(SportsRadio 610) - Imagine how bittersweet this week has been for DeMeco Ryans.
As the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, Ryans’ season came to a bitter end on Sunday, losing 31-7 at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game.
Two days later, the bitter turned sweet when the Texans hired Ryans as their new head coach, which was the worst-kept secret in the NFL.
Ryans, who played six years (2006-11) with the Texans and four more with the Eagles, was voted the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year this season. He coordinated the 49ers’ defense that was the league’s best. If the 49ers hadn’t been forced to play four quarterbacks for injuries, Ryans might be preparing for Super Bowl LVII.
Ryans is the third consecutive Black coach hired by the McNair family. If you include interim coach Romeo Crennel in 2020, that’s four consecutive Black coaches counting David Culley (2021) and Lovie Smith (2022). Culley and Smith were one-and-done head coaches after going 4-13 and 3-13-1. The McNairs gave Ryans a six-year contract.
Hannah and Cal McNair as well as general manager Nick Caserio were sold on Ryans as soon as their Zoom interview was finished on Jan. 20. During his interview, Ryans didn’t try to play mind games. Ryans told them being the head coach of the Texans was his “dream job,” something he reiterated in a statement released Tuesday from the team.
Ryans wanted the job so bad he informed Indianapolis and Arizona he wouldn’t interview the day after the Texans because he needed as much time as possible to prepare for the Dallas game in the divisional round. He had interviewed with Denver the previous day.
Ryans was well-prepared for his Zoom with the Texans, the same way he was well-prepared for opponents the last two seasons as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator when the 49ers finished third and first in defense. Ryans blew away the McNair family and Caserio in the interview and vaulted to the top of their list of candidates.
Ryans didn’t rescheduled interviews with the Colts and Cardinals. He didn’t do a second interview with the Broncos. He was determined to do whatever he could to convince Caserio and the McNairs he was the right coach for the job. Even though the Texans continued to interview candidates, they knew they wanted Ryans. As soon as he was available to come to Houston for an in-person interview, they weren’t going to let him leave town.
The McNairs will be paying three head coaches – Ryans, Smith and Culley. Money has never stood in the way of them doing what they think is best for the franchise.
“We started this process with the goal of finding someone our fans and city can be proud of, and we’ve done that,” Cal McNair said in a statement. “While we received a lot of incredible feedback and support for DeMeco from different people, it was our discussions with him and his vision for our team that made him the right coach to lead us as we continue to evolve as an organization.”
The Texans didn’t hire Ryans because fans and media wanted them to. They hired him because he was the hottest assistant coach on the market, and they believe he’ll do a terrific job. They’ll provide the resources for Caserio and Ryans to continue to rebuild the team. They’re flush with draft choices and cap dollars.
“For so many reasons, DeMeco’s everything we’re looking for in a leader and coach,” Cal McNair said. “He has a proven track record for developing high-quality players and constantly innovated his defensive scheme.”
Ryans, 38, is the first former Texan to be hired as a head coach. He was a second-round pick in 2006, Gary Kubiak’s first season as head coach and Kyle Shanahan’s first season coaching wide receivers. Shanahan hired Ryans for his San Francisco staff in 2017 and promoted him to defensive coordinator in 2021 to replace Robert Saleh – another former Texans’ assistant under Kubiak.
“I’d like to first thank the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan and (general manager) John Lynch for six incredible seasons where I grew as a coach and a man,” Ryans said in a statement. “I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished together, and I’ll always cherish the relationships I built there.
“Being the head coach of the Texans is my dream job, and my family is thrilled to be back in H-Town. I’ve been around the game of football my entire life, and I’ve always had a natural ability to lead others. I know what it takes to win and be successful in this league as both a player and coach. We’re going to build a program filled with players who have a special work ethic and relentless mindset.”
Ryans and the Texans fit like a glove. His wife, Jamila, is from Houston. They were married in Houston while he played for the Eagles. They’re building a home in Houston. During the pandemic, they started a home for wayward children in Angleton.
“I understand the responsibility I have to this organization and to the fans of Houston to build a winner, and I can’t wait to get to work,” he said.
Ryans’ first order of business is to hire a staff. After watching the worst offense in team history, fans and media are eager to see who Ryans hires as his coordinator. His defensive scheme is a 4-3, the same as Smith utilized the last two seasons, so Caserio and his personnel department can look for the same kind of players for his front seven and not have to undergo another transition.
“DeMeco’s a proven coach with a track record of success who has an innate ability to lead people,” Caserio said in a statement. “He’s progressive in his vision, a great communicator, a connector and somebody that values collaboration.
“We’re working to build a sustainable program that has long-term success, and DeMeco is the coach we feel is the best fit to help us achieve our goals. We know how important it is to get results now, and we have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to partner with DeMeco to build our team together.”
John McClain can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He write three times a week and does two Houtopia Podcasts for SportsRadio610.com. He also can be read four times a week on GallerySports.com.