The Houston Texans were able to lure one of the NFL’s top assistants away for their head coaching job as DeMeco Ryans returns to the city he played in for six seasons. Despite the Denver Broncos offering a wealthy ownership group, respected general manager, win-now defense, and a solid cast of offensive playmakers, Houston emerged with San Francisco’s respected defensive coordinator.
Whether Ryans is successful in his first head coaching job goes beyond what he’s shown on gameday. The 38-year-old was an accomplished player, totaling 970 tackles, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Second-Team All-Pro, and two Pro Bowl nods across 10 seasons. He quickly rose amongst the coaching ranks in San Francisco from a defensive quality control in 2017 position to defensive coordinator by 2021.
Working in Houston won’t be easy, but hiring Ryans resulted from an improved head coaching search process that general manager Nick Caserio admitted the franchise needed. Let’s dive into what Ryans will bring the Texans and how we got to this point.
Why DeMeco Ryans Is Right For The Texans Head Coach Job
The Texans cast a wide net amongst perceived competent candidates for their head coach opening after baffling processes in the previous two offseasons. It’s not an accident that the team hired two woefully underqualified coaches, David Culley and Lovie Smith. It’s not their fault they were offered a job they had no business being considered for.
Despite firing their coach in each of the last three offseasons and not being able to offer an open general manager job for the coach to have input on, the Texans were able to host interviews with each of the league’s top candidates. This included former Saints head coach Sean Payton, who landed in Denver, and every respected assistant who was making the rounds in other searches.
Ryans was particularly interesting because of his charismatic nature, experience working with an elite defensive unit, ties to the franchise, and youth. As someone who lives in Houston, I can attest that the franchise needs a jolt of excitement. The locals want it, and the team recognized this by researching possible uniform changes.
The former Texans linebacker brings an impressive coaching resume even after only two seasons as the play caller. He helped develop linebacker Dre Greenlaw and defensive backs Talanoa Hufanga and Deommodore Lenior, in addition to getting the most out of veterans Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, and Charvarius Ward. Injuries never stopped Ryans from compiling a feared unit that kept plugging in replacements and producing.
The Texans Must Continue Evolving This Offseason
Just getting someone who could win the NFL’s top assistant of the year award isn’t enough, and the real work begins as the team has to reinforce a barren roster. Seriously, it’s unbelievable the cast of veterans Houston trotted out over the last two years while going 7-26-1. One of their top-four pass-catchers was under 29 years old last year, and they also started players in their mid-30s like Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Danny Amendola, Mark Ingram, Andre Roberts, and Rex Burkhead.
The first thing Ryans needs to do is stress the importance of developing young players and enduring the growing pains that comes with that. Some veterans are acceptable if they have a good short window to contribute, but the goal is to replace them by the next year. There’s zero little high-impact young talent besides Jalen Pitre, Derek Stingley Jr., and Dameon Pierce.
Who Ryans picks as his coordinators will be important for how 2023 goes. Houston has the No. 2 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft, and the team desperately could use a quarterback and impact defenders. Bringing a Kyle Shanahan disciple would bring a high-floor offense in theory, but we also saw what happened with the Jets finding out that Mike LaFleur wasn’t ready for the big responsibility.
A veteran offensive coordinator has its drawbacks as well since they were likely fired for a reason. But it has to be the right hire, especially if the team entrusts its future to a rookie passer. Both Will Levis and Anthony Richardson have All-Pro potential but low floors, whereas C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young have higher floors and can play right away.
Could Ryans be more interested in adding Derek Carr, the brother of the team’s No. 1 pick in franchise history? I think it’s wiser to invest in a rookie passer and beef up the roster where it matters the most: the trenches. Ryans saw that approach firsthand in San Francisco.
If he succeeds, then his future in Houston is bright. This franchise stuck with Bill O’Brien for years despite speculation he was a mid-tier coach. Building a stocked roster will take time, but if Houston gives Ryans the runway, he could be special.