Arizona Cardinals defense was a lethal force back in 1994

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Seth Joyner
(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) Seth Joyner /

Former head coach Buddy Ryan presided over an Arizona Cardinals defense that was a dominating force during the 1994 NFL campaign.

When you think of it in wins and losses, the two-year stint that the late Buddy Ryan served as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals could be considered an utter failure.

In 32 tries during the 1994 and 1995 campaigns, Ryan’s squad emerged victorious just 12 times. Both teams failed to qualify for the playoffs, and Ryan was relieved of his duties following the 1995 finale.

While it’s hard to argue with the opinion that the former Philadelphia Eagles head man was a disappointment, there was one area of the club during Ryan’s tenure that ranked among the NFL’s best.

Arizona‘s defensive unit back in 1994 was both talented and intimidating. Ryan, along with coordinator Ronnie Jones, presided over a crew of defenders who finished third overall in the league that season. Only the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers were ranked higher than the Cardinals.

The Arizona Cardinals 1994 defense was overloaded with talented players

Leading the Cards in tackles that year was Eric Hill, the organization’s first-round choice back in 1989. The middle linebacker was credited with 120 stops during the 16 appearances (15 starts) he made for the Redbirds in 1994.

Former Eagles star Seth Joyner, another linebacker, was a vocal leader who made plays all over the field. The 6-foot-2, 241-pounder tallied 53 tackles, six quarterback sacks, and three interceptions in 16 starts for Arizona. Joyner’s outstanding performance earned him the third Pro Bowl selection of his professional career.

Joining Joyner in the Pro Bowl that year was Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams. In 16 games, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder came down with an eye-popping nine interceptions, and he totaled 41 tackles as well.

Michael Bankston, one of the most underrated performers to ever wear a Cardinals uniform, led the defensive linemen with 85 tackles and seven sacks. Eric Swann, an unblockable force in his heyday, contributed 71 tackles, seven sacks, and a pick in 16 contests. Clyde Simmons, another of Ryan’s former Eagles, racked up 45 tackles and six sacks during his first campaign with “Big Red”.

Other members of that impressive unit who are worth mentioning include cornerback Lorenzo Lynch, linebacker Wilber Marshall, and safety Terry Hoage.

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There aren’t many Cards fans who will have fond memories of Ryan’s time in the desert. However, the defensive guru’s 1994 unit will always rank as one of the greatest in franchise history.