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.