Buddy Ryan. That name brings so many different emotions. Fear, respect, admiration, good memories, bad memories. Buddy was viewed different by everyone who knew him. Here in Chicago, Buddy was a legend. You could walk down Michigan Avenue to anybody from a priest to a model to President Obama himself; they would all tell you what he meant to this city. Not one person could ever speak ill of the man.
Now for those who don’t know, Buddy Ryan was a head coach and later defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears in the early to mid eighties. He was head coach until replaced by the great Mike Ditka. Ditka kept Ryan on as a defensive coordinator. That decision to keep Ryan would lead to the famous and fear inspiring “46 Defense”. The defensive formation that won a super bowl and is unanimously considered the greatest defense to have ever stepped on a football field.
Buddy died this morning at the age of 82. The cause right now is unknown but many factors are in play. Buddy was fighting cancer and had a stroke in the years prior to his death. He was fighting for so long and beat illnesses that take lives everyday. Buddy was not defeated until now, it always seemed like he would never been defeated.
If you haven’t watched the ’85 Bears 30 for 30 or have lived in Chicago for any amount of time, you might not understand the gut wrenching news this comes as. Buddy was a figure that represented the city. His military background and blue collar mentality resonated deep with the city. He may have been born in Oklahoma but damn if he wasn’t one of us.
The one thing I can’t help but to think of is Mike Singletary. The great Bears lineman was extremely close with Buddy. The scenes between Singletary and Buddy brought so much happiness and so many tears. I can’t imagine how he’s feeling, let alone all the guys on that ’85 Bears team.
If you haven’t watched the 30 for 30, once again such a great piece, you may not know about the letter the Bears wrote to save Buddy’s job. When the Bears owner George Halas was hiring Ditka as the head coach, every player on that defense wrote a letter to Halas requesting Buddy to stay on as the defensive coordinator. That just shows how amazing of a man Buddy was and how much respect he garnered.
At the end of the 30 for 30, Buddy wrote a letter back to the guys. He was in a rough state for the past couple of years and had a hard time talking, walking, and writing. This was no easy task. Yet he wrote a letter that brought tears to guys you could never imagine crying.
That’s where I want to leave this article. With that letter. I know it was addressed to the players but I can’t help but feel like the city is part of it as well.
We’ll miss you Buddy. We will never forget you.
To my guys,
In 1981, many of you signed a letter to George Halas that saved my job. Now I’m writing a letter to all of you to say thanks. I wish I could be there to say it in person, but this will have to do.
Thank you to the Super Bowl champion 1985 Chicago Bears, the greatest team in NFL history. You gave me the best memories of my coaching life.
I’ll love every one of you until the day I die. I told you this a long time ago, and it’s still true.
You guys will always be my heroes.
Coach Buddy Ryan, 46