Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.
Ditka lets Ryan speak his mind
Herb Gould and Kevin Lamb
Originally published Aug. 18, 1985
The lines of authority between the Bears’ head coach and defensive coordinator are no different than they are on most NFL teams.
It looks that way sometimes. Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s public comments have been known to contradict Mike Ditka’s.
The difference, though, is that Ditka and Ryan are more outspoken and candid than most coaches.
Ryan runs the defense. Ditka has the ultimate authority to run the team. He could overrule Ryan’s decisions. But he doesn’t.
Few NFL head coaches do make their teams’ defensive decisions. Dallas’ Tom Landry is the only one who doesn’t delegate almost full responsibility to at least one of his coordinators.
Even George Halas’ defense was an entity of its own. He had defensive coordinators who were reluctant even to show him their game plans.
Under Don Shula, Bill Arnsparger got credit and responsibility for Miami’s great defenses. When Bud Grant’s Minnesota Vikings dominated the NFC Central Division, the defense was coordinator Neill Armstrong’s.
Bill Walsh doesn’t coach San Francisco’s defense. George Siefert does. When Seattle and Denver had outstanding defenses last season, the credit went to coordinators Tom Catlin and Joe Collier.
Ditka, like other head coaches, has his hands full with the offense. He has little time to dabble in a defense in good hands.
He didn’t hire Ryan, but that’s not unique.
Sometimes he cringes at Ryan’s comments. He could have done without the “wasted draft choice” reference to William Perry, for example. But he reacted with patience.
“In a lot of organizations, you make that statement, you’re gone, period, whoever you are,” Ditka said. “And in some organizations, it can be tolerated.”