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1985 Bears Coverage: Ryan going to Eagles

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 going to Eagles

Dan Pompei

Originally published Jan. 29, 1986

Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan was named Philadelphia Eagles head coach today at a Philadelphia press conference.

Ryan was in Philadelphia yesterday to meet with Eagles general manager Harry Gamble and owner Norman Braman.

Actually Braman confirmed late last night that Ryan would be his coach.

“I can confirm that we’ve signed Ryan,” Braman said when reached by the Associated Press at his Miami home.

Bears president Michael McCaskey received a phone call from Braman, who told McCaskey he was offering the job to Ryan. Braman also asked McCaskey not to speak with the press.

“The bottom line was that Buddy wanted to have a chance to run his own team,” McCaskey said.

If the Bears had been willing to pay Ryan a head coach’s salary, they might have kept him.

“The money issue has a limit, and when we’re talking about as much money as a head coach makes, there’s got to be a limit,” said McCaskey, who thought Ryan’s Bear contract was “pretty handsome.”

Candidates to replace Ryan as defensive coordinator include Bears defensive line coach Dale Haupt and secondary coach Jim LaRue.

McCaskey said he “would sure consider” Bears assistants.

Another possibility is Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, the record holder for most interceptions in a Bears career. Petitbon, a teammate with Ditka on the 1963 championship Bears, was a finalist for the New Orleans Saints’ head coach job.

“We’ll have to look around and see who will be the best person to coach the Chicago Bears defense,” McCaskey said to Chuck Swirsky on WGN-AM last night. “It’ll be a challenge for anyone to follow Buddy. But I think we have a very strong position to offer somebody.”

The Bears will have more than one position to fill if Ryan takes Haupt or LaRue to Philadelphia.

“If . . . Buddy’s interests are to take any of his assistants with him we will sit down with Mike Ditka and have a discussion as to who will fill the voids on the defensive coaching staff,” McCaskey said.

Ryan, 52, apparently is Braman’s third choice. His first choice was Miami Dolphins assistant David Shula.

The 26-year-old son of Miami head coach Don Shula signed a non-binding, preliminary five-year contract to coach the Eagles Dec. 21 after the Eagles fired Marion Campbell Dec. 16.

The Eagles apparently were concerned that Shula, if successful, would succeed his father in Miami after five seasons with Philadelphia.

So Braman at the last minute insisted on a “first-refusal” option that essentially would have bound Shula to Philadelphia for as long as the Eagles would have wanted him.

Braman’s second choice was Jim Mora, who this week was named head coach of the Saints.

Braman reached a tentative agreement with Mora Jan. 14, several hours after Gamble flew to Chicago to interview Ryan.

The Eagles’ deal with Mora fell apart Sunday. With Mora ready to sign, Braman wanted to alter the contract. Mora, who had reservations about Braman, backed out.

The Eagles were discussing five-year deals with Shula and Mora, and probably offered Ryan a contract similar in length.

In his eight seasons with the Bears, Ryan’s defenses ranked in the top 10 six times. His 1985 defense was first against the rush, third against the pass and first overall.

Called a “defensive genius,” Ryan is credited with pioneering the Bears’ 46 defense.

Bears players have said their defense would be “mediocre” without Ryan.