Alumni Focus: Buddy Ryan 1934 – 2016

Philadelphia Football fans love intense defense.  We love defensive minded coaches.  We have Buddy Ryan thank for this.  Buddy Ryan passed away Tuesday and he undoubtedly left a defensive foot print on the NFL.  His 46 Bear defense is still in use today and a number of coaches still use his philosophies.  Ryan was different from traditional coaches in the sense he didn’t act like a coach.  He acted liked a fan and spoke like a fan.  It’s  why football fans and Philadelphians in particular held him in such high regard even though he never won a playoff game.

Over his long NFL coaching career Buddy Ryan had a number of stops:

  • Defensive Line Coach – Buffalo 1961-1965
  • Defensive Line Coach – New York Jets 1968-1975
  • Defensive Line Coach – Minnesota 1976-1977
  • Defensive Coordinator – Chicago 1978-1985
  • Head Coach – Philadelphia 1986-1990
  • Defensive Coordinator – Houston 1993
  • Head Coach – Arizona 1994-1995

During his illustrious career Buddy Ryan coached and mentored a number of Hall of Fame Players.  That list includes Aeneas Williams, Reggie White, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Alan Page, Carl Eller and Paul Krause.  An argument could be make some more of the Eagles he coached should be on that list but that’s another argument for another time.  There’s more to Buddy Ryan than meets eye.  He comes off as a hard nosed no nonsense coach.  He’s certainly a players coach but there’s more to it than that.  At multiple coaching stops Buddy would invite the younger players over to his house on Thanksgiving.  Players that didn’t have anywhere to go or have any family in the area.  Byron Evans told his story and how he was invited during his rookie year when he was on with Robby E and Harry Mayes on 97.5 The Fanatic Tuesday.

Buddy Ryan hated the Cowboys.  It’s what really endeared him to Eagles fans.  He hated Tom Landry.  He thought his whole persona was phony right down to the fedora.  Add Jimmy Johnson to that list as well.  Buddy’s Eagles had a number of tough run ins with Jimmy’s Cowboys.  The most notable game that comes to mind is the Bounty Bowl where Buddy and the Eagles were accused putting bounties on certain Cowboy players.  Luis Zendejas who previously kicked for the Eagles and Troy Aikman were the rumored players up for grabs.

Buddy loved to ham it up with the media.  He was always good for a solid quote.  Something to talk about around the water cooler.  Here are some of his most famous quotes and what they originated from.  This is was taken from and Mark Eckel.

On Harry Gamble climbing the cooperate ladder – “he must be the illegitimate son of Norman Braman, the owner”

1st round of cuts’ during the 1986 season – “My wife could have made those cuts”

WR Phil Smith had a solid 86 camp but was cut – “check his record, he’s been cut before”

Eagles vs Bears 1988 Playoff game – “We’re not going to sneak into town.  We’re going to drive around the stadium with our lights on and the horn blowing”  (The team bus did just that)

Accused of a bounty of Luis Zendejas – “Why would I try to hurt a kicker who can’t kick”

The fake kneel down and throw vs Tom Landry’s Cowboys – “He opened the can of worms, I closed it”

Jimmy Johnson said Buddy’s fat ass ran off the field – “I was doing that SlimFast, I thought I lost weight” (All Quotes from – article written by Mark Eckel)

Buddy was a great defensive coach, particularly a great coordinator.  I do believe he is somewhat overrated as a head coach.  He did a magnificant job coaching up and building defenses.  I think he overlooked his own offenses and that’s a huge reason his teams could never make a deep playoff run.   His career coaching record is 55 – 55 – 1 with an 0-3 playoff record.  All 3 playoff losses were at the helm of the Eagles.

The Eagles released a statement on Buddy Ryan’s passing.  Jeffrey Lurie said the following, “Buddy Ryan was arguably one of the greatest defensive masterminds in NFL history and forever left his mark on the Eagles organization and the city of Philadelphia.  Over the last 20 plus years, I had the pleasure of discussing football with Buddy and I always came away from those conversations intrigued by his knowledge and passion for the game.  On behalf of myself and the entire Eagles family, I’d like to offer our deepest condolences to the Ryan Family.”


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