THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Jeff Fisher's NFL playing career, which basically spanned from 1981-84, was spent as a defensive back and return specialist on the Chicago Bears. The late, great Buddy Ryan was the defensive coordinator for those teams. It was Ryan who retained Fisher as a defensive assistant while he spent the 1985 season on injured reserve, then hired Fisher as a defensive backs coach when he became head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles the following year. Ryan then promoted Fisher to defensive coordinator in 1988, making him -- at that point only 30 years old -- the youngest such coach in the NFL.
Rex Ryan, now head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and his twin brother, Rob, his assistant head coach, have been hanging around Fisher since they were teenagers.
"They would hang around training camp in Chicago when I was playing, and then I’ve followed their careers throughout," Fisher said. "Buddy was very, very close with them. That was a hard loss this summer."
Buddy Ryan died, at age 85, in late June. Fisher was unable to attend the funeral, but he reached out to Rex and Rob, two men with whom he maintains a relationship.
"They’re both outstanding coaches," Fisher said. "They’re passionate. They’re coaching for their dad right now. I know that.”
The Ryans will lead the Bills into Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a Week 5 showdown with Fisher's Rams this Sunday, with kickoff set for 1:25 p.m. PT. Rex Ryan remembers being at the Coliseum for his first game as an NFL assistant coach 22 years ago. He was coaching the Arizona Cardinals' defensive linemen and linebackers in 1994, and his team suffered a 14-12 loss to open their season.
Said Ryan: "I just remember being so down on my way home."
Coming back here, and facing Fisher's Rams, will make him think about Buddy.
“Dad, he obviously loved Jeff Fisher and respected him," Ryan said. "And for good reason."