STILLWATER – Buddy Ryan, football innovator and former Oklahoma State Cowboy, died June 27. He was 82.
Ryan was a three-year letterman as an offensive lineman at OSU from 1953-55, and his son, Rob Ryan, was an assistant for the Cowboys under Bob Simmons from 1996-99.
During his time as a player in Stillwater, Buddy Ryan was part of the 1953 squad that tied for the Missouri Valley Conference championship his sophomore year.
He was a Korean War veteran who went to Oklahoma State, then earned a master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State even while coaching. He got his first major job in the pros in New York, then of the AFL, in 1968. Ryan was the linebacker coach for the Joe Namath-led Jets.
With Ryan on staff, the Jets led the AFL in defense and upset the Colts in the Super Bowl, 16-7. He left New York to serve as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings for two years before moving on the Chicago Bears.
It was in Chicago where Ryan secured a reputation as one of the NFL’s best defensive minds. His 46 defense was founded on sending more blitzing players than an offense could block. And in 1984, the Bears tallied 72 sacks, a record that still stands. The 1985 Bears defense led the league in fewest points allowed, fewest total yards allowed, fewest rushing yards allowed, fewest first downs allowed, fewest rushing touchdowns allowed, interceptions and turnovers forced.
Following his time with the Bears, Ryan took over as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and then went on to serve as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. All told, he coached football for 33 years.
His sons, Rex (head coach of the Buffalo Bills) and Rob (Buffalo Bills assistant head coach/defense), still coach football.