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January 17, 2022

Buddy Ryan, NFL Innovator, Dies At 82

By Will Brinson/

The NFL lost one of its most colorful and innovative defensive legends on Tuesday morning as Buddy Ryan died at the age of 82.

Ryan, the father of Bills head coach Rex Ryan and Buffalo defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, was one of the most brash, bold men in NFL history.

The former Eagles and Cardinals coach was most notable for his stretch with the Chicago Bears — Ryan was Chicago’s defensive coordinator from 1978-1985, inventing the “46” defense and constructing perhaps the greatest defense in NFL history, the 1985 Bears. Mike Ditka, hired in 1982 by George Halas, retained Ryan, but the two weren’t really fond of one another during their stint together.

Ditka now says he wouldn’t have a title without Ryan.

“There’s no way we win anything without that defense, without his coaching,” Ditka said Tuesday on NFL Network. “We won because of our defense.”

The success in Chicago landed Ryan the head coaching position with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he went 43-38-1 in five years.

Ryan’s work as a defensive line coach with the Jets in the 1968 NFL season culminated in a Super Bowl 3 title for Joe Namath.

From the 1985 Chicago Bears alone: Jeff Fisher (current Rams coach), Ron Rivera (current Panthers coach), Mike Singletary (former 49ers coach) and Leslie Frazier (former Vikings coach) all played for Ryan on the 1985 championship team.

His influence on players and the football world was immense.

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