Jets' Ryan recalls father's fight in Houston

Sep 11, 2009 - 10:01 PM By DENNIS WASZAK Jr. AP Sports Writer

FLORHAM PARK, N.J.(AP) -- Rex Ryan thought his NFL coaching dream was over with one infamous punch by his father.

Yep, you remember the one. It was late in the first half of Houston's 24-0 victory over the New York Jets on Jan. 2, 1994, at the Astrodome when Ryan's father, Buddy, the Oilers' defensive coordinator, took a swing at offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

Rex Ryan was home watching the game on TV and his jaw dropped.

"I was like, 'Dad, you've got to be kidding me,"' a laughing Ryan recalled Friday. "I remember throwing something down, thinking that, 'Oh, my goodness, there's no way. I'm destined to coach I-AA football the rest of my life."'

Ryan will return to Houston on Sunday to play the Texans at Reliant Stadium in his head coaching debut with the Jets.

"Dad after the game was like, 'No big deal,"' said Ryan, the defensive coordinator at Morehead State at the time. "He's like, 'Hey, I got that shutout.' I'm like, 'Oh yeah, you got a shutout all right. That's great.'

"I said, 'Normally you don't punch out a guy on the sideline."'

It was the last game of the regular season and the Oilers were cruising. But Houston turned the ball over when quarterback Cody Carlson fumbled, and Gilbride and Ryan yelled at each other on the sideline. Gilbride, now the Giants' offensive coordinator, walked toward Ryan, who threw a right-handed punch at his head. Players had to jump in and pull the two apart.

Ryan was 59 at the time, while Gilbride was 42.

The clip has since been shown countless times on television and Web sites.

"There was a lot of talk that my dad was going to get a head coaching job again," Rex Ryan said. "He had already said I was going to go with him if he got a head coaching job. So, we were all fired up about that."

He thought that his big opportunity was over after the punch.

"Apparently, Dad had seen enough," Ryan said, laughing. "He never appreciated it. Kevin Gilbride has gone on to do some great things in this league as a coordinator. Things like that occasionally happen on the sidelines.

"Maybe not that, specifically."

It worked out in the end for the Ryans. Buddy was hired by the Arizona Cardinals that offseason, and he took Rex with him to be his defensive line/linebackers coach.

After a few other stops, Rex ended up in Baltimore and helped build one of the league's most dominant defenses over the last 10 years.

"I was fortunate that the Cardinals hired my dad and I was able to get that opportunity to coach with him," Rex Ryan said. "That was huge. If I don't have those two years coaching under my dad, I wouldn't even have come close to being the coach that I am now."

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