For men—and football-loving women—of a certain age, the Dallas Cowboys hiring Rob Ryan, son of arch enemy Buddy Ryan, is something akin to Laila Ali (that’s Muhammad Ali’s daughter) marrying one of George Foreman’s kids (all of which, I believe, are named George.)
If you are old enough to remember the Buddy Ryan era in Philadelphia (1986–1995), then you remember him as a rotund, irreverent loud-mouth, who happened to be one heck of a defensive coach. If you are not old enough to remember any of that, then just think Rex Ryan.
That nutty acorn did not fall from the family tree.
The question at hand is this: Should Jason Garrett hire Rob Ryan?
The answer I have come up with is as follows: I don’t know, because I don’t know much about him, but it makes me queasy to have any of the Buddy bloodline wearing Cowboys blue. Queasy and uneasy.
I just don’t like that bunch.
Buddy Ryan is the only coach on record to accuse Tom Landry of running up the score on his team. Of course, to accuse Landry of conduct unbecoming a coach is blasphemy and akin to the unpardonable football sin for first- and second-generation Cowboys fans.
Then, when Jerry Jones put the venerable Landry out to pasture and brought in Jimmy Johnson, Ryan turned his attention to what he must have assumed was little more than red meat. Johnson was, after all, a college coach. Everybody knew those guys were not suited to success in the NFL.
So, Ryan turned up the heat.
In 1989, Jimmy Johnson’s first as the Cowboys’ head coach and one of the worst seasons in team history, Johnson accused Buddy Ryan of putting a bounty on his players, especially Troy Aikman, during the Thanksgiving Day game.
Johnson’s accusation was taken seriously by some, including the New York Times’ David Anderson, who wrote the following on November 26, 1989:
“As if the National Football League weren’t violent enough and its players weren’t solvent enough, Buddy Ryan, the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, has been accused by Jimmy Johnson, the Dallas Cowboys’ coach, of putting a ”bounty” on the helmets of a quarterback and a kicker. It’s time Ryan was called on the carpet to explain these charges and others that circulated long before this controversy flared.”
Buddy Ryan didn’t just have issues with Cowboys’ coaches. He pretty much made enemies wherever he went. In 1985, he was the defensive coordinator for Mike Ditka’s Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears. With apologies to the Baltimore Ravens, that Bears team may have featured the best defensive squad to ever play in the Super Bowl. Thanks to singular players like Mike Singletary, Ryan’s famed 46 defense helped to restore the long-languishing Bears’ franchise to “Monsters of the Midway” status.
Still, the prickly Ryan couldn’t get along with his equally high-strung head coach. It was reported that during halftime of the Miami Dolphins’ game—the only game the Bears lost that year—Ditka challenged Ryan to a fight. The players stepped in to keep the two coaches separated.
Luckily for Ryan, the players succeeded.
After the Eagles ended the Ryan era in 1990, Buddy became the defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers. While there, he got into a yelling match with offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Ryan sucker-punched his coordinator counterpart. The Ryan-Gilbride brawl was caught on camera during a nationally-televised game.
Now, fast-forward to a week ago. New York Jets’ coach Rex Ryan—Buddy’s offspring and Rob’s twin—said it was “personal” between Peyton Manning and him. Manning—who is to class what Rex is to crass—laughed it off.
And now to the present: Rex Ryan is needling the NFL’s inevitable offensive MVP, Tom Brady. On Monday, Ryan called Brady’s study habits into question when he heard that Brady had gone to the Broadway play, Lombardi, on Saturday night rather than watching the Jets–Colts game.
“Peyton Manning would have been watching our game,” Ryan jabbed.
Never mind that on December 6th, Brady destroyed Ryan’s precious defense in a 45–3 shellacking.
Concerning the upcoming divisional-round game against the Patriots, Ryan said of the game and Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, “This is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan. There’s no question, it’s personal. It’s about him against myself. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”
So, what does Buddy Ryan’s seeming mental instability and Rex Ryan’s belligerent bravado have to do with Rob Ryan’s candidacy for defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys?
It could be that Rob is the one jewel in the junkpile. He may be the one member of football’s version of the Adams family that isn’t a freak. Maybe he is the one Ryan that is able to mix defensive football genius with a little common sense. Maybe he is the only scientist in the Ryan lab that isn’t stark, raving mad.
Buddy Ryan is like Archie Bunker, only without the endearing charm. Maybe, just maybe, Rob is to Buddy what Meat-head was to Archie. Maybe Rob is the voice of reason.
If this is not the case, if Rob is just another Ryan looking for a platform and a microphone from which to spew insanity and insults, then Jason Garrett needs to resist the temptation and look elsewhere to solve his defensive woes.
These Hatfield-McCoy marriages are seldom worth the trouble they bring.