From afar, I've always loved Buddy Ryan.
He was as authentic as they come and the one thing that always stood out throughout his career was his players loved him. A former master sergeant in the Army, he was a man you wanted leading your team. Honest and quick-tempered, intelligent and innovative, confident and brash, Buddy Ryan was great for the National Football League.
Even though he's best remembered for his time as defensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears in 1985, Ryan had some tremendous years donning green. The Eagles were a contender under his watch and Ryan, who began his NFL coaching career with the Jets as a linebackers coach back in 1968, was an integral part of the Green & White's only championship team.
When I saw him in our second-floor lobby yesterday, Ryan was wearing a green Jets T-shirt and green mesh shorts. As always, he looked good in green.
"Yeah, the price is right too," Buddy told me.
I was fortunate enough to get a minute with Ryan after he spoke with three Jets Super Bowl alums — Emerson Boozer, Gerry Philbin and John Schmitt. Buddy has been with the team the past couple of days, watching his son Rex lead the Jets in his first ever minicamp as head coach.
"It's great. He's doing a great job," Buddy said. "A lot of the older players [alumni] are coming out and that makes it great. He has invited them all in. It's my understanding that before they haven't been welcome here."
Four decades before Rex Ryan was named head coach of the Jets, he and his twin brother, Rob, now defensive coordinator of the Browns, would travel to Shea Stadium with their father.
"I used to take him to Shea Stadium all the time and they'd play in the carpet room. Weeb [Ewbank] would be thrilled right now with Rex and Rob because he thought a lot about those guys," Buddy said. "When they were 6 years old, I would bring them to Shea and they'd watch the Mets play and I'd break down film downstairs. They were around football a lot."
Time flies and you wonder if some of these young defenders even know of Buddy Ryan's accomplishments. Rex brought his legendary father into the defensive meeting room this week to witness the Jets at work.
"I like to watch him. I went to the defensive meeting today and he likes to go after them and put the pressure on," Buddy said. "It's the kind of defense I like to coach and I like to watch. They'll mix it up and they'll blitz."
Buddy Ryan, a native Oklahoman, has always been a fan of the Big Apple. Now that Rex is in town, Buddy plans on getting into Manhattan for a show.
"I'll be here a lot more. I understand they have a play called Jersey Boys that I'd like to go to and have dinner," he said with that trademark twinkle. "I always loved New York. My goal when I was here was I always wanted to go down Broadway and have somebody yell, 'Hey Buddy.' Nobody ever did until I was in Philadelphia when I came back. It's a great town."
There is something intrinsic to both Buddy and Rex that you are drawn to. They are different people, but welcoming and charismatic, engaging and funny, and they both look darn good in green.
"I've watched him coach football for years. He's been a coordinator for years. He's enjoying it and I think the players are enjoying him," Buddy said. "The fans will, too, when they win."