"We hadn't won a league game in 14 starts, and Water-field finally let me play, and we tied the Bears 24 all. I played the whole game. As a reward for breaking our losing streak he let me start the next week against Detroit, and I had a lucky hand that day. I threw a real nice touchdown pass to Red Phillips to begin with; then I threw a short pass to Jon Arnett, who lateraled back to me, and I ran for a touchdown. At the end of the first half I threw a real short pass for a touchdown. So we were 10 points in the lead and I'd thrown three touchdown passes in the first half, and I felt this confidence starting to come. A good quarterback's got to be sort of flippant, you know.
"In the second series of the half I threw an interception and Waterfield yanked me.
"The next week we're going to Dallas, and I thought if there's any game I really want to play in it's Dallas, 30 miles from the home town. I felt on top of the world, going back to Dallas as a starting quarterback. On the second play we flanked Red Phillips out. He goes straight down the right sideline, and I throw a ball that goes about 65 yards in the air, a perfect pass, and it's caught for a touchdown. Oh, boy, I felt great! In that first half I hit another touchdown pass to Red and we were moving real well, and we were ahead, I think, by 20 points. We start the second half, and I call a pattern that puts Jon Arnett in the open; if I hit him it's a first down. But I overthrew him, pretty badly, too. So I'm jerked! I couldn't understand this.
"I started the next week against Detroit. We went almost 80 yards, and had to kick a field goal, but we had moved the ball. Midway in the second quarter I threw a pitchout to Arnett, right in the chest, and he fumbled. It turned out that Waterfield hadn't been watching at the time; he looked and saw a ball running loose out there backwards. So he replaced me with Billy Wade. I didn't get back in till maybe three, four minutes left in the game, and we're losing 12-10, and by this time I was down flat. My first pass bounced off a defensive back's chest; it would have been an interception otherwise. The second one I threw went out in the wild blue yonder, and the third was intercepted."
Ryan capped his torturous four-year career with the Rams by sitting on the bench for the last four games of the 1961 season. After the final game he stormed into the dressing room and shouted to General Manager Elroy Hirsch that he was going to be traded or he was going to quit football. He wound up in Cleveland, where Jim Ninowski had a lock on the quarterback's job but where, at least, there was more football sanity and no front-office bickering. Ninowski broke a collarbone midway in the 1962 season, and the perennial second-stringer was in for good. To this day Ryan and his wife sit around and ponder why he was handled so quixotically by the Rams. Waterfield, as silent now as he was in his playing and coaching days, sheds no light. "All Frank lacked was experience," he says. He does not explain how Ryan was to get experience when he was hauled off the field after his mistakes. Joan Ryan, who prefers not to discuss the matter, leans to the theory that one of the squabbling owners had it in for her husband. She says, "Someday I'll meet one of those former owners drunk in a bar in Los Angeles, and I'll put on a bleached-blonde wig and slink up to him and really get the truth. Who pulled the rug out from under Frank? Was it Bob Waterfield or was it one of the owners?" Joan thinks her husband has conquered the nervousness that the Los Angeles experience brought him, "but of course he'll never get completely over it. What the Rams did to their quarterbacks it took them all a long time to get over. It's like being at sea, and when you're back on land you still think you're rocking. He'll always be a little insecure because of the Rams."
At Cleveland, Ryan came under the quick tutelage of Blanton Collier, holder of various international awards for patience, and Collier treated the confused young quarterback to a long period of agonizing reeducation. Collier has dozens of theories on football, and one of them covers a system of training based on psychocybernetics. "I've believed for years that you can break down any action into its elements and practice each element," he says. "And then when you want to perform the whole act you just pick out one element to concentrate on, to trigger your mind, to make you do those other things automatically. Now, with a passer the three things are: 1) the squaring of the shoulders and coming to balance, 2) picking out a target and 3) throwing the ball. You practice each component until you do it almost subconsciously, almost without thinking. It's using the subconscious as a computer. You feed this information into the subconscious in practice, and then the subconscious plays back what you have stored in it. Frank is sold on this. I've been fooling around with it for years; there's a book on it called Psychocybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. I keep it at my bedside."
One can imagine the joyous explosion of minds when the frustrated Ryan, with his scientific attitude, ran into Blanton Collier, with his psychocybernetics. "He is the first coach that ever really coached me," Ryan says enthusiastically. "He spent days with me, weeks. He taught me those three steps: setting, aiming, throwing. He taught me to pick out a small target on a receiver rather than just trying to hit a big blob out there with arms. If you're looking at a little pink dot on him then you're reducing your error. He taught me not to watch the ball. This was a bad habit I used to have, watching my wobbly passes. All of a sudden you're gonna be watching the flight of the ball before you throw and take your eyes off the target. I still tend to throw wobbly passes, but now I catch myself looking at the receiver and never seeing the ball till it gets there, which to me indicates an improvement."
Before all Brown games Collier slides alongside Ryan and tries to start him concentrating on one aspect of passing to trigger the whole set of motor responses. "At first it irritated him," Collier says. "If you'll watch us warm up before a game, you'll see me right around Frank Ryan. And I'll be trying to bring one of these elements into his mind. I'll try to say or do something to get him started. 'Pinpoint that target, Frank!' 'Drill it, Frank!' 'Right to the numbers, Frank.' Just to give him that one thought."
In Collier's book, all Ryan lacks to become one of the best of all pro quarterbacks in history is maturity. "It sounds kinda funny, at his age, to say that he needs maturity," Collier says. "But you see he'd never really been a first-string quarterback before he came here. A quarterback's got to have heart, he's got to have poise, he's got to have leadership, but he's got to have opportunity, Somebody has to give him the opportunity to go in there and play regardless of what mistakes he makes. Without that he can have everything else and never develop. Now Frank's still lacking in some of that developing maturity. For example, he's said some very immature things to the newspapers that he'd have given anything to take back later."
The subject is a sore one. Either of the Ryans is prepared to expatiate for hours on the daily press. Certain members of the daily press are prepared to do the same about Frank Ryan. Part of the problem seems to be that Ryan, consistent with his training, is a precise fellow, and a reporter with a pad and a deadline in 15 minutes is not always able to be as accurate as an IBM 650. For example: