James David “Buddy” Ryan passed away on June 28th in Shelbyville, KY at age 85. His passing will be an inspiration for the Buffalo Bills staff and players. Born on February 17, 1931, Ryan spent 35 years coaching in both the NFL and AFL. During his career, he coached for the Jets, Vikings, and Houston Oilers as a defensive coordinator and line coach. Buddy also had a stint with Philadelphia as head coach. Ryan’s most memorable times were spent with the Chicago Bears from 1978-1985. Buddy won Super Bowl XX (1985), and that year the team led the league in almost all defensive categories. Ryan finished his career in 1995 with the Cardinals.
Buddy Ryan’s Passing Will Inspire Buffalo Bills
Buddy Ryan started his collegiate coaching career with the Buffalo Bulls from 1962 to 1965. ’62 was the Bulls first season as a Division I competitor. The Bulls defense was near the top of the NCAA during those seasons. Ryan got his first shot at the big time with the New York Jets of the AFL, and helped them win Super Bowl III. In fact, Ryan was a member of three different professional teams that reached the Super Bowl. When it came to defense, Buddy was considered a visionary. He created the famed 46 defense, which is an eight man front designed to confuse and overwhelm an offense. Buddy has passed on much of his defensive knowledge and wisdom to his sons Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan. Coincidentally, the two brothers find themselves united in Buffalo.
Lessons Learned and Legacy
Rex and Rob have learned much from their father throughout the years, and have shared some coaching successes themselves. Though the 46 defense is not normally used in today’s defensive schemes, the philosophy of the defense is still embedded in Rex and Rob. That philosophy is to confuse and frustrate an offense to the point of complete collapse. In their mid-set, the defense should dictate play to the offense and control the tempo of the game. Rex believes that his father’s ’85 Bears defense was the best of all-time, and others share in that belief. Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement, “Buddy Ryan was the architect of the greatest defense our league has seen. He was brilliant when it came to the X’s and O’s of the game, but what made him special was his ability to create an unwavering confidence in the players he coached.”
Clearly Rex believes in his father’s mentality, and wants nothing more than to carry on his legacy. He also wants his players to feel comfortable and loose. Rex is known as players coach, and is much less a dictator than a father figure to his players. The phrase players would “run through a wall for him” is often used when describing how Rex’s players feel about him. Players of Buddy’s were known to feel the same way. After the Bears won the Super Bowl in 1985, multiple defensive players picked up Buddy along with head coach Mike Ditka and carried them off the field in victory.
Tragedy Turns To Motivation
The past few seasons have not quite worked out the way Rex and Rob would have liked. Both of the brothers have dealt with tragedy off the field. Before their father’s health decline and death, in 2013 their step-mother passed away after years of dealing with Alzheimer’s. Now that these hardships are over, maybe the brothers can get back to focusing solely on football.
Rex and Rob’s reunion on the Bills coaching staff is just what they needed, and it is the perfect opportunity. This could be a chance to prove their father’s philosophy, and carry on his legacy. Both coaches will be inspired and emotional this coming season. They will carry a renewed sense of purpose and greater focus. Players will see and feel this in their environment. The emotion of the situation can be used by Rex to fuel the desire and ambition of his players. When players see how much it means for him to be successful for his father, it will be infectious. Many of the players who did not want to buy in to Rex’s system are gone, and what is left is a group ready to take the team to the next level. A more cooperative and centralized atmosphere should be present this season at One Bills Drive.
Hopes To Further Cement the Ryan Name
Perhaps Rex and Rob can carry on their father’s legacy with the Buffalo Bills and bring things full circle in the city where their father began his college coaching career. The Bills look poised to be very competitive this season in the AFC East. LeSean McCoy and Sammy Watkins should be healthy this year, and Rex Ryan will not let his defense falter again as it did last season. Maybe the stars are finally aligning in Buffalo, and success is around the corner. Surely Rex and Rob would like nothing more than to cement the Ryan family legacy.