It was an exciting time in Houston. The Oilers and their run and shoot offense were the NFL’s most explosive shows of turf. They had led the league in passing offense three years running. After yet another playoff failure in 1992, owner Bud Adams hired famed defensive guru Buddy Ryan to ensure his defense would not blow yet another playoff lead. The 46 Defense was supposed to combined with the Run and Shoot to lead the Oilers to a Super Bowl; instead; they produced one of the most dysfunctional teams we have ever seen.
The Oilers were as brash as they were talented. They liked to talk, and twenty years later, that hasn’t changed. As I hopped across the country interviewing players and coaches from that team, I was impressed with the openness and honesty with which they spoke. I had been told players like Sean Jones, Cris Dishman, and Haywood Jeffires would be fantastic interviews, and they did not disappoint. Others were more surprising.
Warren Moon has always been portrayed as an interview that kept things close to the vest, someone who would say a lot but say very little at the same time. I sat down with him at his marketing company in Irvine, California, and found him to be very forthcoming. He expressed how disappointed he was when Coach Jack Pardee benched him after a 1-4 start, and even admitted to not rooting for his replacement Cody Carlson because “part of him” “wanted his job back”. You always assume players think this way, but rarely do they say it out loud.
Coordinators Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride are the protagonists in our film. My expectations were low when I arrived at the Giants practice facility to interview Gilbride. As an active coach in the league, I expected Gilbride to be ready with safe, stock answers. It was anything but. Gilbride is clearly still bothered by the events that transpired two decades ago, even after getting the last laugh by winning two Super Bowl titles. He spoke with a candor that helped take Houston ’93 to a new level.
Buddy was a complete surprise. We had not expected to interview him since he had not done any type of sit down interview in a few years due to his declining health. One day I got a call from his linebackers coach, Ronnie Jones. Ronnie relayed that Buddy was upset that we didn’t ask him to do an interview for the show. He was willing, but not necessarily able. Twice we had arranged to make the trip to his Kentucky home, but twice the plans were cancelled due to health issues. Finally, in September, we were able to make it happen. Now 86, Buddy has difficulty hearing, and his memory is not what it once was. But the spunk is still there, and when it is a topic he remembers, the charm and wit come out. I was particularly surprised at Buddy’s response when I asked him if he regretted taking a swing at Gilbride.
All the things that made the Oilers compelling in 1993, make them compelling today. Look for Houston ’93: A Football Life, tonight at 9/8c, only on NFL Network.