Sherman's 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0


Sherman's 2014 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

1. Houston Texans - Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Manziel might not be the best pure passer in the draft, but his leadership, ability to keep plays alive with his feet and marketability in Texas will all be too hard to pass on for new head man Bill O'Brien.

2. St. Louis Rams (via Washington) - Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Left tackle Jake Long's 2013 season ended with a torn ACL and MCL. Combine that with former right tackle/right guard Rodger Saffold being a free agent, and the Rams need to find an anchor for their offensive line.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Yes, the Jags need a QB, but a player as talented as Clowney doesn't fall into your lap every day. Forget the nonsense about Clowney dogging it this year -- he should have been in the NFL already. Gus Bradley is getting the best defensive end prospect to come out since Mario Williams in 2006.

4. Cleveland Browns - Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Perhaps my favorite player in the draft, Watkins, along with Josh Gordon, would give the Browns arguably the most explosive receiving duo in the AFC. Yes, the Browns probably need a QB here, but Cleveland really seems to like Brian Hoyer (one of the reasons they parted ways with head coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who didn't share that fondness), and they might feel they just need to surround him with weapons.

5. Oakland Raiders - Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
At a point last season, Terrelle Pryor looked like a possible long-term starter in Oakland. But things seemed to deteriorate as the season slogged on, and I don't see him sticking around much longer. Bridgewater isn't a flashy guy. He doesn't have Matt Stafford's arm, Michael Vick's legs, or Ben Roethlisberger's size. He just makes good reads, throws a great ball, and leads his team like a QB should.

6. Atlanta Falcons - Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
The Falcons need help both protecting and rushing the QB. With Clowney off the board, the best option still available is Auburn's redshirt sophomore. Robinson is huge (6-5, 320), mobile, and nasty. He's not the technician Matthews is yet, but he's more talented physically.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Khalil Mack, OLB/DE, Buffalo
The Bucs would love to upgrade the talent around Mike Glennon, but Mack is too talented to pass on here. Mack can play OLB or put his hand in the dirt as a pass-rushing defensive end. The Bucs got very little production out of Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (go figure) and would welcome the heat Mack could bring on passing downs.

8. Minnesota Vikings - Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
The Christian Ponder Era in Minnesota is coming to a close. Backup Matt Cassel generally outplayed the former first-round pick, and the fans are clamoring for an upgrade. While I'm not very high on Bortles because of his arm strength and poor performances against some tougher teams this season, he does have a good pocket presence and the size and speed to be a problem once he breaks contain.

9. Buffalo Bills - Marqise Lee, WR, USC
The Bills invested a first-round pick in QB E.J. Manuel last season and need to continue to give him some tools to work with. Lee is an elusive receiver who can take the top off a defense. Dangerous in the open field, Lee would complement the bigger Stevie Johnson well.

10. Detroit Lions - Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The secondary continues to be the Achilles heel of a very talented (if undisciplined) defense in Detroit. Gilbert is a tall (6-1/200) corner with sprinter's speed, great hands and quick hips. And while Eagles fans know the Lions have a pretty good kick returner in Jeremy Ross, Gilbert was also a dangerous returner for Oklahoma State, scoring six kickoff return touchdowns during his career in Stillwater.

11. Tennessee Titans - Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
With new head coach Ken Whisenhunt installing the 3-4 defense in Tennessee, outside pass rushers are now a priority. Barr, a converted offensive player, is still learning to play outside linebacker, but his physical size (6-5, 245), speed, and athletic ability are hard to match. Barr will need to become more consistent, as he disappears at times, but the 26 sacks he's recorded in the past two years prove he shows up more often than not.

12. New York Giants - Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
The Giants are looking at two of their key defensive linemen -- Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph -- possibly leaving as free agents. While that still leaves Jason Pierre-Paul in blue, restocking may be necessary. Jernigan isn't a massive run-stopper (6-2, 298) but is thickly built, strong as an ox, and lightning quick off the snap. It is a lot of fun watching him play. Jernigan would provide more of a pass rush element to the interior of the line, and I'm stumped to find a defensive tackle better at using his hands and quickness to get into the backfield.

13. St. Louis Rams - Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Even though safety might be a bigger priority in the Rams' secondary, Dennard is a better player than either of the two top safety prospects (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor). St. Louis has two good starting corners in Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson and could possibly restructure Cortland Finnegan's contract to keep him around. But in the pass-happy NFL, you just can't have enough cover guys, and Dennard is one of the smartest in the draft.

14. Chicago Bears - C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
The Bears' defense was among the worst in the NFL in 2013, and they have needs at every position. Mosley could be this year's Luke Kuechly -- a player whose physical skills might not leap off game tape but who just seems to be in the right place on every snap. Mosley is athletic enough to man the strong side, but I see him supplanting Jon Bostic inside and becoming the Bears' next great MLB.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers - Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The emergence of Antonio Brown was a nice surprise for the Steelers in 2013, and they'll look to give him a complementary receiver with the impending free agency of Emmanuel Sanders and Jerricho Cotchery. Evans (6-4, 220) is a big target and should be a nice red-zone weapon. He's not a speedster, but he uses his big body and good hands to out-muscle defensive backs.

16. Baltimore Ravens - Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
All three of Baltimore's top tight ends -- Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, and Dallas Clark -- are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Chances are Pitta is franchised, but Baltimore needs to find depth and additional weapons for a very mediocre offense. Ebron (6-4/245) is a dynamic pass catcher with speed, size and great hands.

17. Dallas Cowboys - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
I'm sure Cowboys fans grew tired of watching undrafted rookie safety Jeff Heath get torched time and again in 2013, but with little depth or talent at the position, Dallas doesn't look to be in much better shape even if safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox are healthy. Clinton-Dix (6-1/208) excels in coverage (he had seven career interceptions), using his size and speed to cause havoc in the secondary.

18. New York Jets - Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
While the Jets' QB situation continues to be a mess, reaching for Derek Carr here isn't the solution. Geno Smith certainly struggled as a rookie, but when your best receiver is Kellen Winslow, Jr. you don't have much of a chance to succeed. Benjamin (6-5, 234) isn't exactly a slam dunk here either, as the redshirt sophomore isn't polished as a receiver, but his physical tools and size are too tantalizing to pass up.

19. Miami Dolphins - Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
The Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito kerfuffle is now in the past and the Dolphins need to start rebuilding their offensive line. Lewan (6-7, 314) isn't an elite athlete like Robinson or Matthews, but with his size and strength, he could start at right tackle immediately.

20. Arizona Cardinals - Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The Cardinals haven't had a Pro Bowl tight end since Jackie Smith in 1970. How is that possible? With Larry Fitzgerald slowing a bit, Arizona needs to continue to find offensive weapons. Amaro is an elite pass catcher who will give linebackers and safeties fits.

21. Green Bay Packers - Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
The Packers' defense wasn't quite as bad in 2013 as it was in 2012, but with three of their DTs heading into free agency -- Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji -- finding a plug in the middle is vital. Nix III (6-2, 350) tore his meniscus near the end of the season but should be ready to roll by the time workouts begin. He played nose tackle at Notre Dame, using his size and quickness to be a disruptive force against the run. He'll probably need to lose some weight to stay on the field for longer stretches.

22. Philadelphia Eagles - Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
Like a broken record, the Eagles continue to look for an answer at safety. With four of their safeties -- Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen, Patrick Chung and Colt Anderson -- heading for free agency, and 2013 draft pick Earl Wolff unproven, talent and depth at the position is sorely needed. Pryor (6-2/208) is a big safety who played in the box quite a bit for the Cardinals. Against the run he diagnoses plays quickly and arrives at the ball carrier in a foul mood. You can find a couple of his knockout (and legal) hits on YouTube. In coverage, Pryor hasn't played a lot of man-to-man, but watching him change directions in zone and track the ball leads me to believe he's more than capable of taking on tight ends and slot receivers.

Side note: If Pryor was gone here I would have had a hard time selecting between LSU WR Odell Beckham, Jr. and Notre Dame OL Zack Martin.

23. Kansas City Chiefs - Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
The Chiefs rose from the ashes in 2013 under new coach Andy Reid but face some challenges going into 2014. Starting guard Jon Asamoah and tackles Geoff Schwartz and Branden Albert are free agents. Albert is most likely gone with 2013 first-overall pick Eric Fisher sliding from right to left tackle. Depending on how much Asamoah is asking for, he could be gone, too. Martin played both right and left tackle for the Irish, and despite having shorter-than-ideal arms, he flourished. He is powerful, moves very well and has a nasty demeanor. Martin could slide into the starting guard or right tackle spot depending on what the Chiefs decide to do in free agency.

24. Cincinnati Bengals - Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Chances are the Bengals will re-sign DE Michael Johnson, but their defensive line, wracked by injuries in 2013, could use some reinforcements. Ealy is a versatile end who can shift inside on passing downs. His pass rush repertoire is a bit light but his power and quickness off the ball will get him by in the short-term.

25. San Diego Chargers - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
The Chargers need to address a porous secondary, but with no one on the board worth this high a pick, they should address their thin defensive line instead. Hageman (6-6, 300) is a physical specimen with an explosive burst and brute strength to match. There are some technique issues that need to be ironed out, but the Bolts could be getting a disruptive force in the middle of an improving, young defense.

26. Cleveland Browns - Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I really like Derek Carr's physical abilities and have him ranked as high as any QB except Manziel. The issue he'll have to work out is his pocket presence and his ability to stay in it without getting happy feet. As I stated above, the Browns seem to really like Hoyer, but I cannot imagine they really think he's a long-term play. Carr is a guy they can stash for a season and work with before he takes over in 2015.

27. New Orleans Saints - Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
After years of upgrading a terrible defense, the Saints are finally in a position to focus on reworking an aging offense. With both of last season's starting tackles, Charles Brown and Zach Strief, hitting free agency, New Orleans needs to find some protection for Drew Brees. Moses (6-6, 325) played both right and left tackle for the Cavaliers during his career, but with Terron Armstead most likely staying put on the left side, Moses will fit nicely on the right.

28. Carolina Panthers - Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
The Panthers have all but sucked star wide receiver Steve Smith dry at this point and desperately need to find a complementary receiver to take some stress off his soon-to-be 35-year-old body. Beckham, Jr. (5-11/208) is a dynamic playmaker who can take it to the house from anywhere on the field. While not tall, he is solidly built and can jump out of the stadium. It also helps that Beckham Jr. has some of the best hands in the draft. Plus, he can do this.

29. New England Patriots - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Despite all the injuries the defense suffered in 2013, it was the offense that ultimately failed the Patriots in the playoffs. Without tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the New England passing game wasn't as dynamic or scary as it used to be, making Tom Brady look almost human at times. Seferian-Jenkins (6-6, 266) is a huge target with fluid moves and good hands. The Pats will have to do some investigating, though -- he was arrested prior to the 2013 season for a DUI after wrecking his car.

30. San Francisco 49ers - Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
According to Richard Sherman's post-NFC Championship Game rant, the Niners need to upgrade their receiving corps. I tend to agree with him, but the position is pretty deep in this draft, and a talent like Tuitt is too hard to pass up at this juncture. Tuitt is a perfect fit for San Fran's 3-4 alignment, and with Justin Smith on the wrong side of 30, Tuitt should be able to contribute early.

31. Denver Broncos - Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Broncos' defense surprised a lot of people in its run to the Super Bowl, and with multiple linebackers heading into free agency after the season, Denver needs to restock. Shazier is a versatile player capable of playing inside or out. His speed is outstanding and he makes his home in opposing backfields. In coverage, Shazier (6-2, 226) uses his speed and quick feet to mirror would-be pass catchers. The only knock on him is his size, but the Broncos aren't afraid of playing with smaller LBs (see Wesley Woodyard).

32. Seattle Seahawks - Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The Seahawks have some nice offensive pieces in receivers Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, and some big health concerns with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, but what they ultimately lack is a true No. 1 receiver. Robinson (6-3, 210) is a big target and is dangerous anywhere on the field. He has deep speed as well as the quickness and open-field ability to be dangerous on bubble screens.

NFL Notes: Andrew Luck gets huge extension from Colts

NFL Notes: Andrew Luck gets huge extension from Colts

INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Luck has signed a new contract with the Indianapolis Colts that covers the next six seasons through 2021.

The $140 million deal was completed Wednesday with Luck, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. Owner Jim Irsay revealed the maximum value on Twitter, calling it the biggest contract in NFL history.

Luck has been one of the most productive quarterbacks the NFL has ever had over a player's first four years as a pro. He was the third-fastest to 13,000 career passing yards, in 49 games.

Before last season, the Colts exercised the fifth-year option on Luck's contract to guarantee him more than $16.1 million for the 2016 season. The new deal adds five years, giving Luck another chance to cash in with a big contract around age 32.

Steelers: Harrison wants evidence 
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison wants the NFL to provide "credible evidence" before he agrees to an interview with league officials regarding a media report that linked him and other players to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The NFL Players Association sent a letter on Harrison's behalf to NFL executive Adolpho Birch on Tuesday asking for more information.

"We have repeatedly requested that the NFL inform him and the NFLPA whether the NFL possesses any credible evidence (e.g., verified documents or verified testimony of witnesses) that warrants an interview of Mr. Harrison regarding a potential violation," union attorney Heather M. McPhee wrote.

The other active players implicated by the Al-Jazeera report are Green Bay linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, and free-agent linebacker Mike Neal, who played the past six seasons with the Packers. Peyton Manning, who is now retired, also was cited in Al-Jazeera's doping report in December. He wasn't mentioned in the NFL's investigation, but USA Today, citing an unnamed source, reported last week that an investigation into Manning's possible involvement also is progressing.

The NFL first notified Matthews, Peppers, Harrison and Neal about its investigation into the report on Jan. 11.

Al-Jazeera America reported allegations by Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic. But Sly later recanted his claims.

"Especially in a business where the mere mention of a player-employee's name can generate ratings for a broadcaster, the NFLPA and Mr. Harrison do not believe that unsupported, unsubstantiated verbal remarks provide `sufficient credible evidence' to initiate an investigation of, and require an interview with, an employee," McPhee wrote.

Seahawks: Baldwin agrees to 4-year deal
SEATTLE, W.A. — After becoming a Super Bowl champion, Doug Baldwin took a risk.

He could have signed a long extension with the Seattle Seahawks after winning it all in 2014. But Baldwin gambled that a shorter extension was the best move and by the time he needed to make another decision about his future, his value would be worth far more.

Baldwin played his way into the correct move, and he signed a four-year extension with the Seahawks on Tuesday that runs through the 2020 season.

Coming off a career season, Baldwin became the latest piece of Seattle's core to agree to a long-term deal, including quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, defensive end Cliff Avril and safety Earl Thomas.

Baldwin tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions last season and set career highs in TDs, receptions and yards receiving. He signed a $13 million, three-year deal with Seattle following the 2013 season that runs through this upcoming season.

Baldwin's agreement was first reported by KIRO-AM in Seattle. Representatives did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Getting an extension done with Baldwin this summer was a priority for the Seahawks.

"It is a big deal and it's a very serious negotiation as they all are. He's done an incredible job for us and is a great teammate," coach Pete Carroll said June 16 when the Seahawks finished minicamp. "Eventually we'll get something worked out. I hope something happens. The intent is to get him signed and secured for a good while." (see full story.)

Rams: Mike Singletary to work with D
LOS ANGELES, C.A. — Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary will work with the Los Angeles Rams' defense this season, returning to coaching after a two-year absence.

Singletary revealed the plans in a radio interview Tuesday, and the Rams later confirmed the arrangement.

Los Angeles coach Jeff Fisher hasn't defined a role for Singletary, who is likely to be an adviser to the defense.

Singletary was the San Francisco 49ers' head coach from 2008-10, going 18-22. He was a linebackers coach with the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-13 before spending the past two years out of coaching.

He played 12 seasons for the Chicago Bears, winning a Super Bowl while becoming one of the best middle linebackers in NFL history.

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Eagles great Seth Joyner shares a story of Buddy Ryan's loyalty

Eagles great Seth Joyner shares a story of Buddy Ryan's loyalty

As the news of Buddy Ryan’s death circulated on Tuesday morning, the stories started to unearth themselves. 

And there were plenty of stories. 

For as good a defensive coach as Ryan was, he was an even bigger personality. Brash, vocal, unapologetic. He said what was on his mind and that usually led to plenty of laughs. 

If you haven’t read it, go ahead and take some time to read this Reuben Frank story about a beat writer's dinner with Buddy that included a long wine list, a stretch limo and, of course, a ton of laughs. 

On Tuesday’s addition of CSNPhilly's Quick Slants, former Eagles star Seth Joyner joined Frank and Ron Burke and delivered this gem of a story about the coach's loyalty to his players.

To set the scene, Joyner was set to enter his third NFL season in 1988 after making the minimum of $75,000 in his second year. In 1987, he started 12 games, had two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown. He also led the team’s linebackers in tackles with 96. 

Joyner thought he deserved a pay raise, so he held out of training camp. 

And Buddy had his back — just not publicly. 

“I can remember the year that I held out,” Joyner started the story. “He basically told me before it happened, he was like 'listen, you're holding out, do what you have to do. When your contract is up, you have to do what you have to do for your family and I 100 percent respect that. And listen, there's some things that I have to do as the head coach of this football team. So you're going to hear some things, don't pay them any attention. Just go on about your business and you handle your business. When that contract is signed, I expect you to come in and do what you do best, play and go to work.' 

“Well, you know, the whole time I was out of training camp and I spent the whole training camp holding out, he's in the newspaper, he's on the radio, he's just on the news, he's just lambasting me. 'He better get his blankety-blank in here. He's going to lose his job, this kid is playing well, blah blah, blah blah, blah blah. He's applying the pressure according to what management would want him to do to get me to hurry up and sign for less than what I should have signed for and just get into training camp. 

“But I'm sitting at home laughing at all of this because we had already had that conversation. So I know what he's doing. Now, you tell me: how many head coaches would do that with their players, ahead of time to let them know what the circumstances are going to be? It's those types of things that made us love Buddy. It's those types of things that made us go to bat for him and would make us run through a brick wall for this guy. Because we knew that he had our back and he always was doing things for our benefit, even if it meant he would take heat.”

If you need some proof of the types of statements Ryan made publicly about Joyner’s holdout, look no further than this Aug. 16, 1988 Daily News story from Tim Kawakami (who plays a big role in Roob’s story). 

Here’s what Buddy said in that one: "I think no question, Joyner needs to be in camp. I've told his agent that, and I've told Harry that. So somebody ought to give."

And: "It's like, I could call him right now and he'd be in here tomorrow. But I'm not going to do that because he has to live with what he gets, and I don't want him to be saying, 'Well, Buddy screwed me.' But for his own good, he ought to be here."

Meanwhile, Joyner was likely sitting in his living room laughing. 

Joyner told his story Tuesday when asked about why players became so loyal to Ryan. Basically, it was because Ryan was loyal to them. 

Joyner, last weekend, went with Clyde Simmons and Ryan’s longtime agent Jim Solano to visit his coach one last time in Kentucky, at the urging of Solano. 

“It's amazing how things kind of work out sometimes,” Joyner said. “We got an opportunity to see him for a final time and it was special just to be with him, let him know that we loved him and he definitely shared the love back with us.”

Ray Didinger: Buddy Ryan got Eagles fans 'in a way few coaches do'

Ray Didinger: Buddy Ryan got Eagles fans 'in a way few coaches do'

The Chicago Bears had just devoured the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX and the victors were filing into the interview room at the New Orleans Superdome. Mike Ditka was accepting congratulations from Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Jim McMahon and William "The Refrigerator" Perry were entertaining reporters with tales of the Super Bowl Shuffle.

It was quite a scene, loud and colorful, which is what you would expect from the 1985 Bears. But off to one side there were two men having a private conversation. One was Eagles owner, Norman Braman; the other was Buddy Ryan, the Bears defensive coordinator.

As they parted, Braman said: "We'll be in touch." Ryan smiled and gave a thumbs up.

Standing just a few feet away, I thought, "Looks like the Eagles have a new coach."

Two days later, Braman was introducing Ryan to the Philadelphia media, and for the next five seasons the city was swept up in Buddyball, an era that rejuvenated a dispirited fan base and produced some memorable moments, but ultimately fell short of greatness. The memories all came flooding back Tuesday morning with the news that Ryan had passed away at age 85.

But that day in the Superdome, knowing Ryan's hiring was imminent, I talked to the Bears to get their thoughts on the coach. They had heard rumors about him leaving and he had all but said goodbye in their meeting the night before the Super Bowl. Tackle Dan Hampton said Ryan choked up as he told the defensive players, "Regardless of what happens tomorrow, you'll always be my heroes." Hampton said many players were crying as they left the room.

The Bears crushed the Patriots, 46-10, setting Super Bowl records for sacks (seven) and fewest rushing yards allowed (seven). The Bears so overwhelmed quarterback Tony Eason that he was benched in the second quarter without ever completing a pass. When the game ended, the defensive players carried Ryan off on their shoulders, a first for an assistant coach in a Super Bowl.

It didn't sit well with Ditka, who got the traditional victor's ride from the offensive players, but it reflected the division within the team. Ryan and Ditka feuded openly that season and the defensive players took Buddy's side. That sort of divide would cripple most teams, but the Bears were so good they were able to overcome it. Indeed, it seemed to fuel them.

The '85 Bears had some very good offensive players, led by Walter Payton, but the real strength of their team was the defense. The Bears went 15-1 in the regular season and their defense led the league in fewest points allowed, fewest rushing yards allowed and lowest completion percentage. They posted back-to-back shutouts in the NFC playoffs, then dismantled the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Ryan was the architect of all that mayhem.

Braman had little regard for the Philadelphia media, but he did read The New York Times, and that's where he first learned about Ryan. Dave Anderson, the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, wrote a glowing profile of Ryan as the Bears were rolling through the regular season. Braman handed the story to team president Harry Gamble and said, "Read this. This guy sounds interesting."

At the end of the season when Braman decided to fire head coach Marion Campbell, Ryan's name was on the list of potential replacements, along with Dolphins assistant David Shula and Jim Mora, who won two USFL championships with the Philadelphia Stars. As the Bears stormed through the postseason and Ryan's defense became more celebrated, Braman decided Ryan was the man for the job.

In Chicago, Ryan created what was known as the "46 Defense." He put six players on the line with the outside linebackers playing like standup defensive ends. He had a hybrid safety/linebacker named Doug Plank who wore jersey number 46. That's how the defense got its name. The scheme was built to put heat on the quarterback, and with the Bears and later with the Eagles, it was brutally effective.

But it wasn't just what Ryan put on the blackboard that made him successful, it was his ability to inspire the troops. The players in Chicago were devoted to Ryan and they were brokenhearted at the thought of him leaving. Hampton admitted to knocking over a film projector after the final meeting. Tackle Steve McMichael threw a chair against the blackboard.

After the Super Bowl, Mike Singletary, the great middle linebacker, talked for almost an hour, much of it about his relationship with Ryan. It did not start off well, Singletary admitted, but it grew into an emotional bond that was more like father and son than coach and player.

"Early on, Buddy never let up on me," Singletary said. "He'd say, 'You're fat, you're slow, you're stupid. I'm wasting my time with you.' He pushed me and pushed me and some days he almost pushed me out the door. But I came to realize Buddy was doing what he needed to do to make me a player. I know this: I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for him."

Nine months later, Ryan was coaching the Eagles and on Week 2 of the regular season, he brought his new team to Chicago to face the Bears. The Bears, of course, were world champions and the Eagles weren't good at all, but shockingly, the game went to overtime with the Bears finally squeezing out a 13-10 victory.

My most vivid memory of that day was the scene after the game when Ryan and Singletary embraced. They both had tears in their eyes. When Singletary was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, he thanked Ryan for putting him on the path to Canton.

In Philadelphia, what we'll remember most about Buddy Ryan is his personality, his brash approach that often was at odds with his own front office and ultimately contributed to his firing. It is rare to refer to a coach as beloved when his résumé shows zero playoff wins, but Ryan is embraced that way by most Eagles fans. They still talk fondly of the Body Bag Game and the Bounty Bowl, and other occasions when Buddy's boys pummeled the opposition. Buddy got the Philly fans in a way few coaches do.

Buddy and I didn't always see eye to eye. When I wrote something critical, he often returned fire, but that's OK. It is all part of the give and take of our business. But he is certainly one of the most unforgettable characters to pass through this town, and covering him was never dull. To see him refer to Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson as "whatever his name is" and then flash that little smirk knowing the quote would surely find its way to Johnson's desk, well, you had to admit it was pretty funny.

Steve Sabol, my boss at NFL Films, had a saying: "You were born an original. Don't die a copy." Buddy Ryan was Steve's kind of coach. He was an original, right to the end.