Canton 2016: Think Buddy Ryan

8 Aug

It’s August, a time of preparation for the coming autumn change.

Plants, wildlife and insects are doing all their things in appreciation of a limited lifespan and anticipating the coming cold.

Farmers are, well, not exactly sure what they’re doing but they’re always busy.

Parents are planning one last getaway before the kids head back to school (farmer-parents don’t have the luxury). So if you live in a blessed cul-de-sac, get ready for the ‘beep-beep-beep-beep-beep’ sound at 6:15, 7:00, 7:25, 8:05 and 9:00am (safety school bus).

It’s officially “makeover time,” per Oprah Winfrey. My beautiful wife subscribes.

And for ball-players it signifies arrival of summer’s dog days.

Most players & coaches return to baseball in mid-January and by this time it’s taken a heavy toll on both mind & body that money can‘t forestall. It’s the grind.

Contenders bearing-down for the stretch run, vying for League pennants and all-expenses paid trips to the October classic, the World Series.

And it’s also when the current trends in baggy-pants and long locks come into direct conflict with the 90°+ day-time temps (80° night). I get mental-sunburn just thinkin’ about it.


But this weekend in the month formerly known as Sextilis (6th in original 10-mth Roman calendar), later re-named in honor of Emperor Augustus (Wikipedia), is also time for that other big operator of fun & frolic, the NFL, to ceremonially kick-off their new season.

With the 32 training camps up & running, Saturday marks a collective effort to honor & reflect on those men (someday a woman, by-golly) who helped make their vocation a great one by way of busty inductions into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.

This year’s list of honorees include Misters Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Mick Tingelhoff, Bill Polian, Junior Seau, Ron Wolf and Will Shields.

Halls of Fame voters take alot of flak these days.

On rare occasion it’s deserved, when the commitment appears to be in serious doubt (Le Batard vote transfer (MLB)). But it’s an honor that creates a duty and one that cannot be all that easy to fulfill.

Like the Constitution, you don’t want to be hamstrung by too many guidelines or turn it into an encyclopedia of do’s & don’ts. You want flexibility, choice.

By the same token there’s gotta’ be a standard, a cut-off point.

What used to be a “three hour tour” in Canton’s football-shaped complex may now take parts of two days and feel more like a stranded stay on “Gilligan’s Island,” sans the slap-stick (and adorable “Ginger,” “Marianne” and “Mrs. Howell,” i.e., “Lovie”) as the number of bustees steadily grows.

The Canton Theatre:

Dad: ‘Hey, no horsing around, champ!
Zachary: But Dad, there are so many. It’s all becoming a blur. Besides, bronzed means unbreakable, ya‘ know?
Dad: Really, Einstein? Don’t get smart, kiddo, or no Xbox® tonight. I saw that.’

As is customary, induction day will trigger sport forums discussions as to the worthiness of this year’s honorees, personal favorites and those notables who didn’t get the call for the current roster of bronzed immortals.

One name recently debated is that of former Raiders (Oilers / Saints) QB Kenny “the Snake” Stabler who died in July of colon cancer (d.7.8.15).

But to discuss a man’s HOF credentials so soon after his passing, especially when the answer can be a nay, which, in Ken’s case is not an unreasonable position. Best in the immediate aftermath of a death to reflect on the man’s life as it was, not on what it wasn‘t, and save the Hall topic for a respectfully later date.


Other notables not in mournful state but viable candidates for Cantonization include coach Tom Flores, NFL Films innovator-tech Steve Sabol, QB Jim Plunkett, D-lineman Jim Marshall, O-lineman Jerry Kramer and coordinator Buddy Ryan.

This 2015-16 season will mark the 30th anniversary of the Bears whopping win in Super Bowl 20 (v. Pats, 46-10), Chicago’s last NFL title and due in no small part to the man many consider the mastermind of their vaunted defense, James David Ryan.

Buddy Ryan was born in the Sooner state (2.17.34), played offensive line at OSU (A&M) and is well-known amongst football fans as the father of Bills current head coach Rex Ryan and his brother, Saints defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan.

For Buddy’s 31 years in the NFL, 24 were in a coordinator (line) capacity, having been a head coach at career’s end with the Eagles (5) and Cardinals (2).

In my run-down of the 295 inductees since 1963’s charter class I did not notice one a coordinator among them, or one who was ‘best known’ in that capacity.


There are two ‘best known as’ general managers, including Bill Polian of this year’s distinguished class (See; Ron Wolf), two team administrators (Finks / Schramm), numerous team owners, a film innovator (Ed Sabol), a punter (Guy) and even a Supervisor of Officials, Hugh “Shorty” Ray. All very deserving enshrinements, some late in coming, but no man elected based largely on his coordination contribution.

And that’s a damn shame.

Coordinators are specialists. Like the MD called in for the tough case (“Dr. Kimble”), they prove their value over time in what can be very trying, unique circumstances, are highly-regarded and then rewarded accordingly ($).

But apparently not so in America’s pro football chapel.

Ryan‘s impressive record:

Buffalo Bills (AFL): 1961-65, defensive line coach, champions ‘64-65;
New York Jets (AFL-NFL): 1968-75, defensive line coach, SB3 champ ’69;
Minnesota Vikings: 1976-77, defensive line coach, NFC champ ’76 (SB11);
Chicago Bears: 1978-85, defensive coordinator, SB20 champ, ’86;
Philadelphia Eagles: 1986-90, head coach, 43-35, 3 playoffs (0-3);
Houston Oilers: 1993, defensive coordinator, yapg (#14), papg (#4);
Arizona Cardinals: 1994-95, head coach, 12 – 20.

Deciding on a selection standard has to be challenging.

That a voter will inform their opinion is most certain a commonality. That bias, prejudice or peer-pressure skew the process cannot be discounted, but what are you gonna’ do, turn it all over to a robot or slew of sabrheads who have no feel whatsoever for the game beyond digits? No thanks.

On personality – character, Buddy rubbed some the wrong way (See; Houston jab), but then geniuses don’t win elections. My understanding is that he earned the respect of his men, not by over-identification with players but by his vast knowledge of defensive scheme and applying a standard with consistency.

Cantonizing one whose NFL contribution was in the assistant capacity would be a break from tradition, requiring a broader view from voters. But then the NFL has been broad-ening it’s own perspective and breaking barriers with a near zeal of late (Welter / Thomas / pink-wear (ugh)), so maybe it’s Bud time, too. Cheers.


Steven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credits: PFHOF, Canton, M.Sharp, 7.14.7, wc; PFHOF, coemgenus, Canton, wc, 6.27.6; Ryan, WH, 10.7.11, P.Souza, wc; Carter, Canton-bust, 11.7.13, wc, MN-NG; PFHOF, 8.31.8, wc, Russell; NFL – wikiproject;
Posted: 8.7.15 @ 4:41pm EST
Copyright © 2015


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