Buddy Ryan's greatest conquest came in the 1985 season, when his Chicago Bears defense allowed a total of 198 points over a 16-game schedule.
Ryan coached high school ball in Gainesville, Texas, and I'm sure he was sick and tired of hearing how good a coach Tom Landry was in Dallas. So whenever we faced off, it was special on his part. We played his Bears in '85, and we faced him again when he was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and he ended up beating Dallas seven consecutive times during his Philly tenure -- five consecutive times while I was with the Cowboys.
Ryan loved to attack when he smelled blood. His 46 defense was an aggressive style of defense, where they covered all five gaps; it was really a one-on-one situation on the line, and they played man coverage everywhere else. It was tough. He had great players, but it was also a great system, because it hadn't been seen before. When we played his '85 Bears, it wasn't even close: Chicago beat us 44-0 in front of our home fans at Texas Stadium. And he did not make life easy on our quarterbacks. Between the two of them, starter Danny White and backup Gary Hogeboom combined to complete 38.5 percent of their passes for 167 yards, with zero scores and four picks. Oh, and they were sacked six times.
The system is still being used some -- Jets coach Todd Bowles, for example, uses a hybrid version of it today. The way you beat it is by spreading everybody out more. Even though Ryan won most of our meetings, we did some things, like using motion and going three-wide, and we did OK against him, as far as scoring goes (except for that '85 contest). Still, as much as we lost to his teams, I remember Tom -- who I never knew to say anything negative about anyone -- being complimentary about his scheme.
Buddy Ryan will be remembered for that famous defense. But at the end of the day, he was a crusty, competitive football coach who would do anything possible to win games.