McClain: When it comes to pursuing DeMeco Ryans, Texans could lose bidding war with Broncos’ Walmart money


(SportsRadio 610) - If the Broncos have targeted DeMeco Ryans as their top candidate to become Denver’s new head coach, that could be bad news for the Texans.

Ryans, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, interviewed with the Broncos and Texans last week. Then he pulled out of interviews with the Colts and Cardinals to focus on San Francisco’s divisional round game against Dallas – a victory that sent them into Sunday’s NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia.

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Ryan was voted as the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America on Thursday, the same day a report on in Denver said he was at the top of the Broncos’ list of candidates.

A source close to the situation said the Broncos are intent on hiring Ryans. Why could that be a problem for the Texans? Because the McNair family can’t compete with Walmart money if the Broncos want to get into a bidding war. If you’re a Texans’ fan and you want them to hire Ryans, you better hope the Walton family doesn’t start flexing its financial muscle and be determined to hire him at all costs.

The Broncos’ new owners – the Walton-Penner Family Group – is led by Rob Walton, the controlling owner whose worth is estimated at more than $60 billion. That makes Walton the wealthiest owner in the NFL. Walton’s CEO and son-in-law, Greg Penner, runs the organization with his wife, Carrie Walton-Penner.

The new ownership group inherited first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired during the season after showing he was overmatched as a head coach on a weekly basis. Like other teams looking for head coaches, the Broncos seemed to have soured on Sean Payton and have turned their attention to Ryans.

People close to Ryans as well as Cal and Hannah McNair said their Zoom interview on Friday went “great.”

Because the 49ers are playing in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Ryans and Eagles’ coordinators Shane Steichen (offense) and Jonathan Gannon (defense), were unable to do second interviews this week. They can interview next week, but if they agree to accept a job, they can’t be hired officially until their team’s season has finished.

If their team loses on Sunday, Ryans, Steichen or Gannon can sign anytime. So, should the Texans hope the 49ers lose? If they lose to the Eagles, the Texas can bring Ryans to Houston for another interview and sign him to a five-year contract, or they can lose him to Denver.

Ryans, 38, is coaching in his sixth season under 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, the last two as the defensive coordinator. They’ve reached the NFC Championship Game in both seasons. This season, the 49ers allowed the fewest yards and points in the NFL.

Shanahan, whose four years as a Texans’ assistant coach (2006-09) coincided with Ryans’ first four years as a linebacker, knows he’s going to lose his defensive coordinator. Asked this week about Ryans’ strengths as a coordinator, Shanahan said, “I think it starts as a man. He's the ideal leader with whatever he does. He was that way when he came to Houston as a rookie linebacker.

“He took over that defense right away. You could tell who was in charge when he was a 21-year-old. He came in here (49ers in 2017) as a quality control (coach) and within like six months we moved him to linebacker coach. He’s always been that guy. Watching him over these two years -- what he took in his years of learning to get there, how much better he runs the system and then he adjusts every week.

“He sees how to play an offense. He pays attention to offense and defense. I thought he was ready last year to be a head coach. I hope his wife (Jamila) doesn't get mad, but I hope he's not a head coach next year, but if he is, he more than deserves it.”

While Ryans, Steichen and Gannon were preparing for the NFC Championship Game this week, general manager Nick Caserio and the McNairs – Cal and Hannah – were conducting second interviews with Giants’ offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and Broncos’ defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.

Kafka, 35, is an Andy Reid protégé. He played for Reid at Philadelphia in his first two NFL seasons (2010-11). He spent five years on Reid’s  staff at Kansas City, where he coached Patrick Mahomes for four seasons as quarterback coach and passing game coordinator.

Kafka wanted to be an offensive coordinator and play-caller, but those responsibilities weren’t available with the Chiefs, so moved to the Giants this season. First-year coach Brian Daboll hired Kafka as offensive coordinator and gave him the play-calling duties. Kafka did a great job coaching quarterback Daniel Jones, and the Giants made the playoffs before their season ended with a loss to the Eagles in the divisional round.

Evero left the Rams for the Broncos this season to coordinate the defense. While the offense was a major disappointment with Russell Wilson as the quarterback, Denver’s defense was terrific, earning a lot of attention for the job Evero did.

On Sunday, teams with coaching vacancies are going to be closely watching the playoff games. No matter how the 49ers do, expect the Texans and Broncos to pursue Ryans for second interviews next week.

If the Texans want to hire Ryans, they should hope Walton and Penner handle the negotiations like their Walmart slogan says: “Save Money, Live Better.”

John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on SportsRadio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He write three times a week and does three Houtopia Podcasts for He also can be read four times a week on

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