Gus Bradley reflects on Eagles' HC candidacy

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Gus Bradley reflects on Eagles' HC candidacy

MOBILE, Ala. -- Fans tracked his cross-country flight from Seattle to Philadelphia. Cameras zoomed in from the second he stepped off the plane. News choppers pursued his ride from the airport to Jeffrey Luries mansion.

And, of course, there was the Gus Bus.

It was crazy, Gus Bradley, the new Jaguars head coach, said Tuesday after a Senior Bowl practice as he reflected on last weeks follow-up interview with the Eagles in Philadelphia that put the city on edge for a chaotic 24-hour span.

Almost overnight, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator had reached celebrity status to a fan base clamoring for a new head coach and for the end of a search that had entered its third week.

Bradley had become such a popular figure for the media and fans that his ride on Luries private jet was rerouted to the more obscure Northeast Airport to avoid the swarm that potentially awaited him at Philadelphia International Airport.

We were flying in an airplane and they just said we were going to land in a different airport, said Bradley, who at that point didnt know about the frenzy sweeping the city.

It was flattering, he added, but I think it wasnt me, it was just the possibility of a new head coach.

Bradley spent most of last Tuesday interviewing with Lurie, general manager Howie Roseman and president Don Smolenski but left Wednesday for his interview with Jacksonville. Later that afternoon, word leaked that the Eagles had reached an agreement with Chip Kelly, their top choice all along.

Lurie had already reached out to Bradley to inform him of the decision. Bradley said he never left thinking that he had the job locked up and wasnt disappointed that Kelly had suddenly emerged as their main man.

Jeffrey called me and we had a great conversation, Bradley said. I thought they handled it first class, the whole process and how they dealt with me. I couldnt ask for a better opportunity and I really enjoyed it, really enjoyed getting to know what they were looking for. It was really exciting.

Bradley emerged as an early lead candidate shortly after Lurie fired Andy Reid on Dec. 31. The Eagles announced that they had received permission to speak with Bradley on Jan. 4, a day before they flew out to Arizona to interview Kelly at a Four Seasons in Scottsdale.

Kelly on Jan. 6 announced his decision to stay at the University of Oregon and the Eagles boarded a flight to Denver for an interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. The committee finally interviewed Bradley six days later in Atlanta on the eve of Seattles divisional playoff game against the Falcons.

They spent about three hours together but Bradley, consumed by the playoff game, couldnt get into the nuts and bolts of the interview.

I was more in the playoff mode, thinking about what we had to do to beat Atlanta, he said. I just went in there and really gave them my heart on what Im all about and try to help them with their decision-making process.

I know they were trying to find the best guy and just for the three hours that we met I said, Youll get to know me and then you guys can decide if you think its a good fit or not.

After the Seahawks lost 30-28 at the Georgia Dome, Bradley and the Eagles agreed on a follow-up discussion at Luries mansion on the Main Line that would take place Tuesday. By then, Philadelphia had become infatuated with the energetic, 46-year-old coordinator who Pete Carroll had dubbed a brilliant mind.

Thousands -- if not more -- hit the internet to track Bradleys flight from Seattle as the Gus Bus craze moved fast around the Delaware Valley, especially as it appeared very likely that Bradley would become the Eagles next head coach.

Its a special place, Bradley said of Philadelphia. Im sure Chip Kelly will do great and thats what I told Jeffrey. I said, It sounds like you got the guy that you really were going after and thats great. Im happy for him.

E-mail Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com

Dinner, wine and laughs with Buddy Ryan, who made football fun again

Dinner, wine and laughs with Buddy Ryan, who made football fun again

All Buddy wanted was a restaurant with a world-class wine list. That’s what he told former Eagles beat writer Tim Kawakami in September of 1990.

Buddy was in his fifth and what would be his final year as head coach of the Eagles, and Timmy — Buddy’s favorite beat writer — had left the Philadelphia Daily News a few months earlier to join the Los Angeles Times.

As it turned out, the Eagles were scheduled to face the Rams in Los Angeles in late September, and Buddy told the beat guys that we’d all be going out to dinner with him and Timmy the night before the game.

When the head coach tells you you’re going to dinner with him, you don’t question it, you just say yes.

So that’s how it happened that during the week before the Eagles-Rams game on Sept. 23, 1990, at L.A. Coliseum, Kawakami researched restaurants in the Orange County area with the best wine lists.

He consulted with the L.A. Times food critic, he called sommeliers at various highly regarded restaurants, he made a list and painstakingly narrowed it down and decided we’d all be dining at a fancy joint in Anaheim called Mr. Stox, a long-time Anaheim fixture with a vast wine list that would suit Buddy.

So that Saturday, as the beat guys arrived at the hotel, we found Buddy and Timmy in the lobby and a stretch limo parked outside.

Now, ethically, maybe we shouldn’t have all piled into that limo rented by the head coach we were covering. But when Buddy tells you to get into a limo, you get into the limo.

The stories were flowing freely on the ride. I was sitting in the back with Buddy and I remember him calling one former player “brain dead” as he broke up laughing.

We arrived at Mr. Stox and were shown to an elegantly appointed private room in the back, Buddy, Timmy and a dozen Philly Eagles beat guys.

Now, it’s interesting to note that the Eagles, favorites to win the NFC East, were 0-2 going into that Rams game, and there were rumors that with a third straight loss owner Norman Braman would fire him.

He was so worried that he was out at dinner with the beat writers 17 hours before kickoff.

After we all settled in, the wine steward came by with the wine list, which was this enormous bound volume listing what appeared to be literally thousands of varieties of wine.

We were all curious what Buddy would order, and it grew quiet as Buddy slowly turned the pages of the wine list. None of us realized Buddy was such a wine buff. But he specified to Timmy that he wanted the restaurant in town with the best wine list, and here we were.

Finally, as all eyes stared at Buddy, he spoke to the wine steward.

And this is exactly what he said: “How 'bout a bottle of red and a bottle of white?”

The whole room broke up at the absurdity of it all, and Buddy laughed too, and I don’t remember what happened after that, but it didn’t matter.

This was vintage Buddy Ryan. It didn’t always make sense, but it was funny as hell and fun as hell.

That’s the Buddy Ryan I’ll remember.

The guy who said linebacker Dwayne Jiles looked like a “big, fat washroom woman,” when he reported to minicamp a little out of shape.

The guy who ran a fake kneel-down against the Cowboys just because he hated Tom Landry.

The guy who always had time for the kids lining the stairs where the players and coaches left the training camp practice fields at West Chester.

The guy who would call the Colts “Baltimore” even though they had moved to Indianapolis five years earlier.

The guy who as Oilers defensive coordinator punched Oilers offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride at halftime because he wasn’t running the ball enough and his defense was on the field too much.

The guy who before the Rams playoff game in 1989 gave a generic answer to a Rams reporter who asked about stopping Greg Bell, then walked past the Philly guys and said under his breath, “Greg Bell my ass.”

The guy who told a reporter from a small town asking about a local longshot trying to make the team that the kid had survived first cuts because Buddy made him buy a suit for road travel, and he wanted to make sure the kid got to wear it twice before he cut him.

The guy who when Jimmy Johnson said he was “stupid, dumb, short and fat,” responded, “I’m not short.”

The guy who at a press conference that almost cost him his job gave front office exec George Azar a “scab ring,” for building a 1987 replacement game roster that went 0-3.

Buddy was at his best when he was attacking authority, and his open disdain for Braman — “The guy in France” — is what really won over the Philly fans. Buddy was one of us, telling his boss all the stuff that we’ve always wanted to tell our boss.

More than anything, Buddy put the Eagles back on the map. Reggie and Randall and Clyde and Seth and Wes and Andre and that 1988 team won the NFC East after six straight losing seasons, and the Eagles have really been at the forefront of Philly sports ever since.

Buddy Ryan died Tuesday at the age of 82.

He was one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. He was an Army sergeant in Korea. He had a Master’s degree. He loved horses. He was remarkably devoted to his wife Joanie during her tragic battle with Alzheimer’s.

More than anything, I’ll remember how Buddy made me laugh. How he made the whole city laugh. How Buddy made football fun again.

NFL community mourns the loss of legendary Buddy Ryan

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AP

NFL community mourns the loss of legendary Buddy Ryan

After news broke that Buddy Ryan, the former Eagles coach and defensive innovator, died on Tuesday morning, the NFL mourned the loss. 

Ryan, who was 82, made a huge impact in the NFL and the sport of football as evidenced by some of the people who tweeted on Tuesday morning: 

 

Buddy Ryan helped make Philadelphia a football town

Buddy Ryan helped make Philadelphia a football town

Buddy Ryan made me an Eagles fan again.

When he was named Eagles head coach in January 1986, I was only 13. Sure, I'd rooted for the Eagles, but after the 1982 strike and departure of Dick Vermeil, they plummeted under Marion Campbell.

In the Swamp Fox's three seasons, the Eagles went 18-29-1. Yeah, it was only three seasons of losing, but when you're a kid, three years is an eternity. 

Then Buddy Ball came to town. The raucous Ryan, who died Tuesday morning at the age of 82, brought a new breed of football to Philly. I remember those teams like they played yesterday.

Like Buddy, many of his key players can be recalled by their first name:

Randall, Reggie, Jerome, Seth, Clyde, Byron, Andre, Wes, Eric, Freddie, Calvin. 

Certain games had their own names too:

The Fog Bowl. The Bounty Bowl. The Body Bag Game. The House of Pain Game. 

Yeah, the last one came the season after Ryan had been fired, but it was still his team. The attitude and persona of the defense was all Ryan. It just so happened that another Bud — Carson — had reined in Ryan's famed 46 defense and perfected it to the point where it earned the label "1-1-1." 

First against the run, first against the pass and first overall.

That's the thing with Buddy. His team reached its pinnacle without him. Buddy deserves a ton of credit for reviving the Eagles in their own town. His teams are perhaps more beloved than the two that reached the Super Bowl.

But he never won a playoff game in Philadelphia. 

After winning a total of 12 games in his first two seasons, Ryan won 31 in his final three. But they lost in the playoffs each time. They lost the Fog Bowl at Chicago in 1988 and were beaten soundly at the Vet by the Rams and Redskins the next two years.

I remember those dismal playoff losses like they were yesterday. Rams 21, Eagles 7. Redskins 20, Eagles 6.

Ryan banked on his defense and a couple of big plays from Randall. It worked in the regular season. Didn't in the playoffs. 

When Ryan was fired, I was a freshman at Colgate University. In my first-ever column in The Colgate Maroon, I wrote how firing Buddy was the right move, that for all he accomplished, he hadn't delivered when it counted most. 

The next week, another student from Philly blasted me in a letter to the editor three times the length of my story. 

I got to the office to put the paper together, and it was hanging on the wall. I'd struck a chord with somebody. From what I recall, he ripped me for not appreciating what Ryan had brought to Philadelphia. Never mind those playoff defeats. This was Buddy Ryan.

Two seasons later, under Carson and head coach Rich Kotite, the Eagles finally won their first playoff game since their Super Bowl season by rallying to beat the Saints at the Superdome. 

(The aforementioned 1-1-1 team went 10-6 but failed to make the playoffs, having played several forgettable but unforgettable no-names at QB — Brad Goebel, Pat Ryan?!? — after losing Cunningham and Jim McMahon to injury.)

Kotite won a playoff game but is one of the most ridiculed coaches in team history. Ryan never won a playoff game and is one of the most popular. More popular than Vermeil or Andy Reid, the only coaches to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

That's all you need to know about Buddy. He was a legend and an icon and a tremendous football coach.

The players loved him because he had their backs. Especially against "the guy in France," as Buddy called then-owner Norman Braman. 

The fans loved him because he brought them not just a winner (remember, forget the playoffs) but a flamboyant and angry defense that personified Philly. Perhaps the most famous of his countless quotes came when he was introduced as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and proclaimed, "You've got a winner in town."

The media loved him because of quotes like that and stories like this

Remember him the way that incensed student who wrote the letter did. 

As Ray Didinger mentioned this morning, the fact that the Eagles own this town can be traced back to Buddy. 

Before then, it belonged to the Phillies, who were World Series winners in 1980. But since then, it's been all Eagles. 

Thanks to Buddy.