It's defensive ties that bind for Ryans

The Baltimore Sun

A week after the Manning brothers dueled on national television, football's next sibling rivalry shifts to the first family of defense.

Rex and Rob Ryan - the twin sons of renowned coach Buddy Ryan - meet for the first time on an NFL field Sunday, when they oppose one another as defensive coordinators for the Ravens and the Oakland Raiders.

For the Ryan family, it'll be different to see the brothers competing on opposite sidelines because they were inseparable as children.

Rex and Rob always teamed up, whether it was football, baseball or a backyard brawl.

"I know we never lost a fight," Rex Ryan said. "That's one of those things where a guy had to be pretty tough because he had to whip both of us."

Rex is in his second season as defensive coordinator of the Ravens. Rob is in his third year with the Raiders.

They started in the NFL at an early age, working as ball boys for their father's teams. Buddy noticed how Rex and Rob weren't typical kids because they paid attention to the coaching of Weeb Ewbank and Bud Grant.

In addition to football, the brothers learned who they could lean on during this time.

"The good thing was when we moved - like you do in coaching - they took their best friend with them," Buddy Ryan said. "They had each other's back."

Rex and Rob have squared off before, when they were opposing coaches in college. They have been memorable games for most of the family.

Rex can't remember the record between the brothers. Rob, who couldn't be reached for comment this week, had a better recollection when asked a year ago.

"We've been on different sidelines six times, and I've beaten him more times than he's beaten me," Rob said. "Also, remind him that I have two Super Bowl rings and he has only one."

In collecting six Super Bowl championships as a family, the Ryan legacy has been high-pressure defenses that attack the quarterback. It's a philosophy that can be traced back to Buddy, who was the architect of the 46 defense used by the 1985 Chicago Bears.

Rex and Rob, both 43, currently use different styles because they have tailored their playbooks around their talent. Rob regularly sticks with the traditional 4-3 defense (four linemen and three linebackers). Rex mixes it up more, switching in and out of fronts to confuse offenses.

But both are the same when it comes to the creativity of their blitz schemes. It's hard to tell where the pressure is coming from when an offense faces a Ryan.

"We try to help each other," said Rex, who will talk to his brother three times a week during the season.

This week has been different because the brothers haven't spoken since Monday. But don't expect Rex to be chatting to Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel either.

"If I thought it would help, I would sell my brother down the river," Rex said. "When it comes to his defense, our offensive coaches know more than me."

Although this is their first NFL game against each other, the brothers' paths first crossed on the pro level in 2004.

The Raiders were looking to hire a new defensive coordinator and asked to interview Rex. The Ravens, who had lost some assistants that season, denied permission.

As a result, Rob got the job after four seasons as the New England Patriots' linebackers coach. In 2005, Rex finally received his promotion to defensive coordinator when Mike Nolan became the San Francisco 49ers' head coach.

"Baltimore is where I wanted to be," Rex said. "The tradition here is something I'm proud to be a part of."

Buddy has high expectations for Rex, saying that the Ravens will go to the Super Bowl this season. This prediction doesn't mean Buddy will be cheering for the Ravens on Sunday.

"I know who to root for," Buddy said. "It's the defenses."

Whoever wins this game, that brother will have bragging rights until their next meeting.

"Quite honestly, it's more than a normal game to both of us," Rex said. "I'm proud of my brother and his accomplishments. If we kick his butt on Sunday like I hope we do, it's not going to change that fact. I want him to win every game except this one."

Note -- The Ravens increased the number of players on the injury report to 10, adding linebacker Gary Stills (hand) and wide receiver Demetrius Williams (knee) as questionable.

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad