous Hall of Fame players.
Son and Buffalo Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan said in a statement, “He was many things to many people – outstanding coach, mentor, fierce competitor, father figure, faithful friend and the list goes on. But to me and my brothers Rob and Jim, he was so much more. He was everything you want in a dad – tough when he had to be, compassionate when you didn’t necessarily expect it, and a loving teacher and confidant who cherished his family. He truly was our hero.”
Born James David Ryan, he got his first major job in the pros in New York in 1968, as the linebackers coach for the then American Football League Jets. The Jets led the AFL in defense in his first season on staff and went on to win Super Bowl III defeating the Baltimore Colts 16-7.
Ryan’s first defensive coordinator position came in 1976 with the Minnesota Vikings under Bud Grant. He spent two seasons in the Twin Cities before moving to Chicago and creating his game-altering 46 defense.
“Some say the 46 is just an eight-man front,” said Buddy Ryan of his scheme. “That’s like saying Marilyn Monroe is just a girl.”
The former head coach of the Bears, Mike Ditka, told SportsCenter on Tuesday, “We won a Super Bowl together, and we would have never did it without each other. 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.”
“He was a hell of a coach. Period,” said Ditka. “And his players loved him. There’s not much more you can ask than that. I don’t profess to be a hell of a coach, and I know what my players think about me, so he had one over on me, that’s for sure.”
Buddy Ryan’s legacy will live on in the NFL forever, while thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to all of the Ryan family.