Ryans is much better known to Texans fans as Houston’s 2006 second-round pick from Alabama. His rookie campaign featured 155 total tackles and saw Ryans crowned as NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The linebacker was All-Pro in 2007, had two Pro Bowl appearances in 2007 and 2009, and featured in the team’s first ever playoff victory in the wild-card round against the Cincinnati Bengals before he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012.
Now, nearly a decade later, Ryans is primed as a top candidate to potentially replace Lovie Smith and serve as the young, innovative coach that the Texans have been searching for each of the last three seasons. The coordinator for one of the NFL’s best overall units has a multitude of options, but there’s reason to think Houston could be a perfect fit for Ryans.
Ryans' success in San Francisco
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The San Francisco 49ers were football’s best defense in 2022. They allowed only 277 points and opponents scored on only 25.7% of their drives, both the best marks in the NFL. The 49ers finished 3rd in Quarterback Knockdowns, 10th in sacks and only the Washington Commanders surrendered fewer first downs than DeMeco Ryans’ unit.
It was a defense that took both high end talent and role players alike and optimized them into their best versions possible. Linebacker Fred Warner and edge rusher Nick Bosa emerged as the best at their positions. Former fifth-round pick Talanoa Hufanga was an All-Pro and former Texans castoff Charles Omenihu was transformed into the team’s second leading pass rusher.
There’s no reason to think Ryans could not similarly elevated the talent on the Texans. Young players like Derrick Stingley, Jalen Pitre and Christian Harris could take enormous leaps under his coaching and there’s no reason to think Houston wouldn’t find their own Hufanga-type story under Ryans.
On the offensive side, Ryans would bring with him personnel from the best coached offensive system in the NFL and someone who has learned under Kyle Shanahan. It could be a remarkably easy transition for Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.
Houston not only needs to find talent, but needs to make their talent better. Ryans would do that.
Ryans ignites the fan base
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Ryans is a reminder of a time in Houston football where the team was regularly making the playoffs and the franchise had an excellent relationship with the fanbase. His return, in conjunction with the recent effort of the McNair’s to win Houston back, could mark a return to the feel good sentiment around the franchise.
He is not only one of the top candidates on the market but Ryan brings instant credibility with the city of Houston and instant credibility with the fanbase. Franchise legend J.J. Watt even spoke on the respect Ryans demanded during his time on the Texans.
Someone with Ryans’ level of support from the fanbase and former Houston players alike would certainly go a long way in galvanizing a franchise that has seemingly lost most interest from the city that hosts it.
Ryans can mold the franchise
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The Texans are largely a blank slate of a franchise right now. They have very few pieces set in stone and the upcoming draft capital and salary cap space available to the team signal that a rebuild could happen quickly and go in a multitude of directions.
Ryans has been described as a high energy coach and one that is brilliant relationally with his players. Houston could be the perfect place to instill his culture and bring in the type of young, highly talented players he needs to create the program he would desire as a coach.
The team has the second overall pick and can select the franchise quarterback of his choice. They have eleven additional draft picks to shape the roster and plenty of young players on the roster ready to take a step forward under his guidance.
General manager Nick Caserio has mentioned a willingness to take a moderate step back for the right candidate to put Houston in a position to win. Entering a more even partnership with Ryans could signal the type of balance that professional teams in the NFL need to thrive and the type of talent evaluation Ryans will need to build a juggernaut.