EX-VIKING AHMAD RASHAD: You know, there's something going on here people don't see. How could a man who publicly looks like such an ass have so many players who love him to the dying end?
Spring 1994. Phoenix. Cardinal season-ticket sales have nearly doubled. Already. The Pro Bowl punter has been cut, the '93 first-round draft pick has been ripped, three former Pro Bowlers have been signed as free agents. Already. Two of Buddy Ryan's sons, Rob and Rex, have been named assistant coaches. Defensive lineman Eric Swann has taken swings at teammates on each day of a three-day minicamp. Brian Henesey, a kid two years out of Bucknell, working at a pharmaceutical company, has traveled cross-country on a friend's frequent-flier mileage, arrived at the Cardinal training-complex parking lot at dawn to await an audience with Buddy Ryan, vowed to him, "Coach, I'll go down the field on kickoffs and rip off somebody's head in your honor"—and been signed right away to a free-agent contract. Already.
Phoenix mayor Paul Johnson, politely asking what Buddy's focus is, has been told, "I've got a bull——defense with bull——plays and bull——players." Out-of-town reporters have arrived to write about the man who punched a fellow Houston Oiler assistant on national TV during a game last January; who once, upon learning that his old boss with the Bears, Mike Ditka, had been hospitalized with chest pains, grunted, "Must've been gas"; who once called Eagle president Harry Gamble, at a luncheon in front of several hundred people, the illegitimate son of team owner Norman Braman; who was fired in 1991 after leading the Eagles from the depths of their division to the playoffs for three straight years. Sales of the black hat Buddy wears have begun to multiply, Arizonans mimicking the man who caused fans in Philadelphia to form opposing Buddy Backers and Buddy Bashers clubs and an opposing wide receiver to celebrate a playoff touchdown by firing the football, point-blank, at a larger-than-life caricature of Buddy's face. Soon Buddy Ryan's first season as head coach and general manager of the Arizona Cardinals will begin.
PLANK: It was like Leave It to Beaver at the guy's house. Ward Cleaver sitting on the recliner smoking his pipe: "'How are you, Doug? Have a scat! What can I get for you? How about an iced tea?"
AGENT JIM SOLANO: The ultimate ball-breaker. I had this feeling when I was with Buddy that I was back in college, in a locker room with guys whipping each other in the ass with towels.
EX-BEAR GARY FENCIK: Ever see him with Joanie? Like a kid, all dressed up, doing everything just right, not saying boo.
EX-EAGLE RON JAWORSKI: Everywhere I went after the Eagles, coaches asked me about him. Most of them hated his guts.
CARDINAL ASSISTANT COACH TED PLUMB: People live through Buddy. They wish they could do and say the things he does.
EX-JET ASSISTANT SAM RUTIGLIANO: The man has been on a stage since he got that defense going in Chicago. He wants to be a character. Nobody could prepare the things he says. He's having fun and doesn't care if milk goes up to three bucks a quart.
PATRIOT COACH BILL PARCELLS: Buddy Ryan is a Neanderthal, and he attracts Neanderthal players.