BUDDY RYAN LEADS THE CARDINALS' JUGGER-NOT
"You've got a winner in town," Buddy Ryan told us that fine day.
This was a few minutes after Ryan signed that fat contract with Bill Bidwill, the Cardinals owner.
Buddy Ryan reminds me of Jackie Gleason playing Ralph Kramden. All Ryan needs on the sidelines is one of Kramden's old bus-driver uniforms.
Ryan's got a bigger and even more boastful mouth than Gleason, the proverbial Great One, had, and this time, it has placed him in a predicament he may not emerge from intact.
"We're going to be in the playoffs," Ryan assured one and all. Oh, sure. Where are they headed now after two performances that have revealed this is an Arizona Cardinals team without an offense?
If Ryan ends up getting the boot, he will have no one to blame but himself.
Once he got the job, he fell in love with his own legend. All you have to do to win in the National Football League is to have Buddy Ryan standing on the sidelines.
Using that as a yardstick, it's easy to understand what happened next. Ryan was like a man who had just won the lottery. He was not only the coach but also the general manager. He had the power to hire and fire.
So Ryan went on a hunt to look up all his old friends from the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles and give them fat contracts. If Buddy was flush, he was going to take care of his old players first.
He hired them for much more than they were worth, and at the same time, he cut the salaries of players who were already on the roster.
"It's my way or the highway," Buddy said.
A self-declared defensive genius, Buddy seemingly forgot there would be times when the Cardinals had the ball and would be obliged to move it forward.
He has no offensive line.
Oh, yes, there are players who suit up every week and go out onto the field and get themselves down into a three-point stance.
But they don't block anyone. They don't protect the quarterback. This is the most inept, cowardly offensive line to appear in the National Football League in 30 years.
The last time I remember an offensive line that remotely approached this one for uselessness was the Chicago Bears' in the 1960s.
One time, the players lined up for a punt and the Bears' center snapped the ball high in the air over his own head and a defensive player came across the line, caught the ball and ran for a touchdown.
In Steve Beuerlein, Ryan has a quarterback who grows more timid with every snap. I don't blame him. There comes a time when self-preservation becomes the most important thing.
The way things are going, Beuerlein must figure that Buddy will be gone by next year, replaced by someone who will hire a few guards and tackles willing to butt heads.
Ryan has backed up Beuerlein with Jim McMahon, who has reached a stage in his career at which he should limit his physical activities to an occasional racquetball game.
It is better not to contemplate what it will be like if Ryan ever sends Jay Schroeder, his third-string quarterback, on the field.
And here's a big question: Where on Earth is chubby little Billy Bidwill these days?
Now that Bidwill has himself on the payroll for $1 million per year, perhaps he feels there's no need to hang around other than to watch the cash register.
Buddy's mouth has temporarily filled Sun Devil Stadium. So what else should concern Bidwill?
After all, no one supposes the Cardinals are going to lose every game. Do they?
But then no one supposed they would lose to both the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Giants right out of the opening gate, either.
This week, they go to Cleveland to face the Browns. The odds say they will leave that town with an 0-3 record.
If they come back in that shape, perhaps the local sportswriters will find the gumption to ask Buddy the one big question everyone seems to be avoiding:
In a league in which you can never have too many skilled coaches, why did Ryan hire his own two sons as assistant coaches?
It was Buddy who told us we had a winner in town.
Buddy told us that it was his way or the highway. Unless he starts winning soon, that same highway will be sending its siren song to Buddy.
Let's see if the next Cardinals coach wants to hire Buddy's two sons as assistant coaches.
Watching Buddy on the sidelines with that ridiculous hat, I keep thinking of Gleason shouting at his wife in their Brooklyn kitchen: "One of these days, Alice, the moon!
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