After battling through adversity, injuries, and the loss of four different quarterbacks – two of which came in the NFC Championship game alone – the San Francisco 49ers‘ 2023 season has some to an end at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles and to make matters worse, it sounds like they won’t even be returning to the Bay Area whole, as Adam Schefter, ESPN’s Senior NFL Insider, has reported that the Houston Texans are “expected to pursue” defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their new head coach.
A second-round draftee of the Texans in 2006 who won Defensive Rookie of the Year and was named to two Pro Bowls during his tenure in Houston, Ryans finished out his playing career in Philadelphia under Chip Kelly before following him to San Francisco to join his 49ers coaching staff. Elevated to defensive coordinator in place of Robert Saleh, who left for a job with the Jets in 2021, Ryans left the top defense in the NFL in 2022 and became a standout for his unique ability to connect with his players, a trait dating back to his time in Houston when he was nicknamed Mufasa for his innate leadership abilities.
While the Texans could theoretically opt to go in another direction, if Mike Florio of ESPN is to be believed, Houston isn’t the only team with an interest in hiring Ryans.
The 49ers’ DC Is in High Demand Heading Into 2023
Speaking with KNBR on the Tuesday before the NFC Championship, Florio was asked about which teams were interested in hiring Ryans, and in addition to the Texans, he also shouted out the Broncos for having the desire to take things in a different direction.
“The Texans and Broncos were the two interviews that he did last week,” Florio said. “The Texans are the sentimental favorite because he played there, and also he’s a damn good coach. In Denver he made a great impression I’m told, but they’ve had three straight first-time head coaches, coordinator elevations, and they’ve been burned by that. I guess one argument would be, we’re due to finally hire a coordinator that becomes a great head coach, but I think they’re leaning toward somebody who’s been a head coach before, especially as poor as it went for Nathanial Hackett.”
Though Florio wasn’t sure if a team interested in hiring Ryans could get cold feet if the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl, the path is now clear for any of the remaining spots to be filled by the 38-year-old. Even if losing Ryans will be a tough blow for the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan knows that his long-time assistant will shine wherever he lands, as he’s a natural leader of men.
Kyle Shanahan Gave DeMeco Ryans the Ultimate Endorsement
Speaking with reports on Wednesday, Shanahan was asked about Ryans’ capabilities as a coordinator and gave a ringing endorsement of his long-time assistant’s quality as both a coach and a man.
“I think it starts as a man. He’s the ideal leader with whatever he does, he was that way when he came in to Houston as a rookie linebacker,” Shanahan said via NBC Sports. “He took over that defense right away. You could tell who was in charge when he was a 21-year-old. He came in here as a quality control and within like six months we moved him to linebacker coach and he’s always been that guy and then just watching him over these two years what he took in his years learning to get there, how much better he runs the system and then he adjusts every week.”
“He sees how to play an offense, he pays attention to offense and defense. I thought he was ready last year to be a head coach and I hope his wife doesn’t get mad, but I hope he’s not a head coach next year, but if he is, he more than deserves it.”
If this really is the end of Ryans’ time in San Francisco, it’s safe to say fans will remember his run with the team fondly, even if the ending was a tad bittersweet.