Mike Singletary shares a lesson in tough love from Buddy Ryan

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Tuesday June 28, 2016


From ESPN's 30 for 30

Mike Singletary was known as “Samurai Mike” and was an anchor of Buddy Ryan’s Chicago Bears defense, but it wasn’t always like that. There was a moment early on when Singletary wanted to be traded, until he learned a lesson in tough love.

With Ryan’s passing on Tuesday morning, players and coaches have shared their memories of the coach. Under Ryan, Singletary learned that if a coach is hard on you, it’s because he believes you can be great, and he's trying to get more out of you.

Back in 1981, Singletary held out in a contract dispute before his rookie year and missed the first week of training camp. The first time Ryan saw Singletary, the coach called him “Little short fat guy,” rather than his name. That lasted for more than a year.

“I was very frustrated with him, with the way he was treating me, with being in Chicago, a number of things,” Singletary said Tuesday on The Rich Eisen Show. “I’d had it, and I wanted to be traded. I was sitting on the side of the curb, and I was going to ask Buddy if I could be traded.”

But teammate Jim Osborne explained a lesson.

“Jim Osborne came up and said, ‘Mike, you don’t understand. He loves you,’” Singletary recalled. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t see anything about love in him. All he does is curse me out and call me a little short fat guy. He said, ‘He sees something in you, and he’s trying to get it out of you. How about you close your mouth and say yes sir to everything, even if you think he’s wrong?

“I said OK, I’ll try that. I did that, and things began to change. Once I closed my mouth and listened, it got better.”

A year later, Ryan started calling him “Samurai,” and that stuck for the rest of his career, which resulted in a Hall of Fame induction.

It’s better to have a coach chewing you out rather than ignoring you. It means he sees something in you. It’s a lesson Singletary has carried ever since.

“I would want Buddy to be remembered simply as a coach that was all about respect, all about honor, all about pride,” Singletary said. “The bottom line was all about excellence. That’s what Buddy Ryan was about. I love him dearly, miss him dearly. When I think of Buddy, that’s what I think of.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.