Buddy Ryan, the cantankerous coach who constructed one of the greatest defenses in NFL history with the Chicago Bears and served as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, died on Tuesday of cancer at age 82, the league announced. Ryan, whose twin sons Rex and Rob have carved out lengthy NFL coaching careers of their own, had a blustery, cocky personality and was sometimes at odds with coaches on his own teams - one of whom he punched during a game. Ryan’s record as a head coach was not overwhelming but his defensive acumen was never questioned. The defense he headed for the Bears in 1985 was one of the most dominant the league has ever seen and the key to Chicago’s victory in Super Bowl XX.
With stars such as Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, Steve McMichael and William “The Refrigerator” Perry, the Bears crushed the New England Patriots, 46-10, in the title game and the defensive players carried Ryan off the field in celebration. “Buddy was such an integral part of the Chicago Bears and the ‘85 Bears,” Mike Ditka, head coach of the team, told the NFL Network on Tuesday. “There’s no way we win anything without his defense and without his coaching.” The Bears’ success came despite a feud between Ditka and Ryan, who clashed repeatedly during their Super Bowl season.
In 1994, as the defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers, Ryan took a swing at the team’s offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, during a sideline disagreement. Ryan’s defensive success earned him the job as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986 and in five seasons he took them to the playoffs three times while compiling a 43-38-1 record. In two seasons with Arizona, his teams were 12-20. Ryan also was the defensive line coach for the New York Jets when the franchise won its only Super Bowl title in 1969.
Both his sons are known as defense-first coaches and have each earned Super Bowl rings of their own as assistant coaches. Rex Ryan is the current head coach of the Buffalo Bills, where his staff includes Rob. Rex was previously the head coach of the Jets, while Rob Ryan served as defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints, among other teams. “Buddy was a legend in our league in so many ways,” the Bills said in a statement on Tuesday. “He was a real game changer and much of his philosophies and defensive tactics are still utilized effectively by teams today.”