Moon: A tree grows in... the NFL

Moon: A tree grows in... the NFL
December 22, 2010, 7:25 pm
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Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010
1:20 p.m.

By John Mullin

It is common to talk about a coaching tree, the assistants who apprenticed under a Bill Walsh, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry or whomever and who have gone on to coach in the NFL. But if there is a stronger root system than the Buddy Ryan tree, its hard to see.

Its just that theyre players, not just coaches.

Ex-Buddy linebacker Ron Rivera as defensive coordinator has the San Diego Chargers No. 1 in the league. Cornerback Leslie Frazier is the interim head coach in Minnesota and could have the interim tag removed, if his players decide that quitting on one head coach (Brad Childress) in a season was enough.

Buddy backer Mike Singletary is hanging on in San Francisco and defensive back Jeff Fisher has made the Tennessee Titans into a perennial power.

And the Ryan tree crosses generational lines, with son Rex getting the New York Jets to the AFC Championship game last season in his first year as a head coach and to 10-4 in his second.

Its really something, Ryan said. A lot of stems from Mike Ditka and the type of leader he was. I think, sometimes hes underrated because hes such a tough guy and personality but hes a hell of a coach and a heck of a leader.

Buddy hasnt meddled in his sons (Rex and Rob, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator) but the leaf never falls too far from the tree, coaching or otherwise.

Were probably similar and if it is its probably a great compliment, Rex said. I dont try to go out and be my father. Im just myself. Thats the way any successful coach has to be. You just have to go be yourself and believe in yourself.

The reason Ive been successful throughout my career and here with the Jets is the people Im with. Obviously, it starts with the players and then it goes to the coaches youre around. Ive got a staff right here that I think is a tremendous coaching staff, and these guys dont coach for me they coach with me. I cant believe Im around such quality people. Its going to be hard for me not to succeed.

John "Moon" Mullin is's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.