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NFL Defensive Guru Buddy Ryan Dies

This story first appeared in ESPN.com news services.

Former NFL head coach and influential defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan died Tuesday. He was 82.

The always outspoken Ryan, who coached in the NFL for 26 seasons, was known for building some of football’s top defenses behind a relentlessness that focused on creating havoc on the field.

His death was confirmed by the Buffalo Bills, who employ twin sons Rex and Rob Ryan. James Solano, Buddy Ryan’s agent, said he died in Kentucky but did not give a cause.

“I wonder who just lost their defensive coordinating job in heaven,” former Chicago Bearsdefensive tackle Steve McMichael told ESPN on Tuesday.

James David Ryan was a Korean War veteran who went to Oklahoma State, then got a master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State even while coaching. He got his first major job in the pros in New York, then of the AFL, in 1968. Ryan was the linebackers coach for the Joe-Namath led Jets, a boastful, confident team that fit his personality.

Those Jets led the AFL in defense in his first season on staff, then shocked the Colts in the Super Bowl, 16-7.

“That’s something my dad was very proud of,” said Rex Ryan, who is entering his second season as the Bills’ head coach. “When (former Jets coach Weeb) Ewbank hired him, he had to make a difference. If he felt he wasn’t making a difference, then his career as a professional coach would be short.”

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