"Is he expecting you?
Ryan told Word to come on in. "Good thing you're here," the coach said. "We need somebody." The Cards signed him, and he was in uniform on Sunday.
While the Denver Broncos and the Houston Oilers seemed to be unraveling after their horrible starts, surprisingly few discouraging words were heard among the Cardinal players. Ryan has seen to that. After Beuerlein popped off in the press about how he had been demoted to third string without being told by a coach, Ryan gathered his team after practice. What would they do, he asked them, if they had cancer? Cut it out, they responded in unison. "That's right," Ryan said. "Cut it out. And remember—I'm the damned doctor here." The message: Anyone who didn't like Buddy's ways could look for employment elsewhere.
Even in the three losses, the Arizona defense played the way a Ryan defense should. But the offense was performing with the precision of 11 sleepwalkers. After finishing eighth in total offense in '93 under coach Joe Bugel, the attack returned mostly intact (except for tight end Walter Reeves and guard Lance Smith, who left as free agents). But in the three losses the offensive line was a sieve, and Ryan juggled personnel almost daily. Finally against the Vikings, Ryan found a combination he could live with.
The Cards made a mistake by moving versatile back Larry Centers, who weighs only 215, to fullback, a miscalculation they acknowledged two weeks ago by flirting with big backs Nick Bell, formerly of the L.A. Raiders, and unsigned free agent Christian Okoye before signing the 242-pound Word. But as bad as the running game has been, the passing game has been one of the worst in the NFL.
Before the 1993 season the Cardinals signed Beuerlein, who had spent the two previous years backing up Troy Aikman in Dallas, for $7.5 million over three years. Beuerlein played well last season, but his arm was weak and inaccurate in the first two losses this year, to the L.A. Rams and the New York Giants.
"I've been watching this game for 30 years, and I've never seen a quarterback have a worse day than he had against the Rams," Ryan said. "He's throwing the ball in the dirt, throwing behind guys, throwing short, and I stayed with him. Next game he throws an interception on the first play of the game, and he gives the Giants six points, and I've got to do something. We were like a basketball team without a point guard." In the third quarter, Ryan yanked Beuerlein for McMahon.
Asked if he was afraid that his quick hook and such comments might make matters worse by harming Beuerlein mentally, Ryan said, "He ought to be able to take it. He's making $2 million a year."
That's vintage Buddy. A couple of weeks ago one caller to his radio show, a woman, ripped into him, saying, "You're arrogant and you're rude. And I think you need a Dale Carnegie course."