"Ma'am," Ryan replied gently, "I teach those courses."
One of Ryan's shortcomings is an inability to admit he is wrong. He insists he didn't fail in Philadelphia, though his Eagles never won a playoff game in his live seasons as coach; instead he blames then-owner Norman Braman, whom he rips for firing him before he could finish the job. He still defends his slugging of a fellow Oiler assistant, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, during a game last season. But during the Cardinals' bye week, right there in his office, he came perilously close to admitting a mistake: that he had overestimated Arizona's offense.
"What's disappointing to me," he said, "is I think that maybe...it might be...that I put a lot of stock in them finishing eighth in the league last year, and I told them they were good. The defense worked hard in the off-season because we were teaching a new system to a lot of guys. But the offense we kept basically the same, and they didn't pay the same price. Now I see a different guy breaking down on almost every offensive play."
Ryan said on his radio show that while he sees defensive players staying after practice to watch film and do extra work, "I haven't seen any of the offensive players in there. And there's a work ethic that has to happen on this team." It was a clear signal to his offensive players—but a signal that would have been better communicated at a team meeting or at practice.
Is there hope for Arizona? There always is with a defense this good. But Buddy's blathering alone is not enough to carry this team, as September showed. Ryan must leave the offensive line alone and let it develop a chemistry. The front was solid on Sunday, allowing the Vikings only two sacks and paving the way for 109 rushing yards. Ryan gave Ben Coleman, Ed Cunningham and Ernest Dye game balls for handling Henry Thomas and John Randle, the twin-terror Vike tackles.
"It feels like a piano's been lifted off my back," Cunningham said after Sunday's win. But Ryan and the Cardinals know that if the team resumes its losing ways, it could come crashing right back down.