What They’re Saying About Buddy Ryan

Many people offering their memories of the late Eagles head coach.

Ryan on the sidlelines against the Chicago Bears during the 1988 NFC Divisional Playoff game at Solider Field. The Bears defeated the Eagles 20-12 in what was deemed to be the Fog Bowl. (USA Today Sports)

Ryan on the sidlelines against the Chicago Bears during the 1988 NFC Divisional Playoff game at Solider Field. (USA Today Sports)

After former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan passed away at the age of 85, a slew of articles remembered the impact he had on the game of football and the lives he touched.

Jeffrey Lurie and Doug Pederson issued statements about the legacy Ryan leaves behind.

“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,” Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “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.”

Doug Pederson added: “Buddy Ryan was one of the most creative and innovative defensive minds in the game of football. It was easy to sense his passion for the game and how much his players loved playing for him. His defensive philosophy remains a big part of the game today. He is a legend in our sport. My thoughts and prayers go out to Rex, Rob, Jim and the entire Ryan family.”

Former Eagle Herm Edwards went on SportsCenter this morning to talk about Ryan’s defenses.

One of the best defensive coaches that ever called a defense. When you think about what he was able to do with his defenses, and it really was a route of the “46” defense, that’s what everyone knows and that’s what he’s known for. But when you think about the defense that he played, it was an attacking defense. It really put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks on offenses. 

And that was the vogue then when he brought this defense, and it was an eight-man front basically. It was ‘How can we figure out how to block the eight-man front’ and he brought pressure. And his mindset was ‘I’m gonna hit the quarterback, I’m gonna disrupt the quarterback, I’m gonna make him fear us when we walk on the football field.’ And when you think about his defenses, they played with outstanding swagger, especially that ’85 Bear football team. You think about that was…one of the best defenses at that point in time. 

He was a marvelous coach, his players had swagger, they left their imprint on you when you left the field. They were physical, they were tough, I always say they played to the echo of the whistle. And they had a lot of fun. 

Former Bears head coach Mike Ditka was a guest on the 97.5 The Fanatic morning show and talked about how important Ryan was to the Super Bowl-winning Bears team.

Ditka: He meant a World Championship. There’s no way the Bears win a World Championship without Buddy Ryan…Listen, we had the best defense in football. And if you’re a head coach and you can’t figure out how to make your offense work if you’ve got the best defense in football, then you’re nuts. And I finally figured that out. And the main thing is that we won because of our defense, there’s not question about that.

Anthony Gargano: What was it like working together, was it difficult working with [him]?

Ditka: He never would let me into the defensive meetings, so I didn’t know what the hell they were doing anyway. So that was okay.

Ryan was an unpredictable character throughout his career, writes Mark Eckel of NJ.com.

And even after that as defensive coordinator in Houston — remember the left hook to Kevin Gilbride’s chin? — or as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals where he proclaimed on Day One, “You’ve got a winner in town.”

Ryan was as much fun to cover as any coach in any sport, because of that unpredictability.

In his first minicamp with the Eagles in 1986 he referred to former first-round pick running back Michael Haddix as someone who “looks like a reject guard from USFL.” He called starting linebacker Dwayne Jiles “an old washer woman.”

And it just got better from there, and so did the Eagles.

Ryan was a genius of chaos, writes Bill Lyon of the Inquirer.

First, his defenses confused you. Then they pounded the pudding out of you. The target of opportunity was always the same – the quarterback. Blitz him early, blitz him often, blitz him with extreme prejudice.

James David Ryan became so accomplished at his craft that he was accorded sport’s highest honor – he had something named after him.

Buddy Ball.

He was beloved by his players, most of them anyway, large brutish men not easily given to emotion. In a memorable show of affection they hoisted him on their shoulders and carted him off the field for a victory lap after the 1985 Chicago Bears had pulverized the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

Ryan was the coordinator of that defense, which is still spoken of in hushed and reverential tones. What set Ryan’s Ride apart was that such trips of triumph are always reserved for the head coach. In this case that was Mike Ditka. To the players delight, Ditka and Ryan, hot-headed mirrors of each other, were forever feuding. In front of the team.

Although Ryan won a Super Bowl with the Bears, he’s thought of as a legend in Philadelphia, writes Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com.

The Eagles went 5-11 in 1986, Ryan’s first season. There was no division title. That didn’t begin to affect the coach’s bluster. When NFL players went on strike in 1987, Ryan’s message to his team was simple: Stick together. Whatever you do, do it as a team.

Led by defensive end Reggie White and quarterback Ron Jaworski, the Eagles followed their coach’s advice. They held meetings at Jaworski’s New Jersey golf club and spent their days picketing outside Veterans Stadium.

In other cities, star players with more money at stake were crossing picket lines. The league decided to play on, with teams assembled from players who had been cut a few weeks earlier. Ryan could not be bothered.

His men were out on the picket line. He went through the motions with his replacement team, but that was it. While other coaches were talking about the farcical replacement games as if they really mattered, Ryan didn’t try to hide his contempt.

CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank remembers how Ryan took the beat writers out to dinner before the Eagles’ game against the Rams in 1990.

We were all curious what Buddy would order, and it grew quiet as Buddy slowly turned the pages of the wine list. None of us realized Buddy was such a wine buff. But he specified to Timmy that he wanted the restaurant in town with the best wine list, and here we were.

Finally, as all eyes stared at Buddy, he spoke to the wine steward.

And this is exactly what he said: “How ’bout a bottle of red and a bottle of white?”

The whole room broke up at the absurdity of it all, and Buddy laughed too, and I don’t remember what happened after that, but it didn’t matter.

This was vintage Buddy Ryan. It didn’t always make sense, but it was funny as hell and fun as hell.

That’s the Buddy Ryan I’ll remember.

And Buddy wasn’t without his quotes. First from Luke Kerr-Dineen of USA Today Sports.


“I don’t think coming in late hurt his chances. I think because he can’t punt might hurt his chances.”


“I don’t know what his status is. I don’t even know who he is.”


“Dumb guys sulk and pout. You never see smart guys pout. Hey, they are paid very well. If they don’t do the job, somebody’s gotta get on ’em. The good players always react the way they should.”


“He probably checked the job market out there and found there wasn’t a lot of demand for return specialists that won’t block.”


“Cap Boso? How could I cut a guy with a name like that?”


“Trade him for a six pack; it doesn’t even have to be cold.”

From our old friend, Sheil Kapadia at ESPN.com.

1. “Kevin Gilbride will be selling insurance in two years.”

Instead of offering an apology, this is what Ryan told reporters after punching offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride on the sidelines when they coached together with the Houston Oilers. [Source]

2. “Some say the 46 is just an eight-man front. That’s like saying Marilyn Monroe is just a girl.”

Ryan’s defense with the Chicago Bears in 1985 allowed a total of 10 points in three playoff games en route to a Super Bowl victory. [Source]

3. “QBs are overpaid, overrated, pompous bastards and must be punished.”

That was an actual quote from Ryan’s playbook. [Source]

And from Mark Eckel at NJ.com.

“I’m short, fat and good looking.”

— when a writer misspoke and asked Ryan what young defensive end Steve Kaufusi liked about him.

“I was doing that SlimFast, I thought I lost weight.”

— after Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said he looked for Ryan after the game, “but his fat ass ran off the field.”

“The guy in France.”

— how he often referred to Eagles owner Norman Braman.

And my personal favorite.

“They (the Cowboys) know we’re going to beat them, they just don’t know how.”

— after beating Dallas, 21-20, on a last-second pass from Randall Cunningham to Calvin Williams.

A recap of Ryan’s tenure in Philadelphia, from Ron Burke of CSN Philly.