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Is Buddy Ryan One of the Worst Head Coaches in Modern NFL History?

Jun 14, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT


We tend to look back on the Buddy Ryan era with a certain fondness despite the fact that he didn’t lead the Eagles to so much as a single playoff win in five seasons as head coach.

Let’s not mince words: the man is a Philadelphia legend. Buddy assembled one of the greatest defenses of all time, installed one of the most electric athletes the sport has ever known as his starting quarterback, and he did these things with a brash demeanor that played well with savage Birds fans. But was he actually a good coach?

Drew Magary and Dom Cosentino for Deadspin think not. Ryan was an innovator and a great defensive coach, but his two head coaching stints in the NFL ultimately produced nothing – at least they were unsuccessful enough to crack Magary and Consentino’s list of the 16 worst coaches in modern history.

16. Buddy Ryan (career record: 55-55-1)

Is any crappy coach in league history more beloved by a fan base than Buddy Ryan still is in Philly? He gave reporters entertaining quotes, often at the expense of his own players. He once put a bounty on the Cowboys’ kicker. He punched Kevin Gilbride, and even if it happened when he was in Houston, the act only endeared Ryan that much more to the likes of Paulie from East Passyunk. (According to the late Dave Duerson, Buddy was also something of a racist.) “Buddy Ryan,” A.J. Daulerio once wrote, “was a walking, talking version of the mythology Philadelphia fans idolize about themselves.” People in Philly like Buddy Ryan because Buddy Ryan wasn’t Andy Reid, never mind that Buddy Ryan, with his immensely talented roster, never won a single playoff game (something even Rich Kotite did in Philly). The Cardinals later dragged Ryan off his horse farm to try to rescue the franchise. “You’ve got a winner in town,” Ryan declared during his introductory press conference in the desert. He went on to win 12 games in two seasons before getting shitcanned again.

Looking at the list of 30-plus honorable mentions, which includes names such as Rod Marinelli (0-16 season), Cam Cameron (1-15 career), Joe Bugel (.300 winning percentage), and Josh McDaniels (drafted Tim Tebow in the first round), it’s hard to believe two people felt not one of them was worse than Buddy. Sure, he didn’t produce a playoff victory, but he got there three times in five years, and undoubtedly would have been to more were he not fired following the 1990 season. I can’t speak to what went on in Arizona, but that franchise is almost never viable.

Buddy Ryan may not be as good as Philly likes to think he was, but it would seem there are plenty more than 15 men who did worse.

In case you were wondering where Rich Kotite falls on this list – because there was absolutely zero doubt he would be on it – Ryan’s successor with the Eagles comes in at No. 5. NO, Andy Reid is not on the list, smartasses.

5. Rich Kotite (career record: 41-57)

The amazing thing about Rich Kotite is that, once he was fired by the Jets, he never returned to coaching. He just fell off the face of the Earth. That’s virtually unheard of in the profession. Even Rod Marinelli, who went 0-16, was rewarded with a cushy coordinator gig after his ouster. There’s always an NFL team or a college team willing to give you a second chance. And yet, Kotite never coached again, not even in a goof league like the XFL. It’s like he died. Either Kotite decided that the job wasn’t for him and left football of his own free will—which would be rather noble—or he was SO awful during his time in New York that he was essentially exiled from the sport at every conceivable level. We’d like to think this is possible. We’d like to think that NFL executives and college presidents got together after Kotite’s firing and said, “OK, let’s all agree to NEVER hire this man again, not even as the equipment manager.”

>> The 16 Worst Coaches In Modern NFL History [Deadspin]

  1. hitnrun - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    Eh, troll for clicks trolls for clicks. Successfully.

    Even with the harshest standard applied to Buddy, the NFL fires 5 coaches worse than him every year.

  2. 2sense - Jun 14, 2013 at 5:43 PM

    Worst ever? C’mon. Getting saddled with the Fog Bowl and Izel ‘Toast’ Jenkins subbing for injured Eric Allen vs LA are hardly fair measures to evaluate a coach. Nobody who builds such an impenetrable defense should be on any ‘worst’ list, ever.

    • Mike - Jun 14, 2013 at 7:24 PM

      Any coach who builds such an impenetrable defense and doesn’t win a single playoff game should be on the list.

      Don’t like the Fog Bowl result? Win home field advantage and you don’t have that problem.

      • 2sense - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:17 PM

        Playas still gotta play yo. And going 0-3 in playoff games automatically makes you worst coach ever? Wow that’s a really crowded list of worst.

      • hitnrun - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:43 PM

        What about, you know, the coaches who don’t build an impenetrable defense?

        I mean, the argument against putting Buddy Ryan on this list seems as simple as the argument against calling him a great coach. 55-55-1 says it all. Of course, with Buddy Ryan, there were a lot of ups and downs to end up at .500.

  3. mikeytrapp - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    3 out of the 16 listed were former Eagles coaches, yet they neglected Ray Rhodes. Recount!

  4. Chris - Jun 15, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    The “never won a playoff game” thing has always been overblown. One, he got screwed in the Fog Bowl. Two, he was fired while still fielding a contending team. Three, it wasn’t as easy to get a playoff win in the single wildcard era as it is now.

    That said, Buddy really wasn’t a very good head coach. He cared even less about offensive linemen than Andy Reid did about linebackers. And as great a defense as he put together, Bud Carson was the guy that made them #1 after Buddy was gone.

  5. Mostel - Jun 15, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    Wow………55-55-1 gets your on the worst list? What a bunch of tools.

  6. Hnapes - Jun 15, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    This list should nt be taken seriously ( despite Buddys obvious flaws.) Rather , Buddy Ryan being included on that list should not be taken seriously what so ever. Although, inronically, every one else on there actually checks out.

    Drew Magary is just a capable hack who knew that if he included buddy on this list hed get thousand of page views from crotechy old eagles fan. Its what he does. ” Buddy Ryam and Eagles fans are awful” is his favorite phrase. He doesnt seriously believe that Ryan is on of the 16th worst coaches ever ( in fact its almost statisitically impossible.) that article is lazy as fuck anyway, much like a lot of Magarys writing.

    • Hnapes - Jun 15, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      Ug sorry for the typos , clearly i cant spell crotchety.

  7. Von9 - Jun 15, 2013 at 7:26 PM

    It was more fun with him in charge. Like having your crazy uncle coach the team.

  8. francisq - Jun 16, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Buddy Ryan was awful, but nowhere near the worst on Deadspin’s list. He had a position-changing phenom in Cunningham and had no interest in utilizing him anyway other than a hyperactive child running around after eating too many pixie sticks.

  9. Bobabooey - Jun 22, 2013 at 5:44 AM

    He just missed the mark on greatness. I don’t care what anyone says, I’m 43, and even though Andy was more successful, my best memories were the Buddy Ryan era and that defense. That is so much why I wanted Lovie Smith to join the Eagles. Same smash mouth style.

  10. Mike - Nov 3, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    We luv Buddy in Philly…Nothing will change that…We want a team and a coach who are wiling give their all..That’s what Buddy did….It’s not about his record but his desire to be successful that appealed to us fans…Look at the high priced coaches and players today and you will see too many pampered folks who don’t care about the fans so we’ll continue to enjoy our memories..

  11. Peter Wader - Jan 1, 2014 at 12:31 AM

    Buddy Ryan was a loser and a loudmouth. No wonder he is beloved by Beagles fans. He is practically them.


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