The Philadelphia Eagles are still looking for a head coach but one of their former stud linebackers is now a defensive coordinator. The San Francisco 49ers promoted inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator on Monday.
Ryan, who spent four years in Philly, had been gaining momentum as an assistant coach to watch in NFL circles due to his fiery personality and loyalty to his players. His meteoric rise up the food chain — from quality control coach in 2017 to defensive coordinator in 2021 — has been impressively rapid. Ryans has been credited with developing Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw into standout linebackers in San Francisco on one of the stingiest defenses in football.
“Everybody loves DeMeco because he’s going to coach you hard,” Greenlaw told the Mercury-News. “Sometimes you may not like it, but he’ll motivate you and also tell you if you’re doing good.”
Those things check out with Ryans’ career. He was a vocal leader and intimidating presence from 2012-15 as the Birds’ middle linebacker. He started 53 games and finished with 334 total tackles (78 for loss) along with five sacks and five interceptions in midnight green. In 2013, he recorded 127 tackles while achieving career-highs in sacks (four), interceptions (two), and interception return yardage (46). Ryan closed out a 10-year NFL career, including stops in Houston and Philly, with 970 tackles and two Pro Bowl selections.
His teammates referred to him as “Mufasa” and Ryan was beloved in the Philly locker room. Former pass-rusher Connor Barwin played with him as a member of both the Texans and Eagles, picking up on the future characteristics of a successful coach even back then.
“The guy just carries himself at such a professional level that everyone looks up to him all the time,” Barwin said in 2013, via USA Today. “He’s smart with what he says. He doesn’t waste his words. You just look at him and respect the guy.”
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Eagles Should Look at Barwin for Bigger Role
Barwin might be following the same trajectory as his former teammate, too. The Eagles named the 34-year-old a “special assistant to the general manager” in 2020 and sent him down to the Senior Bowl to help evaluate talent. As the season progressed, Barwin’s role increased and he joined the coaching staff at one point. He was put in charge of the defensive line for a spell when Matt Burke and Jeremiah Washburn had to self-isolate due to COVID-19.
Barwin, always a smart player on the field and savvy community leader off it, seemed to really impress in his short tryout. His former teammate in the trenches, Brandon Graham, praised the 265-pounder as a “natural” and hinted at a future in coaching for him.
“I could see him with his headset on and calling plays,” Graham told reporters. “Connor was a smart player, so I’m sure that would definitely translate to him being a coach or a coordinator, whichever one he chooses to be.”
Remember, the Eagles are going to need a new defensive coordinator no matter who the next head coach is. While Barwin is too raw for that position, it’s easy to see the affable one-time Pro Bowl player getting a job as a defensive assistant in Philly.
Defensive line coach comes to mind, but the organization seems very high on Burke after finishing third in sacks (49). Barwin seems like a natural fit to take over for retired linebackers coach Ken Flajole, or maybe secondary coach if Marquand Manuel gets promoted. Either way, Barwin is an interesting name to watch on the defensive coaching side.