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1985 Bears Coverage: Ryan denies Eagle talks

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.

Ryan denies Eagle talks

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Jan. 15, 1986

Bear defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan interviewed for the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coaching job yesterday, team president Michael McCaskey said.

No he didn’t, Ryan said.

Eagle general manager Harry Gamble was in Chicago to interview Ryan, reports from Philadelphia said.

No he wasn’t, Gamble said.

Two things, everybody agreed on. Eagle owner Norman Braman asked for permission to talk to Ryan, and McCaskey gave it to him.

Beyond that, it wasn’t even certain if the Eagles sincerely wanted to hire Ryan or if they wanted to increase their leverage in negotiations with another candidate for the job.

Gamble reportedly discussed the job yesterday afternoon with Jim Mora, the successful coach of the USFL’s Philadelphia and Baltimore Stars. The Eagles had interviewed Mora before, but he had balked at some of their contract terms.

Braman declared Ryan a candidate after he said Ryan received the most glowing recommendations when he asked around the league. “My feeling toward him is very positive,” Braman said. “My God, look what he’s done.”

Ryan designed and directed the defense that led the NFL in turnovers, yards allowed and points allowed. The Bears held 13-of-18 opponents to 10 points or less and qualified for the Super Bowl with two straight playoff shutouts, an NFL first.

McCaskey said he gave the Eagles permission to interview Ryan “as long as they keep it limited to a one-time visit. I’ve asked them to keep the distractions to a minimum so we can prepare for the Super Bowl.”

McCaskey said he allowed the interview because the job might not be available in two weeks. “Braman said he was interested in another guy who had a deadline before the Super Bowl,” McCaskey said.

He could have meant Mora, whose contract with the Stars expires Friday.

Or he could have meant Dick Coury, another three-year USFL coach, who was released from his obligation to the Portland Breakers. Coury also has been mentioned for the Houston Oilers’ head coaching job, which they’ve said they hope to fill this week.

Shula candidate

The other candidate for the Eagles’ job is 26-year-old David Shula, Miami coach Don Shula’s son and receivers

coach. Braman reportedly was close to hiring Shula before he backed off from a contract that would have committed him for 10 years and the Eagles for five. They haven’t met since Dec. 21.

Ryan has said he wouldn’t leave his Bear job to be head coach where he questioned the owner’s commitment to winning. Braman is known as both a pennypincher and a meddler.

Has to be right

“If things were right, I would be interested,” Ryan said yesterday. “Just to say I’m head coach, I wouldn’t take

anything.”

Ryan said he was flattered by the attention, but “I’m more excited about getting ready for the Super Bowl. That’s what’s on my mind right now. I’m not worried about the head coaching job.”

When a television interviewer wished Ryan good luck with the Eagle job, he said, “Hope so. Who cares?” and started laughing.

McCaskey said he hoped the Bears could keep Ryan even if the Eagles offer him the job.

“I think we’ve tried to create a situation here where he can be one of the best defensive coordinators in the league,” McCaskey says. “We’ve given him a lot of scope, a lot of say and very much appreciation, and we’ve tried to show that not only when somebody comes knocking with an invitation to be a head coach.”

Ryan’s relationship with coach Mike Ditka has been controversial. They disagreed often over defensive tactics in the first two years after Ditka inherited Ryan, but their disagreements have been less frequent and restricted to personnel use the last two years. Ditka has praised Ryan often and expressed hopes of keeping him.

Ryan’s defensive players are fiercely loyal. They believe in his intricate system of blitzes and switched assignments. They appreciate his honesty and the time he spends listening and talking with them.

Players were horrified at the thought of losing Ryan last year, when he was interviewed by the Colts and Lions but apparently was not a serious candidate.

Ryan has said money would be an important factor in any head coaching decision. He is relatively well-paid as an assistant coach, with two years left on a three-year contract.

Ryan also became a natural topic for speculation about the Saints’ head coaching vacancy when Jim Finks became their general manager yesterday. Finks was the Bears’ general manager when Ryan joined them in 1978.