Eagles history: Buddy Ryan, karma, and the Body Bag Game

Buddy Ryan, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Buddy Ryan, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Raise your hands if you’re old enough to remember the ‘Body Bag Game’. For those of you who aren’t, here’s the skinny. Once upon a time, a beloved but often grumpy head coach, Buddy Ryan, promised the Philadelphia Eagles would take the field for a Monday Night Football Game scheduled for November 12th of 1990 and win.

These days, he’d be ridiculed on Twitter for that. Guaranteeing victory before the game? How dare he! Still, had that been the extent of the discussion, no one would have batted an eyelash, but there was more. It often was with Coach Ryan. He issued a threat with his guarantee, one his team made good on.

Buddy promised Washington would have “to be carted off in body bags”. The game unfolded like a one-sided prize fight, one where the referee waits too long to step in and end things. Birds fans loved it, and that’s where our story begins.

The Body Bag Game lives on in Eagles lore, but is that a good thing or a bad one?

Ryan’s words turned out to be prophetic. Nine of Washington’s players left the game with injuries. There was no sympathy from the guys in kelly green as one player was even heard asking “Do you guys need any more body bags?”.

Washington lost every available signal-caller they brought with them. Jeff Rutledge and backup Stan Humphries were the available signal-callers and active by virtue of an injured Mark Rypien sitting out. They wouldn’t make it to the finish line.

With Gary Hogeboom, Rypien’s backup, already being inactive, Brian Mitchell (a running back who eventually became an excellent return man for the Eagles) had to enter the game in relief as Washington’s emergency signal caller.

Philly won that game by a 28-14 margin, but payback came quickly.

Less than two months later, on January 5th during a Wild Card Game versus the same Washington team in that same stadium, Philly was throttled at home in front of the Veteran’s Stadium faithful by a score of 20-6.

Now, if you don’t have a superstitious bone in your body, all of that probably means nothing to you. If you do, you may have wondered from time to time if Buddy’s declaration and some other decisions he made (putting bounties on players, insulting then-owner Norman Braman) led to karma paying an immediate visit.

Ryan was fired at season’s end. Rich Kotite was promoted (that was punishment enough). The 1991 regular season arrived, and in Week 1, Bryce Paup injured Randall Cunningham and knocked him out for the entire campaign.

Philadelphia, despite going winless in October that season, finished with a 10-6 record but failed to make the postseason. Washington went on to win Super Bowl XXVI.

Sure, again, we can argue that the Body Bag Game had nothing to do with any of that. Philly eventually enjoyed great years under Andy Reid and won a Super Bowl of their own under Doug Pederson. Washington hasn’t won one since.

Trending. The top 15 Eagles draft picks of all time. light

Still, regardless of how you feel about Buddy (may he rest in peace) or whether you see this story as much ado about nothing it can’t be denied that any Eagles fan that remembers the game can recount every detail like it was yesterday. That shouldn’t surprise you though.

Eagles fans may not always remember the final score of the most recent win. They never seem to forget when someone is knocked out though, nor will they forget who delivered the blow.