Legendary defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan, who was the defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl XX champion Chicago Bears, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 82.
Ryan was a defensive guru who created the heralded “46 Defense”, which was built upon heavy blitzes that sent more pass rushers than the offense could handle. Figuring out where the pressure was coming from was the most challenging aspect for opponents.
The Bears’ ’85 defense is widely regarded as one of, if not the greatest defense of all time, which helped the Bears steamroll the competition en route to a 15-1 regular season record, two playoff shutouts, and a 46-10 massacre of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.
There are two kinds of Bears fans in this world: those who credit head coach Mike Ditka for the Bears’ lone Super Bowl title, and those who feel it was orchestrated by Ryan. And following the Bears’ victory over the Patriots in the championship game, the defense lifted Ryan to their shoulders to show just how much respect they had for him.
Ryan left a legacy on the NFL that still endures today. Defensive coordinators have tried to emulate his philosophies in new schemes for years. Ryan’s twin sons, Rex and Rob, are defensive-minded coaches who have had varying degrees of success in this league. They are currently coaching together as members of the Buffalo Bills — Rex as the head coach and Rob as his assistant.
Coaches come and go throughout the years and there are far more afterthoughts than success stories. But there are certain game-changers who make a bigger impact than others and affect the game in positive, long-lasting ways. Buddy Ryan was one such man, and he will be missed.