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James David "Buddy" Ryan on February 17, 1934) is a former American football coach.

Early years

Buddy Ryan was raised in the tiny cotton community of Frederick, Oklahomamarker. Ryan played college football for Oklahoma A&M University (now Oklahoma State) where he earned four letters as a guard between 1952 and 1955. He served as a U.S. Army master sergeant during the Korean War.


High School

Began his coaching career at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Texasmarker in 1957 as an assistant coach under Dub Wooten. Dub Wooten became head coach at Marshall Texas High School in 1959. Ryan was elevated to head coach at Gainesville. After one season (7-3) was relieved of his duties. He returned to being an assistant coach at Marshall High School. Gainesville was his only head coach position until he was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles 25 years later.


After serving in the United States Army after the Korean War as a Master Sergeant, and playing on the Fourth Army championship team in Japan, Ryan became an assistant football coach, first at several colleges including Pacificmarker, Vanderbiltmarker, and Buffalo, then with several professional football teams, starting with the American Football League's New York Jets in the 1960s.

New York Jets

With the AFL's Jets, he and Walt Michaels' defensive game plan was instrumental in holding the NFL's Baltimore Colts to seven points in the third AFL-NFL World Championship Game and earning Ryan his first Super Bowl ring. While a defensive line coach for the Jets he started the tradition of placing "bounties" on opposing quarterbacks, something that would gain him much notoriety later on. Seeing the emphasis that Weeb Eubank placed on protecting Joe Namath and his fragile knees, Ryan also began formulating the heavy blitzing 46 defense, reasoning that the Quarterback is the focal point of any offense, and that a defense must attack the offense's strength and centerpiece.

Minnesota Vikings

In the mid-1970s Ryan was defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings where he was integral in directing the team's dominating defense. The defensive unit known as the "Purple People Eaters", was heralded for the defensive line's ability to punish rivals. Their motto was to "meet at the quarterback." This unit helped the Vikings to post-season appearances from 1973-78.

Chicago Bears

In 1978, Neill Armstrong was hired as head coach of the Chicago Bears, who brought in Buddy Ryan as defensive coordinator. Ryan would revolutionize defensive football with his "46" package. He perhaps revolutionized offensive football as well, as offensive thinkers now had to come up with a quick passing game to neutralize the Ryan-inspired pass rush. He became a household name of sorts in the early 1980s. Armstrong was fired in 1982 and replaced by Mike Ditka, but Ryan was retained, in part, after the players presented a petition to owner George Halas. Ryan and Ditka were at constant odds, though Ditka gave Ryan complete control over the defense. Allegedly the two almost came to blows during halftime of the game in 1985 versus the Miami Dolphins where their bid for a perfect season was unraveling, with Ditka telling Ryan "We can do it any way you want to. We can go right out back and get it on or you can shape your ass up." After the Bears won the Super Bowl that followed the 1985 regular season in which their defense set several NFL records, Ryan was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles as their head coach, which he had informed the defense of the night before Super Bowl XX. After routing the New England Patriots 46-10, the emotional Bears defense carried Ryan and Ditka off the field on their shoulders, a tradition usually reserved solely for the Head Coach.

Philadelphia Eagles

Ryan immediately became a Philadelphia fan-favorite when he boldly pronounced "We plan on winning the Eastern Division,"[103254] but also at times a divisive figure, at first releasing running back Earnest Jackson, who had rushed for more than 1,000 yards in both of the previous two seasons, and limiting the playing time of veteran quarterback Ron Jaworski. Ultimately Ryan proved that his talent selection was superior to most of the NFL as he groomed playmakers like Andre Waters and Randall Cunningham and drafted Pro Bowlers Seth Joyner, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Eric Allen, Cris Carter, Fred Barnett, and Keith Jackson. His division crown prediction did not come to fruition in his initial Eagles season but quick rebuilding achieved title glory in 1988, as the team won 10 games and continued to win at least 10 games a season until his departure.

Ryan's tenure in Philadelphia was not without its fair share of controversies. On October 25, 1987 he came under fire after calling a time-out on the last play of a game against the Dallas Cowboys to score another touchdown when the game's outcome was no longer in doubt. This was apparently Ryan's revenge against Dallas head coach Tom Landry, who Ryan felt had run up the score against the Eagles' replacement players during the 1987 players' strike, using many of the Cowboys players that had crossed the picket line. On November 22, 1989 Ryan found himself at the center of yet another scandal, when Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson alleged that Ryan had taken out a "bounty" on two Cowboys players — then-current Dallas (and former Philadelphia) placekicker Luis Zendejas and quarterback Troy Aikman — in a game dubbed "Bounty Bowl" played on Thanksgiving Day at Texas Stadiummarker. It was with the Eagles where Buddy Ryan would snub the midfield post game greet with the opposing coach in losses. Buddy would head, sometimes jogging, towards the locker room with a minute or less remaining to avoid this tradition.

Ryan's contract was not renewed by the Eagles in 1991 even though he went 43-38-1 in five seasons but lost his three postseason efforts and often bluntly denounced owner Norman Braman. Ryan transformed a mediocre team unable to sell-out home games into the premier defensive unit in the NFL but had the misfortune of coaching during the golden age of the NFC East; from 1986 to 1995, division teams won seven of 10 Super Bowls. Ryan subsequently became a commentator before returning to coaching in 1993, this time as the defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers.

Houston Oilers

The Ryan-led defense helped propel the Oilers to an 11-game winning streak to end the 1993 regular season, only to be upset by Joe Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Astrodomemarker during the Divisional Round of the playoffs. He was most notably involved in a sideline altercation with then-offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride during a national broadcast. Ryan had been criticizing Gilbride's "run and shoot", referring to it as the "chuck and duck." Ryan felt that last-minute stands cost him two players to injury when the offense could have simply just run the ball and killed the clock. At the end of the first half in the last game of the season against the New York Jets, Gilbride called a pass play, and when Cody Carlson fumbled the snap, Ryan started yelling at Gilbride, who started walking towards Ryan, yelling back. When they were at arm's length, Ryan punched Gilbride and two players quickly separated them.

Arizona Cardinals

After being given a large share of the credit for the success in Houston in 1993, he was named head coach of the Arizona Cardinals in 1994. Also named general manager of the Cardinals, Ryan went 8-8 his first year, but had a 4-12 nosedive the following season, rife with criticism that he ran his two drafts poorly and mishandled Arizona's quarterback situation as a GM. He lasted only two seasons there — where he had a record of 12-20 — before being fired again. He would subsequently retire to his farm in Kentucky, where he breeds race horses.


Ryan was an assistant on three different teams to make the Super Bowl (New York, Chicago, Minnesota). Ryan built his reputation as a defensive specialist and was largely credited with implementing and perfecting the 46 defense.

As a head coach, Ryan enjoyed limited success with the Eagles. Although he quickly rebuilt the Eagles roster into a consistent NFC playoff contender, he never won a playoff game with the team. The 1991 Philadelphia Eagles defense, with a majority of players that Ryan selected, was one of the most statistically accomplished defenses in NFL history. Those 1991 Eagles led the league in fewest passing yards allowed and fewest rushing yards allowed.

Ryan did not enjoy equal success as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, missing the playoffs in both his seasons with the franchise.

During training camp in 1990, while coaching the Eagles, Ryan released Cris Carter, explaining that he cut Carter because Carter "only catches touchdowns"—an explanation for which Ryan was ridiculed for several years, especially after Carter became a perennial All-Pro with the Minnesota Vikings. Years later, Carter revealed that he had a serious drug problem at the time, and Ryan released him from the Eagles in an attempt to help Carter turn his life around. Ryan never publicly discussed the reasons that he had released Carter. Subsequently, Carter credited Ryan's actions with helping him to turn his life around.

Stephen Majewski dedicated his 1997 book “Great Linebackers” (MetroBooks) to Ryan.

Personal life

Ryan's twin sons Rex and Rob also became involved in football coaching and served at the college and professional level. Rex currently serves as the New York Jets head coach, while Rob serves as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.


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