Former NFL coach Buddy Ryan has died at the age of 82, his agent James Solano confirmed to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Over 26 years, Ryan spent time on the defensive staff for the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, served as the defensive coordinator for Chicago Bears and Houston Oilers, and later worked as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, coaching in the NFL for a total of 26 seasons.
He won championships with the Jets in 1968 at Super Bowl III and with Mike Ditka’s Bears in Super Bowl XX, and became renowned for his defensive philosophy.
Ryan earned a 55–55–1 record in his seven seasons as a head coach, five of which were with the Eagles and two with the Cardinals.
Bears chairman George H. McCaskey released a statement Tuesday about Ryan’s passing.
“Buddy Ryan was the architect of the greatest defense our league has seen. He was brilliant when it came to the X’s and O’s of the game, but what made him special was his ability to create an unwavering confidence in the players he coached. From the day he was hired in 1978, his defenses bought into more than the scheme, they bought into him and took on his personality. Buddy was brash, intelligent and tough. He was a perfect match for our city and team, which is why George Halas took the extraordinary step of keeping him at the behest of his defensive players while transitioning to a new coaching staff in 1982. We will always be grateful for Buddy’s contribution to the Bears. He is one of the team’s all-time greats. Our prayers are with his family.”
Ryan is the father of Buffalo Bills head coach Rex and assistant coach Rob Ryan. The brothers are working for the same team for the first time since 1995 after Rex hired Rob this off-season.
Rex Ryan also released a statement Tuesday on his father’s death.
“On behalf of the entire Ryan family, we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their sympathies, prayers and warm thoughts with the passing of my dad. He was many things to many people -- outstanding coach, mentor, fierce competitor, father figure, faithful friend and the list goes on. But to me and my brothers Rob and Jim, he was so much more. He was everything you want in a dad -- tough when he had to be, compassionate when you didn’t necessarily expect it, and a loving teacher and confident who cherished his family. He truly was our hero.
“For Rob and me, we’ve had the great fortune of sharing the coaching profession that he was so proud of and cherished so much. There is no way we can possibly begin to measure how much football we have learned from him over the years and we are forever thankful to him for instilling within us his unwavering love for the game of football.
“While today is a tough day for all of us in the Ryan family, we are consoled in knowing how much dad was loved by so many and the love he gave back in return. Though we will miss him dearly, we take comfort in knowing that his memory will live on through all of us.”
Rob Ryan told The MMQB in May that his father’s heath was declining after twice being diagnosed with cancer and suffering a stroke. The brothers said they were planning to do everything in their power to allow their father to watch them win together.
“Because, who knows? He’s not going to be able to watch us coach for much longer, I don’t think,” Rob Ryan said. “But hopefully he can see this one, because we have got big plans. Bring Belichick on. We got him.”