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The two-week layoff between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl is full of hype. It's full of personal interest stories. It's full of sports-celebrity parties in South Beach. For the lucky few sportswriters, it's like Spring Break. For the rest of the writers, it's what's known as a "slow news week," and thank God for that. One New York Times writer, desperately searching for something even remotely related to the Super Bowl, tracked down Buddy Ryan on his horse farm in Kentucky to do a "where are they now" piece.

Buddy Ryan is without a doubt my favorite coach in the history of sports. He was a defensive genius, inventing a defense that struck fear into the hearts of quarterbacks, prodding his players to not only stop the other team, but to hurt them. This paragraph from the Times article epitomizes what Ryan was all about:

The 46 defense put as many as 10 people on the line of scrimmage and blitzed mercilessly, Ryan said, so “we could find out who the second-string quarterback was.? He allegedly offered bounties for injuring quarterbacks and even kickers. His most famous misdeed was captured on national television during the 1993 season, when Ryan was the defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers. Upset with the offensive play calling of Kevin Gilbride — now the Giants’ offensive coordinator — Ryan hauled off and slugged his fellow coach.

My question is, where is that attitude in today's game? Where's that motivation? Bill Parcells, allegedly the most hard-nosed coach left in the game, got run out of town by T.O. after he let his team get hijacked by the ego-maniac. Bill Belichick's tough-guy images is based on him being ornery. Buddy Ryan was volatile, violent, outspoken, critical and his players still think he was the best coach they ever played for. He ran Chris Carter out of town when he was obviously the best receiver on the team because he was a raging alcoholic and he knew that Carter was headed for trouble if he didn't get a change of scenery. He could've thrown Carter under the bus, instead he made something up, "All he does is catch touchdowns." He never lived that quote down, and it wasn't until years later, when Carter came forward with the real story, that we found out Ryan was covering for him.

Ryan came to the Eagles when I was just starting to play football. I'd watched the Eagles struggle for years, he breathed life into the organization and the city. I'll never forget Jimmy Johnson getting hit in the head with a snow ball or the bounty he put on Luis Zendejas' head. I'll never forget the fog bowl when Randall Cunningham threw for 450 yards in the pea soup at Soldier Stadium, and the Eagles still lost. Buddy Ryan is solely responsible for transforming me from a kid who watched the Eagles play with his dad on Sundays to a die hard Eagles fan.

The story about Buddy and his wife's battle with Alzheimer's disease is gut-wrenching, the fact that he's 73-years old and he named one of his horses FiredForWinning (his record was 43-38-1 with the Eagles when they fired him, and he'd taken them to the playoffs 3 consecutive years) shows that Buddy is still Buddy. He changed the game, and if he was coaching the Bears' defense this Sunday there's no way in hell Goober Manning would leave the field on his own two feet.

by Brian on Feb 3 2007
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