Tough-talking Ryan tells Oilers' defenders: Tough it up, or else

THE BUDDY SYSTEM

July 28, 1993|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Staff Writer

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio

Is he Jack Pardee's buddy, or Buddy waiting for a job?

Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan is in training camp at Trinity University bringing his tough-guy image and game plan to the Houston Oilers as the team's defensive coordinator.

Rumors here in Texas have Ryan succeeding Houston head coach Pardee if the Oilers stumble early, or in the playoffs again.

Ryan says it ain't so.

"I'm here to help Jack win a Super Bowl and save his job," Ryan said. "Usually in this business, if you don't win, everybody goes."

Ryan went in 1991, fired by Eagles owner Norman Braman after five years as head coach. Ryan couldn't get to the Super Bowl.

Pardee hasn't been able to get there, either, despite Houston making the playoffs six straight years. Last season's playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills, though, was an . . .

"Embarrassment, say it" Ryan said.

Houston led, 35-3, at the half, but lost, 41-38 in overtime, in the worst second-half collapse in league history.

Oilers owner Bud Adams grew impatient, and Houston general manager Mike Holovak fired defensive coordinator Jim Eddy and secondary coach Pat Thomas.

Ryan, 59, without Pardee's approval, was called in to be defensive coordinator from his ranch in Laurenceburg, Ky, where he trains thoroughbred race horses. (No winners there, either.)

"I've had some opportunities, but I just didn't want them," Ryan said. "I wanted the right one. Now, if this all works out, Jack wins, and I get another coaching job somewhere."

Ryan draws all the attention these days. Reporters wait after practices. Kids ask for autographs. Pardee, by contrast, gets into his car and leaves quietly.

"I've always been the type to say what I feel," Ryan said. "Maybe that's why you guys flock around me."

He's known for building great physical and free-lancing defenses. He built the Chicago Bears' championship unit in 1985. He was on Weeb Ewbank's staff in 1968 when the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in January 1969. He also helped form the Minnesota Vikings "Purple People Eaters" in the 1970s.

"No coach can win without great players, and some can't win with them," Ryan said.

"But I promise this: when camp ends, this team will be known around the league as probably the most physical team in the NFL," Ryan said.

Ryan says he has great players, such as linemen Ray Childress and Sean Jones and linebackers Wilber Marshall and Al Smith. Ryan also says the Oilers have the best secondary he has ever been around.

"We have a lot of great players," Ryan said. "If we come together all on the same page, we can win."

Last year the Oilers defense was ranked first in the AFC, and third overall.

But something was missing.

"Toughness," Ryan said. "This team will play good, hard-nosed football, and we'll get after some people."

If not, Ryan will. He is known for being one who can get at a player's pride.

Ryan recently demoted fourth-year linebacker Lamar Lathon. Lathon publicly announced he wanted to be traded.

Ryan's response: "I've benched better players than him before."

But the action apparently served as a motivator for Lathon. He reported early with the rookies."

"It shows that he wants to work hard," Ryan said. "I'm glad to see him here. He just needed a little kick in the butt . . . ."

Ryan also couldn't pass up a shot at Eagles coach Rich Kotite, who imposed a gag order on his players this past week.

"If you can't stand the heat, you ought to get out of the kitchen," said Ryan, who encourages his players to speak openly.

Ryan's approach and coaching style will take some time getting used to.

"Once you get it, it's a freestyle type of thing," said Eddie Robinson, a second-year linebacker. "It really lets you use your ability to get up there and make big plays."

What about Ryan's style?

"Once we start winning, I think the players will get used to Buddy," Ryan said.

If not, they may have to go.

"We've got some guys that are great and some guys that are on the bubble," Ryan said.

"For the guys on the bubble, I want them to know it can pop any time."

That's Buddy.

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