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ESPN: Buddy Ryan’s Cardinals guarantee among most memorable in NFL lore

Arizona Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan watches his team on Aug. 20, 1994, in Pontiac, Mich. Ryan, a self-described winner whose Arizona Cardinals lost seven of their last eight games to finish 4-12, was fired Tuesday Dec. 26, 1995. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson,file)

The year was 1994, and the Cardinals had hired the outspoken and well-known Buddy Ryan to be their head coach and general manager.

Ryan was so confident in his abilities, during his introductory press conference that February, he announced, “You’ve got a winner in town. We’re looking forward to winning. So today we start.”

It was the boldest guarantee the Valley had seen since the previous year, when Paul Westphal famously predicted his Suns team would come back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs (they did, by the way), and helped to energize a mostly uninspired fan base.

In fact, it was so bold, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert ranked it as the third most memorable predictive quote in NFL lore, behind Joe Namath’s Super Bowl III guarantee and Rex Ryan’s multiple Super Bowl predictions.

Year: 1994

Context: We can see where Rex Ryan got his prognosticating tendencies. In 1994, his father, Buddy, was hired as the Arizona Cardinals‘ coach. At the time, the Cardinals were an NFL laughingstock. They had produced nine consecutive losing seasons and appeared in the playoffs only once in the previous 18 seasons — the strike-shortened nine-game season of 1982, when they were based in St. Louis. When he was hired, Ryan said: “You’ve got a winner in this town.”

Outcome: The Cardinals were 8-8 in his first season and 4-12 in 1995, at which point he was fired. If “winning” is defined as more wins than losses, it didn’t happen on Buddy’s watch in Arizona.

True enough, Ryan’s guarantee did not exactly come to fruition. That said, his tenure with the organization — brief as it was — left an impression on the fans who were around to witness it.

And hey, Ryan’s prediction wasn’t necessarily wrong; it was just a little premature. The Cardinals wound up earning a Wild Card berth in 1998, and reached Super Bowl XLIII a decade after that.


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