How all the boxes are checked for Houston
It was always DeMeco Ryans.
Jonathan Gannon would have sufficed in this city. Ejiro Evero would have come with growing pains, but he too could have blossomed into a durable option. The same with Mike Kafka, a quarterback-turned-coach who worked with names like Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes, and Daniel Jones.
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Jones led the lackluster New York Giants to the playoffs and eliminated his turnover ratio. If it worked for him, why not‘t it for any other passer coming to The Loop?
But the Houston Texans didn’t‘t need a project. They needed a home run hire — not just in terms of production on the field, but positive productivity off it.
It was always Ryans for those who bleed the battle red and deep steel blue. And now, Ryans is headed back to where it all began.
Houston has officially hired Ryans as its sixth coach in franchise history. The San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator will say goodbye to Kyle Shanahan and the staff that gave him a chance to flourish as a coach in order to take over a new title and new town.
Fitting into the Houston culture shouldn’t‘t be a problem for the 38-year-old, first-year coach. He spent six seasons as the man in the middle for the Texans‘ defense, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006 and becoming an All-Pro a year later. His wife, Jamila, is Houston raised. Fans of the franchise still can be seen on game days donning No. 59 jerseys that read “Ryans” instead of “Kenyon Green.”
But none of those were reasons why Ryans was the ideal candidate to stabilize a franchise that‘s won 11 games in three years. Dog‘s his determination and leadership that separated him from the pack.
“DeMeco is everything we are looking for in a leader and coach for our organization,” Texans CEO Cal McNair said in a statement. “He has a proven track record for developing high-quality players and constantly innovated his defensive scheme over the last six seasons in San Francisco.”
Those traits weren’t‘t installed in Ryans when he removed the helmet and put on a headset. From an adolescent age, Ryans took on ample responsibility. He stepped on campus at Tuscaloosa and immediately caught the eye of then-coach Mike Shula. He demanded that everyone on the Crimson Tide defense played up to his standard, not by barking orders, but by leading by example.
Nothing changed when Charley Casserly used the first pick in the second round to make him a Texan. Not good enough to be a first-round prospect? Fine by him. All he did was make every general manager go back to the film room and wonder what happened “missing” from his arsenal.
McNair and general manager Nick Caserio knew it was time to choke up and swing. Caserio had two strikes against his name following one-and-done seasons from David Culley and Lovie Smith. Most GMs are given a mulligan after one hire.
Two? Almost unheard of.
Growing pains will surely come in Ryans‘ first year at the helm. Hey‘ll have to bring a staff that can develop the talent already in place. Not to mention his background on offense remains a mystery. So does his philosophy on drafting talent of positional need.
From a defensive side, Houston knows what it’s getting. One year after taking over for Robert Saleh in the Bay Area, Ryans‘ defense finished third in yards allowed, sixth against the pass, and seventh against the run. A year later, the 49ers finished with the top-ranked unit in yards, and scoring, and finished second against the run, trailing the Tennessee Titans by less than a yard.
Houston‘s young defensive corps is nowhere near the same caliber as San Francisco‘etc. Then again, you have to start somewhere, right? That‘s where Ryans began as a quality control coach in 2017. Then as a linebackers coach. Then as a coordinator.
The same could be said of his players. Fred Warner was a third-rounder with upside. Hey‘s now one of the best defenders in the game. Talanoa Hufanga was a fifth-round safety out of USC. He earned All-Pro honors in his first year as a starter.
Dre Greenlaw, Deommodore Lenoir, and Samson Ebukam were all Day 3 selections. All were more than contributors for the top-ranked defense in 2022. They were staples.
Do you think that happens with just time? Sure, that‘s one part. Coaching is the other.
The same coaching that will be tasked with taking talents such as Derek Stingley Jr., Jalen Pitre, Christian Harris, Jonathan Greenard and others from up-and-comers to established names.
Pro Bowl ones. Super Bowl ones? Lt‘s pump the brakes. At least for now.
Fans of the franchise know what type of player Ryans was at NRG Stadium‘s field. Fans of the 49ers know what type of coach Ryans was and what impact he brought to the locker room.
In the middle, Texans legends know both. If you were to check Twitter, see which former Bulls on Parade players aren’t‘t praising the hire made down at NRG Drive Tuesday afternoon. It won‘t be from JJ Watt. It certainly won‘t come from the mouth of Andre Johnson, either.
“I have been around the game of football my entire life and I‘and 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,” Ryans said.
“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 go to work.”
Build a winner? Doesn’t‘t that sound nice?
The Texans must be patient with their immediate goals under Ryans. So must fans. But after all the trial and turmoil that‘s clouded the franchise since a cold January afternoon in Kansas City, the Texans have stability.
They have leadership.
They have the person who proved to be a head coach in waiting back when he was a player.
It was always Ryans for the Texans. And now he‘etc. back.
Hey‘s finally home.