The recent passing of Buddy Ryan has brought back a ton of memories of the old school defensive guru. Story after story has been recounted about Ryan’s amazing coaching career.
And of course, there’s “the punch” highlight that even non-sports fans had to enjoy seeing as it was replayed often this week. Who didn’t love seeing an ole ball coach, full of piss and vinegar, try to bloody the nose of Kevin Gilbride back in the day?
That highlight would be a lowlight if it happened in today’s softer NFL. Ryan would be suspended a couple games nowadays, even though the punch was basically harmless.
While seeing coach on coach violence is pretty cool, and we will never forget that insane Buddy Ryan moment, the greatest highlight of the Super Bowl winning coach came in the form of a letter.
If you’ve seen the ESPN 30 for 30 film, “The ‘85 Bears,” you know the story of the letter that saved Ryan’s job with the Bears.
Management had fired Chicago’s head coach in 1981 and of course, the rest of the staff was likely to follow. But members of the Chicago defense wrote a heartfelt letter to their owner, George Halas, asking that Buddy Ryan be kept on as defensive coordinator.
Halas, an NFL legend himself, took the note to heart and granted his players their wish. Had those defenders not made a respectful stand for their coach, maybe the ‘85 Bears never get that Super Bowl win.
And certainly, that team is not in the conversation for best team in NFL history.
It’s easy to complain about millionaire NFL players not caring about the game. Pro football is a business, first and foremost. Yet stories like “The Letter,” show the passion that has built the NFL into the powerhouse sport it is today.
You think those players didn’t play even harder once their owner gave them what they wanted?
Guys like Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton gave 100 percent anyway. But there was an extra incentive, knowing Halas had torn up Ryan’s pink slip and would be expecting big time results.
They don’t make ’em like Buddy Ryan anymore. Sure, his boy Rex is entertaining, but even the braggadocious Bills coach would admit he’s not made of the same stuff as his old man.
And his other son Rob is just fortunate to still be employed by the NFL.
Buddy Ryan left the world with a defensive legacy like few others.
– He was part of the Jets’ history-altering Super Bowl III win.
– Ryan was carried off the field just like a head coach after Chicago’s destruction of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
– He coached three eventual Hall of Fame Bears: Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, and Dan Hampton.
With all Ryan’s accomplishments over his 35-year coaching career, none can outshine his connection to his players. He wasn’t the most refined coach and might never make it in today’s NFL since things like bounties are now frowned upon.
What he did have was the respect and love of his defensive players.
Nasty men that played the game with bad intentions had a soft spot for Buddy Ryan. Their letter saved his job and made them better at theirs as a result.