Strategy Game Changers: Buddy Ryan


Getting to Know Buddy Ryan

Buddy Ryan, the inventor of one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, was born in 1931. At 17 years old, he enlisted in the National Guard and landed on Korean shores Christmas Day 1951, where he would go on to serve as a master sergeant.

After the war, Ryan enrolled at Oklahoma State University and lettered all four years as a guard and linebacker. Once graduated, he immediately began coaching at the high school level and would eventually climb his way up over the next several decades.

The 46 Defense Dominates Football


Buddy Ryan is best known for orchestrating the 46 defense as the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears. The strategy gets its name from strong safety Doug Plank, who wore No. 46 when he played under Ryan. Similar to the 4-3 defense, it calls for four defensive linemen (two defensive ends and two defensive tackles), three linebackers, and four defensive backs (two safeties and two cornerbacks). The linebackers are shifted toward the offense’s weaker side to put more pressure on the backfield.

The 46 defense was super effective at disrupting a team’s running game, which forced opposing quarterbacks into throwing the ball more often. Buddy Ryan’s legendary defensive scheme was a huge part of the reason the 1985 Bears pummeled their way to a victory in Super Bowl XX.

A Career Full of Achievements

While Ryan is perhaps best known for his work as a defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears – which resulted in a Super Bowl victory – he would go on to become the head coach for other teams, taking some to the playoffs (most notably the Philadelphia Eagles, who went three times). He also worked as a defensive coordinator for the Houston Oilers between head coaching jobs, where he helped the team advance to the divisional round before they were defeated.


Today, the 46 defense isn’t incorporated much into the modern defensive game plan. While it was a very effective formation overall, it was especially good at stopping up gaps and running lanes and negating the run game. Although defenses have evolved over time, this defensive strategy does occasionally pop up; Buddy Ryan’s contributions to the game will be remembered for a long time to come.

If you’re feeling inspired by Buddy Ryan’s amazing defensive legacy (one that lives on with his twin sons, who are both defensively minded coaches in the NFL), you’ll love the gear that has on hand. From the Chicago Bears to the Arizona Cardinals, Fanatics has you covered.




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