BEREA — Buddy Ryan coached in the NFL for nearly 30 years. He was an assistant on the 1969 Jets team that upset the Colts to win Super Bowl III. He got into a sideline fight with fellow assistant Kevin Gilbride. He was head coach of the Eagles and Cardinals.
But he is best known for leading the “46” defense that dominated during the Chicago Bears’ Super Bowl run in 1985.
“We put it in in ’78 when I went to Chicago,” Ryan said Sunday after watching the Browns practice. “We didn’t have anybody that could rush the passer or stop the run, so we had to do something, so the scheme came into play.”
The Browns have struggled for the last decade to find someone to rush the passer or stop the run, so Ryan’s visit may prove to be useful.
He’s in town for five days to see his son Rob — Cleveland’s first-year defensive coordinator — and grandchildren. But the trip isn’t just about hugs and catching up.
Ryan, 75, flew in from Kentucky on Sunday morning, watched film of Saturday’s practices, then manned the sidelines for the 2½-hour practice. Dressed in a Browns shirt and cap, he talked with Rob during drills and took notes.
“I think he’s always done well everywhere he’s been,” Buddy said of Rob. “He’ll do great.”
Rob’s twin brother, Rex, replaced Eric Mangini as coach of the Jets. Buddy visited him during minicamp.
“They wanted to coach and I tried to talk ’em out of it,” he said.
Ryan said a foodservice business at the Philadelphia airport was after the twins to work in their management program.
“I tried to get ’em to go there,” Ryan said. “They had a job they wanted to do, and they’ve done a great job.”
Rob worked with Mangini as assistants in New England, then spent five years in Oakland as defensive coordinator. He doesn’t shrink from the large shadow cast by his dad and isn’t afraid to call for advice.
“We idolized my father and we wanted to be like him,” Rob said in June. “My older brother is a lawyer and used to be a journalist. I don’t know why he got in that profession.”
Mangini is a fan of the “46” and Rob plans to use it this year. The scheme involves moving a safety toward the line and packing the line of scrimmage with eight defenders.
“We used to call it a 5-2, move it over and it looked like a double bubble. Which don’t mean anything to you,” Buddy said to reporters. “Then we kept adding to it and adding to it.
“Somebody said we just had an eight-man front. Well, if that’s the case, Marilyn Monroe was just another girl.”
Ryan said the principles of his defense are on display every Sunday when he watches games on a satellite dish at his horse farm.
“All they do is talk about the eight- and nine-man front on TV every week,” he said.
Buddy’s lost some weight since his coaching days and his voice is much softer, but he’s still got a swagger. His Bears defenses followed his example and were known for their cockiness almost as much as for their talent.
“Attitude’s important, but you’ve got to get people in who can do the job that you want,” he said. “It’s not easy to do, or everybody would do it.”
Ryan said his notes Sunday consisted predominantly of players that caught his eye.
“Just putting down lists of players I want to watch when I’m watching the ballgame on TV and see how they do,” he said. “It looked like they had some potential.”
Ryan mentioned left tackle Joe Thomas and nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who didn’t practice. Ryan saw enough on the film from Saturday.
“I thought I was watching Reggie White,” he said.
Ryan’s influence on the sport isn’t lost on today’s generation. The players made a point of including him during practice, and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is looking forward to sitting down and talking defense.
“We’re definitely going to have a long conversation,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of questions for him.”
Ryan said he’s glad the twins didn’t listen to his professional advice years ago.
“I am now. I don’t think foodservice is doing as well,” he said. “I think I got out of the (coaching) business too early, too.”
He’s not out of it entirely.
The second two-a-day, with practices from 8:45-10:45 a.m. and 5:45-7:45 p.m. Call (877) 627-6967 for updates.
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