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Defensive innovator Buddy Ryan passes away

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Defensive innovator Buddy Ryan has passed away, and leaves behind a huge legacy. He had a fun rivalry with Bill Walsh in the 80s, and has had some influence on current 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil.

Sad news for the NFL family. Former defensive coordinator and head coach Buddy Ryan has passed away. Ryan has a huge legacy in the league, having developed the 4-6 defense that helped guide the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl. He brought an incredibly physical defense, and was never shy when it came to his philosophy.

The San Francisco 49ers had numerous rivals during the 80s, and for a stretch, Buddy Ryan would qualify as one. Bill Walsh was an offensive innovator, so there was a sort of chess match between him and Ryan (well, chess with some steel chairs mixed in). Walsh was quoted in an ESPN interview calling the 4-6 the most singular defensive innovation in recent memory:

I had to use every bit of knowledge and experience and wisdom I had to come up with game plans to attack this defense. It's really the most singular innovation in defensive football in the last twenty years.

Ryan also had a pretty big ego, which only added to the lore. It made for some entertaining and crazy moments. He talked a big game, and for stretches his defenses backed it up. The 49ers and Bears went back-and-forth on the field during the mid-80s, but the 49ers had the last laugh, winning the 1985 NFC title game with a 23-0 shutout win over the Bears.

Ryan also has some influence on the current 49ers. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil told the media during OTAs that Rex Ryan has been a big influence on him.

“He’s huge. You know, him and [former Cleveland Browns head coach] Mike Pettine both kind of put me under their wing and they taught me the game at this level and a lot of the schemes that we employ are schemes that were developed by Rex that he probably got from his dad [former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan] and from Mike. So, it’s been a big influence on my coaching career.”

RIP to Buddy Ryan, and condolences to the Ryan family.