Take this and stuff it in your pipes!

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by BradMustersGhost, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304441404579121952540266032

    For his forthcoming book "Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football," author Rich Cohen caught up with former Bears coaches and players to find out what made the most fearsome team in NFL history tick. In this excerpt, he explores the team's rise and the stormy relationship between coach Mike Ditka and assistant Buddy Ryan, the brains behind the Bears' intimidating defense.

    For Mike Ditka, it must have been maddening. He was the coach of the Chicago Bears but had little control over the defense—he could talk all he wanted but didn't have the power to fire his defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan, who had worked out a special deal with the team's owner, George Halas. The result was a rift between offense and defense, a rift and a rivalry.

    During an epic stretch in the 1980s, when the Bears won 35 regular season games and lost just three, the offense and defense traveled on separate buses, attended separate meetings, followed separate codes.

    Ditka and Ryan were often at war. It wasn't an act: These men truly hated each other. It was the energy behind everything; it was there at halftime, at the beginning and end of each practice and game. "Every now and again, when things weren't going well on the field, Mike would come by and make some suggestions," Ryan said. "I'd just tell him to go blank himself, and he'd turn around and walk off."


    [​IMG]
    Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan Getty Images

    In an unintended way, this dysfunction helped the Bears: As their offense and defense went after each other, every practice turned into a battle and the players drove each other to the heights of ferocity. Asked to name the best team he faced in 1985, Ditka said, "the Bears."

    "When you went out for a normal practice, you wouldn't wear as many pads," safety Doug Plank said, "but when Mike came to town and Buddy was the defensive coordinator, you went to every practice thinking, 'You know what? A game could break out here at any moment. I'm taking everything.' "

    Iron Mike
    Over time, a football team takes on the personality of its head coach. If he's strong, the team will be strong. If he's weak, the team will be ineffectual.

    But what if he's insane?

    Standing behind a podium at his postgame news conferences, Ditka looked like a bear and behaved like a bear. His forehead was domed, and his close-set eyes burned. He shifted from side to side, taking his time, deciding which reporter to next raise up and beat down. If a question struck him as stupid, he would grunt and mutter, "Next." He could make "next" sound like a nasty word. Now and then, watching on TV, you'd see a reporter raise his hand, then, fixed in the coach's glare, lower it a little, then a little more, then drop it altogether and stare into his lap. If challenged, Ditka assumed the flat-faced puzzled expression of a bear in a documentary, a grizzly that has caught an interesting smell in the wind, that has reared back on his hind legs, paws dangling, searching for prey. Next. He was a Kodiak rooting through trash on the edge of a national park. He was a grizzly enraged by a swarm of bees.

    If asked, after a loss, "What went wrong?" he might grimace and say, "You saw it. We stink." Following an especially bad loss, he said, "I'd be surprised if we won another game." But if the team won, the news conference was raucous. Ditka was still a bear, only now he was a happy bear shredding through picnic baskets at an ill-tended campsite in the Adirondacks.

    Ditka was an expressive man, a fist pounder, less like the cerebral masters of the game than like his father, a union boss from western Pennsylvania. He would be calm one minute, then throw a clipboard the next. He said what he thought in the no-nonsense way of the political fixer. When I spoke to Bob Avellini, a Bears quarterback who battled with Ditka, he said, "If the people only knew the truth about their hero Iron Mike: He called plays like a drunken fan."

    Of course, they did know, and that is why they loved him. Ditka personified the town and its fans, many of whom were indeed drunk.

    Former Bears general manager Jim Finks once described Ditka's method as "Ready, Fire, Aim."

    The Genius
    Buddy Ryan grew up in Oklahoma in a four-room house without plumbing. He saw action in the Korean War, played football at Oklahoma A&M and, less than a year after graduation, began coaching. Everywhere he went, his defenses hurt people, and his teams won.

    In 1978, when he joined the Bears' Ryan was 45, a barrel-chested, theory-stuffed genius. He wore wire-frame glasses and was constantly sticking his finger in the faces of his players, yelling, smirking or brushing the sandy hair from his fierce eyes.

    He knew all the tricks of the cult leader, how to sweeten the hours of pain with a scrap of praise, a hand on the neck, a tap on the helmet. In Chicago, he was at the center of worship. Charismatic, intense. You'd follow him to the edge of your strength and sanity because you wanted to be acknowledged. It didn't matter where you were drafted or what you got paid: Buddy made you earn your spot. Everyone started at the bottom, where you were mocked and humiliated, name-called and worked over, until he could see you had broken and were ready to submit. Then he remade you into a killer, a kamikaze who would fly into the aircraft carrier.

    "Buddy operated by numbers," Plank said. "There were no names. You were either an adjective, and not a very complimentary one, or you were the number on your jersey. I was 46. Being a number was an honor. It meant you weren't an adjective. Here comes this master sergeant from the Korean War and he started to develop and encourage pride in being part of a special unit, a defensive squad."

    In his first years in Chicago, Ryan was coaching mostly mediocre players. On many days, the Bears were outclassed. To compete, he had to improvise. "He was experimenting with defenses," Plank said. "He was going wild, looking for some way to generate a pass rush. You'd go into a meeting and see a bunch of crazy formations on the board. He'd go through each and say, 'OK, here's what we're going to try.' And someone would say, 'What do you call it?' Buddy didn't use X's and O's.

    "When he put things on the board, it was numbers. He named formations after the number in the center of the formation. So one morning we go in and sure enough there's a new defense with my number in the middle: the 46."

    In the standard 4-3 defensive alignment, the offense's center usually wasn't "covered," meaning no one lined up directly in front of him. This usually allowed the center to double-team a pass-rusher. But Ryan moved a linebacker to the line of scrimmage, then shifted Plank into the gap left by that linebacker. This meant none of Ryan's rushers could be double-teamed.

    On a blitz in Ryan's defense, another linebacker or safety might creep up to the line and hide behind a big defensive end. As a result, there were often more rushers than blockers, which is why, in 1985, it often looked as if the Bears had too many players on the field. Buddy called the hidden blitzers free runners. "Confuse the offense until they have no idea where you're coming from—that is what creates a free runner," Plank said. "A free runner is an unblocked defensive player, and he gets to the quarterback so much faster…When a free runner hits the quarterback, the quarterback flies through the air."

    In fulfilling an age-old playground fantasy, Ryan had decided to hell with it, and seemingly sent all his guys after the quarterback with a simple mission: Nail him. Rather than try to cover everyone, Ryan decided to short-circuit the offense by taking out the quarterback. As boxers used to say: Kill the brain, and the body will follow.

    "Football is chess," Plank said. "You can capture all my pawns, but if I tip over that king, I win."

    'Brace for impact'
    Ryan's quarterback-destroying creation, the 46 defense, made its debut in 1981, six days after a terrible 48-17 loss to the Detroit Lions. Ryan felt a special urgency: The Bears were about to face the best offense in the NFL.

    I recommend this game, played Sunday, Oct. 25, 1981, for study by future generations. Here you had the soaring, pass-drunk offense that Don Coryell devised for the San Diego Chargers, with quarterback Dan Fouts sending a magnificent array of receivers downfield, meeting the 46 in its first sketchy incarnation. Elegant precision faces the howling mob, 11 brutes with maces and helmets, barbarians wandering in the black forest of Soldier Field. It's the dialectic of history: When a system becomes arrogant, a competing system will arise to defeat it.

    "As organized and experienced as that group of players were from the Chargers, they'd seen nothing like it," Plank said. "Mad dogs. Wild men. Coming from every side. A jail break. By the end, Dan Fouts did not know where to look: Should he try to find the open man downfield, or should he simply brace for impact?"

    It was this confusion, planted in the mind of the quarterback, that made the 46 hum. It wasn't merely pressure that devastated the offense; it was the perception of pressure. Even on plays in which the linebackers dropped back, the quarterback, sensing the rush that wasn't there, hurried himself into mistakes. In this way, the 46 made even the best quarterback defeat himself by turning his own anxiety into a weapon.

    The 1-6 Bears beat the 5-2 Chargers 20-17 in overtime. For Fouts, it was among the worst games in a Hall of Fame career. He completed 13 of 43 passes and was intercepted twice. A casual fan might believe he had just seen an upset, a fluke, but it was actually the start of a new era. "We were going wild in the locker room," Plank said. "We were screaming and shouting and all thinking the same thing: 'My God, this can work.' "

    Every week, there was a new feature or trick as players learned the intricacies of the 46: how to cheat, where to fake, when to go full-tilt at the quarterback. At first used in spot situations, it became the Bears' standard defense. It peaked in 1984 and 1985. By then, thanks to draft picks and acquisitions, the Bears had great players, including future Hall of Famers Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent.

    There were dominating defenses before 1985 and there have been others since, but none has been quite like the '85 Bears. In the course of 16 games, they gave up fewer than 13 points a game. In their first two playoff games, they allowed zero points. There were games in which the other team barely breached Bears territory.

    A few defenses have had comparable numbers, most prominently the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. "You can come up with comparative stats," Singletary has said, "but the best way to tell is to take out the film of any team you want to compare us with: the Steel Curtain, the Purple People Eaters, the 2000 Ravens. Watch them. They're tremendous. Now put the '85 Bears film on and don't say a word. Our film will talk to you. What will it say? You'll know when you see it, because the film does not lie."

    Ditka once knocked Buddy Ryan, saying, "On offense, you have to be smart. On defense, you just have to be brutal." It was a put-down, and it wasn't true. In Chicago, the innovations, the big strategic thinking, all came on the brutal side of the ball. The '85 Bears were thrilling on offense but they're remembered because of their defense.

    The End of Buddy Ball
    As Super Bowl XX approached, some fans worried that the Bears weren't taking the New England Patriots seriously enough. But Chicago had already played New England—in the second week of the season, a game in which they sacked Tony Eason six times and knocked him down constantly. They beat him up and put a fear in him that, according to Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael, never went away.

    Hampton said he knew the Super Bowl would be a romp the Wednesday before the game, when he watched Eason at a news conference. He could tell just by looking at the quarterback's eyes. Worried, scared, he hadn't come to fight. He was hoping only to survive.

    The Bears had a final meeting the day before the big game. Ditka said his piece, then the offense and defense split up for separate discussions. Ryan went through the game plan, then, at the moment when he would normally offer some parting wisdom, just stood quietly, as if considering. There had been rumors. Everyone had heard them during the playoffs: that Ryan, after four years of battling Ditka, had finally been offered a head-coaching job of his own and would soon leave for Philadelphia. If true, this would be his last game as a Bear, his last at the helm of a defense he had shaped in his own image. Ryan was more than a coach. He was the leader of a sect, where hitting was a ritual and concussing was a triumph and getting concussed was a sacrifice. For many of these men, football was Buddy Ball. Playing for an ordinary coach was hard to imagine. And yet they weren't naive. They knew it was the same for coaches as for players: Careers in the game being vanishingly short, you take the opportunity.

    Ryan admitted none of this; talking about next year while the fate of the current season is yet to be decided is taboo. But he let his players understand the truth in his silence, his lumpy awkwardness. Then, when each man had stopped and considered and realized—the end of Ryan would be the end of the elite unit, the end of the ethos—he cleared his throat, pushed his glasses up his nose and said, "No matter what happens after tomorrow, you guys are my heroes," then walked out.

    There was a moment of silence. It distended. It went on. In it, you could hear sniffles and sobs and great big men weeping, tears flowing down thick gleaming faces. "Guys were sniffling and crying. Real quiet," said Ron Rivera, a backup linebacker and the current coach of the Carolina Panthers. "Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, McMichael goes, 'What a bunch of crybabies. We're getting ready to play the most important game of our lives, and all you guys can do is whine about this?' And he grabs a chair and throws it across the room and it sticks in the chalkboard."

    Hampton jumped to his feet beside McMichael, screamed, then drove his hand into the film projector, which busted into gears and springs, and the men, whipped into a frenzy, charged out of the room, which is exactly how Ryan intended it.

    As soon as the Bears defense got on the field, they began to terrorize Eason. He had been a star in college at Illinois, 6 feet 4, 212 pounds, a cannon for an arm. The Patriots had drafted him first in 1983. He was at the beginning of a seemingly fine career. But the Bears had him spooked. "His eyes were bugging out," said Dave Duerson. "He was terrified, really, every snap he was on the field. We were way inside his head."

    For a quarterback, playing against the 46 was a bit like surfing: If you didn't want to look like a fool, you had to get beyond the break, into the calm water. But Eason spent the entire afternoon close to shore, dashing here and there as the rollers broke over his head. The worse it got, the tighter he played; the tighter he played, the worse it got. He was chased, knocked down, sacked, intercepted. A nightmare, a humiliation watched by millions of people.

    Tony Eason is the only starting quarterback in Super Bowl history to finish the day without a single completion. He finished 0 for 6, with three sacks and a fumble. ESPN rated his performance the worst in Super Bowl history. When the Patriots offense came on the field late in the second quarter, Eason stayed on the bench.

    A few weeks later, when Ryan was introduced as the new coach of the Eagles, Ditka was asked if he was happy that Buddy was leaving, "Happy? No," Ditka said. "I'm not happy. I'm elated
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  2. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    A few thoughts here. Buddy and Mike are both good guys, who did good things for the Bears. It was a rough situation for their relationship due to them being forced to endure each other (Ditka didn't get to choose his DC, so that would have rubbed a lot of HC's the wrong way). It sounds like both of them hated each other, but Ditka has mellowed about Buddy in the later years.

    Ditka had the better career as a coach, and of course he's in the Hall of Fame and Buddy isn't. Ditka's career record was .560 with 121 wins. Buddy won 55 games and lost 55 games during his head coaching career. I'll always remember a game in '85 when John Madden commented on the defense we had that year. He said it wasn't the scheme that made it successful, but the level of talent that we had. It was an insane level of talent that we had (multiple players from that team are in the Hall of Fame now). Even Mel Tucker would have looked pretty good with that outrageous level of talent.

    Loved them both. Both had flaws. As Ditka said in the NFL Films "A Football Life" the only super bowl either of them won was when they were together. After that, neither won at that level again.
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  3. shark86x

    shark86x Pro-Bowler SuperFan

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    Book's on the shelves now. might pick it up soon.

    link
  4. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    pick up a copy for me too, k Shark86X? After all, I am the guy who first told you about it. :)
  5. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    JABF, I like you. You know that....with that having been said, Buddy's schemes BRILLIANTLY maximized the talent which he had to create the most aggressively destructive force the world had seen SINCE Hitler's Panzers were rolling across Eurasia, circa 1941-1942. There is a difference between "doing okay" with the talent you have, and MAXIMIZING the talent you have to achieve something historic. On a related note, Madden was always an overrated idiot and his video games sucked.
  6. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I'm not dissing Buddy because I really did love the guy. My only point is that Chicago owes a lot to both men.

    Regarding Madden, I always liked John Madden and Summerall doing the old Bears games. I still like to put one of the old games on, with them doing the commentary, and just relive those glory days. Just hearing them describing a Walter Payton touchdown brings "good vibes" to me. Those two together were a hoot.

    [​IMG]
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  7. short faced bear

    short faced bear Assistant Head Coach DBS Writer

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    I always thought the '84 Bears was the most imposing, hardest hitting team I've ever seen. A perfect storm of talent, scheme, us vs them mentality, as well as inner strife with Buddy vs. Ditka made all facets fire on all cylinders.

    We could definitely use some innovation and experimentation right now...
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  8. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    I have decided that I rather like you, shore faced bear.
  9. short faced bear

    short faced bear Assistant Head Coach DBS Writer

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    Thanks (I think)
    :)
  10. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    One of the reasons that the Iggles didn't win more games is b/c they didn't have the talent to run the 46 D, that D requires that INSANE amount of talent that Madden is talking about. If you are missing it the D fails b/c you leave so many D players on an island.
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  11. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    ricza, with all due respect, the Eagles defense had a sick amount of talent which Buddy drafted. The reason why the Eagles didn't win more can be summed up in one word: Offense. Buddy did NOTHING to build up the offense. They had a mediocre offensive line, mediocre receivers and mediocre rbs. Buddy's offensive game plan was to let Randall "run around and just do something amazing to score a TD." Sandlot, disorganized offensive football isn't going to win many games (especially against quality teams/defenses) in the NFL. Ask any Eagles fan and they will tell you that it was the Eagles offense which held those teams back, not the defense.
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  12. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    BMG, I know the Philly D was good, but NO D had so much talent at all levels as the Bears 85 D, other then maybe those early Balt Raven's D's. What you described their O as...that was his D, let his D playmakers run around and make a play, that was the 85 D in a nutshell, have so many playmakers that 1 is going to make a play somewhere.

    The D wasn't revolutionary, b/c it was never repeated, b/c it couldn't be b/c no team could get that kind of talent that Bears had at that time. It actually got worse for him b/c Wash figured out how to beat it, and teams started mirroring what Wash was doing.
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  13. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    "that was his D, let his D playmakers run around and make a play, that was the 85 D in a nutshell, have so many playmakers that 1 is going to make a play somewhere."


    riczaj01, you're a good guy, but I think we are going to just have to agree to disagree here. Buddy's defensive schemes were a HECK of a lot more complex than that!^^ He continued to enjoy success with his defensive schemes (including the 46) with the 93 Houston Oilers (4th in points allowed, playing LIGHTS OUT by the end of the season after a slow start...sound familiar? the HOUSE OF PAIN!!!! ) and the 1994 Cardinals (4th in points allowed, 3rd in yardage allowed). No less an authority than the legendary offensive mastermind Bill Walsh, referred to the 46 as "a singular achievement in football strategy." He was also quoted as saying: "It took every ounce of football knowledge and energy I had, just to prepare to face that defense." It was a heck of a lot more complicated than Buddy merely instructing Wilbur, Otis, Mike and Co. to "fly around the field and make plays." Buddy was a genius, the same way Don Coryell was a genius. God Bless You, Buddy. I still love you. :)
  14. riczaj01

    riczaj01 DaBears Ditka DBS Writer

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    I'm not taking anything away from Buddy or the 46, but again if it was this great revolutionary thing, then it would have been copied and still be in use today. It's not and there is a very real reason for that.

    Much love back BMG, and trust me disagreeing w/you and not liking you are 2 very completely different things ;), we can disagree and still be cool.
  15. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    RIcza, variations of the 46 are STILL used today. Buddy, himself, would use it (at most) on only 25-33% of the opposing offense's snaps. It was NEVER meant to be an every down defense. As Ron Jaworski himself, noted in his excellent book, The Games that Changed the Game, WHENEVER you see any exotic blitz package (such as an overload blitz), you are still seeing the influence of the 46 defense.

    You're a good guy, riczaj. Always a pleasure chatting with you. At least you aren't obsessed with Chad Pennington AND Pennywise!
  16. omc1969

    omc1969 Veteran

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    Unlike the teams of today where the "D" simply "HITS" the "O" player, the Bears of that day actually wrapped up a player after hitting him. It's called "TACKLING" !
    ;)
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  17. JPosh2012

    JPosh2012 Pro-Bowler

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    I still wonder (I wasn't around in 85) how many more Super Bowl's we would have won if Buddy still had been DC in Chicago and we actually had a QB.
  18. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    JPosh, the Bears defense was, arguably, better in '86 after Buddy left. They held opponents to fewer yards and fewer points in '86 after Buddy was gone. They were again the #1 defense in the NFL, even though Buddy was long gone to the Eagles. And Buddy's defense in Philly wasn't even a top-10 defense that '86 season, but the Bears "D" was still stellar and the best in the entire NFL. In '87, in Buddy's 2nd season with the Eagles, their defense dropped to one of the worst in the entire NFL - 25th ranked "D" that year. They actually got worse after Buddy got there. Yet the Bears still had a top-5 defense in the 2nd season with Buddy gone.

    Primarily, it's all about the talent. In the mid-80's we had an obscene amount of it on our defenses. Without the talent-laden defense, Buddy's Eagles were not so hot on defense.

    That's why it was so heartbreaking when McMahon went down to injury - effectively killing our 1986 season. I will always believe the '86 team was better than the '85 team, if only McMahon had not been hurt. The defense in '86 had great talent - again. Buddy really wasn't missed so much, IMHO. It was all about the talent, not so much the scheme. John Madden was right about that.

    LINK: 1985 NFL Defensive Rankings
    LINK: 1986 NFL Defensive Rankings
    LINK: 1987 NFL Defensive Rankings
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013
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  19. omc1969

    omc1969 Veteran

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    Thank Forrest Gregg and the asshole who body-slammed Jim for that. Should have been kicked out of the league for that !
    :mad:
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  20. BradMustersGhost

    BradMustersGhost Veteran

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    With all due respect, there is a reason why the 1985 Defense (with Buddy as DC) was considered the MOST DOMINANT DEFENSE in the history of the NFL. Yeah, they got off to a slow start in the 1985 season, which obviously affected their "end of year" statistics. Singletary, Hampton and Co. basically admitted that they were on "cruise control" to start the season, and that they had to wake up and realize that they weren't going to simply be able to dominate teams by simply showing up. Once they did "wake up", they put on a show the likes of which the world will never see again. They REMAIN the only defense to shut-out every opponent on the way to the Super Bowl, and they WOULD have shut out the Patriots had it not been for Payton's 1st QTR fumble. You can quite all of the "statistical rankings" you want, but the fact remains that the 1985 Defense will never be matched. Like it or not, Buddy Ryan's coaching was a LARGE PART of that success. Regarding those 1986 and 1987 defenses under Tobin, how did they fare in CRUNCH TIME? How did they perform in the playoffs against Redskins teams QB'ed by Jay freakin' Schroeder and Doug Williams? As I recall, Tobin's defenses looked QUITE mortal in those two playoff games. Quite a far cry from how Ryan's defenses performed against the offenses they faced in the 1985 postseason (one of which, the Phil Simms-led Giants attack, would go on to win the Super Bowl the following year). By your logic, the 2001 Ravens were the GREATEST DEFENSE of all-time, because they gave up fewer ppg than the '86 Bears. Or what about the "Gritz Blitz" Falcons, they must have been the most dominant defense in history, because they STILL hold the record for fewest ppg given up over a complete NFL season. Statistics can be quite helpful and enlightening, HOWEVER, they NEVER give you the COMPLETE PICTURE. Ask Otis, Hampton, Singletary, et. al. about the differences between Tobin and Ryan, and then decide for yourself just how much Buddy was missed by this team. They would know far better than you or I.
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