“We’re football coaches,” Rob said. “At one time, my whole goal was just to be able to have my own trailer, live in that and coach football. That was my life’s ambition. That’s how we look at things. We’ve always been destined to be football coaches.”
After their parents divorced, Rob and Rex lived with their mother in Toronto, where the Ryans’ rough-around-the-edges reputations were developed during brutal backyard football games with their older brother, Jim, now an attorney in St. Louis.
The Ryans played basketball, hockey and baseball _ all with reckless abandon. Trouble was, they were not model students or citizens. They needed discipline. So, in seventh grade they were sent to Minnesota to live with their dad, then coaching the Vikings’ famed “Purple People Eaters” defense.
“The Ryans were kind of running roughshod on Canada, so we had to move,” Rob said. “Our lives kind of changed when we moved in with my father, that’s for sure.”
They began as ballboys, and after playing in college, they began a slow climb up the coaching ladder _ from the bottom rung. Rob’s coaching stops included Western Kentucky, Tennessee State and Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Rex was at Eastern Kentucky, New Mexico Highlands and Morehead State.
Sure, they had the advantage of a name known throughout coaching, but the Ryans worked hard, were handed nothing and are now regarded as two of the game’s best minds.
“I hope it does,” he said.
Rex Ryan doesn’t pull any punches, and his shoot-from-the-hip style has endeared him to New York’s media, fans and players. Rob Ryan is no different, and it wasn’t surprising to see the Browns dump Gatorade after a recent upset of New Orleans.
They are alike and likable. But they’re also demanding. Step out of line, and there are consequences. That’s how the Ryans were taught.
“We coach men’s football and the best thing to do is be yourself with all the flaws you have,” Rob said. “People can try to sugar coat things, but I believe what Rex does best is he is direct with his players. He tells them the truth, not necessarily what they want to hear but it’s the truth. My father always installed that in us, always be honest.”
Sunday’s game will be at least the seventh with the Ryans on opposite sidelines, with Rob holding a 3-0 lead over Rex in their pro head-to-head matchups. However, this installment of the “Buddy Bowl” will be the first with one of the Ryans as an NFL head coach.
Buddy will be there.
“It’s going to be a great game,” the 76-year-old father said. “They’re both great coaches and I know they’re going to do everything they can to beat the other.”