McClain: Texans should covet DeMeco Ryans even more after 49ers eliminate Cowboys

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(SportsRadio 610) - Two days after he interviewed with the Texans, defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans helped the 49ers eliminate the Cowboys in the divisional round of the playoffs and reach the NFC Championship Game against the Eagles.

Ryan did a lengthy Zoom interview with the Texans late Friday afternoon, then resumed his preparations for the Dallas game on Sunday afternoon at Levi Stadium, where the 49ers limited the Cowboys to 282 yards and one touchdown in a 19-12 victory. The 49ers have reached the NFC Championship Game in each of Ryans’ two seasons as their defensive coordinator.

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The 49ers’ victory made Texans fans and media covet Ryans even more as the replacement for Lovie Smith, who was fired after a 3-13-1 record in his only season as head coach. The Texans have interviewed eight candidates, and their next move is to reduce the field and bring in coaches for second interviews at NRG Stadium. Ryans, who interviewed with Denver on Thursday, will be among the coaches getting second interviews.

Ryans, who’s in his sixth season as an assistant under Kyle Shanahan, another former Texans coach, has helped San Francisco win 12 consecutive games. According to Fox insider Jay Glazer, Ryans cancelled interviews with Indianapolis and Arizona to focus on the Dallas game.

Ryans’ defense limited the Cowboys to 76 yards rushing and 3.5 yards a carry. The 49ers also intercepted quarterback Dak Prescott two times. The defense benefitted from Dallas losing leading rusher Tony Pollard with an injury. He ran six times for 22 yards before being carted off.

No candidate, including former New Orleans coach and current Fox studio analyst Sean Payton, would be more popular with Texans fans than Ryans.

Led by chairman and CEO Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio, the Texans completed their first round of interviews -- all on Zoom. They have to decide which candidates they want to bring to Houston for second interviews. When the process is over, Caserio will make his recommendation to the McNair family.

The Texans interviewed eight candidates. Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who had one season at his current position, decided to stay with the Lions. Other candidates besides Ryans and Payton are  Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, Denver defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Rams assistant head coach/tight ends coach Thomas Brown and Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, the last to interview on Sunday, the day after his team lost to the Eagles in an NFC divisional round game.

Ryans will be competing against Steichen and Gannon in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. After playing his first six years with the Texans (2006-2011), Ryans spent his last four seasons playing linebacker for Philadelphia.

Because Ryans played his first six seasons with the Texans and became one of the best and most popular players in team history, he’s the fan favorite get the head-coaching job. The Texans put together an impressive list of candidates that has to be whittled down before they conduct more interviews. The process should continue this week.

Ryans turned down a chance to interview a second time with the Vikings last season because he wanted another year of seasoning with the 49ers. That season has been successful so far with the NFC West title and a chance to play in the Super Bowl if they can beat the Eagles, who are favored by two points.

Ryans is coaching the NFL’s best defense that helped the 49ers compile a 15-4 record. He’d be a popular selection if that’s what Caserio and the McNair family want to do. The last time the McNairs hired a head coach who met with such universal approval was 2006 when they gave Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, a Houston native, his first job.

Kubiak guided the Texans to their first two AFC South titles and two playoff victories before getting fired with three games left in the 2013 season. If Ryans gets the job, he should call Kubiak to see if he’s tired of fishing and riding his tractor around his farm outside Houston and would be interested in overseeing the offense and helping the new coordinator like he did under Mike Zimmer in Minnesota. Kubiak’s tutelage helped Vikings’ offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski get the head-coaching job at Cleveland. What a pair Ryans and Kubiak would make.

If Ryans – or any of the other coordinators – is hired, he’s going to need experience on his staff, including a former head coach like Kubiak.

Ryans still has close ties to Houston, including a lot of friends and fans. He married his wife, Jamila, in Houston in 2013. He started the DeMeco Ryans Foundation in Houston in his second season with the Texans. He and his wife have used their foundation to help the Houston and Philadelphia communities, among other areas.

If the Texans hire Ryans, it’ll be a kind of homecoming for him the same way it was for Kubiak. If the Texans don’t hire him, they better hope he doesn’t go to the Colts so they don’t have to play against him two times each season.

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 SportsRadio610.com. He also can be read four times a week on GallerySports.com.

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