Few people had the privilege of playing for Buddy Ryan, but Richard Dent did. It wasn’t always easy. Actually, it was hard work.
But it was also a heck of a lot of fun.
“Buddy is kind of like your grandfather. If you ask him a question, you might not want to hear the answer,” Dent, the Hall of Famer and former Bear, said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He’s one of those guys. But to his scheme, Buddy was all about sending enough guys where he had six men one-on-one and somebody’s got to make a play. What he would not let happen is he would not let people double his guys – and that’s the key. If nobody makes a play, then he’s going to send seven. He’s going to send whatever it takes to get it done. On first and second down, we don’t get any calls from Buddy. We prepare our defense and put our best defense against your best offensive front. If you’re going to motion into two or three different fronts, then we’re going to shift into two or three different defenses. If you motion into certain things, sometimes we have a blitz on. So he prepared his guys to be the best that they can be on the field and trusted them to do what we planned to do. To just line up and react is one thing. We didn’t believe just in that. We wanted to delegate. We wanted to cut out things. We wanted to make your offense become very simple to where you’re basically throwing away a lot of stuff and you’re just trying to put man against man.”
Ryan, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 85, helped lead the 1985 Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl title. The Bears went 15-1 that season and won their three playoff games by a combined score of 91-10.
The Bears had a lot of big personalities on that team and on their defense, in particular. Ryan didn’t mind.
“He was fine with that,” Dent said. “That was the good part about it. He didn’t know too many people’s names. He always called you by your number. If he called you by your name, chances are he probably didn’t like you. He didn’t remember names most of the time, but he was definitely a players’ coach. You could have a conversation with (him) about a lot of things or have a drink (with him). Buddy, his personality, he was all about winning, he was all about being the best, he was all about doing what we wanted to do – and if you could do extra, do extra. But man, the most important part is the guy really appreciated the game and appreciated your services. As for personality, we had a lot of crazy personalities, but he could get all of us together to be the best that we could be. When you’ve got 50 guys, not everybody’s going to get along. It’s (all) about being able to talk to a man and show appreciation. I can remember our last conversation. I think it was our 20th anniversary. He said, ‘I just wanted to let you know that I love you and I appreciate you.’ You can appreciate a man that talks to you in that manner.”
Ryan would give them fair warning if he would say something to the press.
“If he said something, he’d come and tell you then he’d go to the press. He’d tell you what he’d go to the press and say,” said Dent. “Mike (Ditka) would say things and you would hear it in the press. At least Buddy would confront you and let you know what he’s about to go do… When you’re coming in on some guy, tell me the truth, don’t bull-sh*t me. Just let me have it when I need to have it. And that’s Buddy.”
The ’85 Bears, who blanked the Giants and Rams in the playoffs before beating the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX, are considered by many the best defense of all time.
Dent doesn’t know who would even be a close second.
“If you’re going to be better than the Bears, then you got to have somebody that’s better than me – and I don’t see that right now,” Dent said, laughing. “The point of it is, it’s all about getting to the quarterback. Playing defense and stopping the run, that’s something that, you see ball, you get ball. If you cannot shed people and go to the ball, then you can’t be put in (that) realm. What we did was we took your running game away. You couldn’t run the ball my way. I had William (Perry) inside. If you didn’t double him and you single me, you’re not going to get outside. We dictated on the right side. The only place for you to run is to your left, and we was able to get aggressive. If we (ever got a lead), the game’s over. You’re not going to come back.”