•Belittling Ram assistant Joe Vitt, who lit into Ryan for criticizing the Rams last season, by saying, "Isn't he the guy who carries [Los Angeles coach] Chuck Knox's briefcase? I think he asked me for my autograph once."
•Calling Arizona's botched two-point conversion attempt in the third quarter Sunday—which would have tied the game—"an abortion" and saying it was "ridiculous" that his defense, which held L.A. to a measly 152 net yards, couldn't force more than two turnovers.
While Ryan carped, the Rams were full of glee after the Buddywhipping. In one corner of the Los Angeles locker room, the defensive backs were giddily yapping about how they shut Ryan up. And Vitt said, "If we played Buddy 16 times a year, we'd be undefeated. I wish he would have played today. It would have been like playing against 10."
Ryan may be 0-1, but for him Phoenix is still football heaven. In February he took over a team that already had .500 talent, and in this era of free agency he could tap into a bunch of Pro Bowl veterans from other clubs who were dying to play for him. He has an owner, Bill Bidwill, who smiles benignly and approves every money and personnel move Ryan suggests. Ryan runs the draft. He hires and fires players. "Buddy's got the ultimate authority, which every coach would love to have," says Redskin assistant Jim Hanifan, who never had such pull while going 39-49-1 as the Cardinals' coach from 1980 to '85.
Exhibit A of Ryan's sovereignty: One of the free-agent Cards that Ryan knew he wanted to keep was roughneck running back/special-teamer Larry Centers. But the New England Patriots offered Centers significantly more money than Arizona had, and one Monday morning in March, Centers's agent, Jordan Woy, called Cardinal assistant general manager Bob Ackles to tell him that Patriot vice president Patrick Forte was flying to Dallas at that moment to sign Centers. Ackles hustled down to Ryan's office. "Sign him," Ryan said. Ackles called Woy and increased the Arizona bid to an amount slightly above New England's. When Forte landed in Dallas, Woy told him Centers was going back to Phoenix, not to Foxboro. "A year ago the organization would have said, 'Well, let's think about it,' " Ackles says. "And we would have lost the player." Ironically, it was Centers's fumble in the first quarter Sunday that landed in the hands of Ram cornerback Todd Lyght, who returned it 74 yards for a touchdown.
Ryan spent the preseason weeding out the soft guys. One day at camp he saw several injured players sitting and/or lying on the sidelines. The next day the order came down that injured players had to rehab their ailments for the entire practice session. Some injured players had to jog while pushing a sand-filled wheelbarrow around the field, an exercise that was the brainchild of strength coach Bob Rogucki. "Hell of a doctor, that Rogo," Ryan said. "Those hurt guys spent about half a day with those wheelbarrows, then they were back practicing."
But Ryan does have a lighter side. When Beuerlein threw a party last month for Cardinal players, staffers and wives, Ryan and wife Joanie stayed till closing time. "This is my kind of party," Ryan said at one point. "Lots of booze and pretty women."
In preparing for Sunday's opener Ryan didn't give the Cards any motivational gems. "No Vince Lombardi speeches—that's not Buddy," said Joyner, who played for Ryan in Philadelphia. The night before the game, in his best Oklahoma twang, Ryan simply told his team, "Men, we've got a great game plan. But if we don't upend people out there, it don't mean nothing."
Arizona will upend its share of folks this year. The big question now must be whether its offense can get into the end zone often enough to make an off-season of Ryan's brave words pan out come January. "These guys are in for an experience like they've never had before," Joyner said a couple of days before Sunday's game. "They have no idea how great it can be here." It won't be so great, though, if there are many more days like Sunday.