DeMeco Ryans has been hired as coach of the Houston Texans, giving him his first head coaching job and bringing him back to the place where he started his playing career.
Ryans joins the Texans from the 49ers, where he spent the past two seasons as their defensive coordinator.
He replaces Lovie Smith, who was fired after just one season where the team went 3-13-1.
Ryans issued a statement thanking the 49ers, coach Kyle Shanahan, and general manager John Lynch for his time in San Francisco before looking ahead to his future with the Texans.
“Being the head coach of the Houston Texans is my dream job and my family is thrilled to be back in H-Town,” Ryans said. “I have been around the game of football my entire life and I’ve 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.”
“We’re going to build a program filled with players who have a special work ethic and relentless mind-set,” he continued. “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 get to work.”
A fan favorite during his playing days in Houston, Ryans could help the team win back some fans that have become disenchanted with the direction of the Texans as they muddled through three straight dreadful seasons after winning the AFC South in 2018 and ‘19.
Houston’s most famous former player, J.J. Watt, appears to support the move, with the recently retired defensive end tweeting a picture this week of himself with Ryans when the two played for the Texans.
Team owner Cal McNair vowed to be more involved in this hiring after the Texans fired their past two coaches after just one season. David Culley was fired after coaching the team in the 2021 season before Smith was hired.
“For so many reasons, DeMeco is everything we are looking for in a leader and coach for our organization,” McNair said. “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.”
Ryans is the third consecutive Black head coach the team his hired in as many years. The Texans faced criticism for firing two Black coaches after just one season with rosters devoid of any stars and lacking much talent.
Ryans led a 49ers defense that led the NFL this season by allowing just 300.6 yards a game.
San Francisco was particularly good against the run, ranking second in the league by holding teams to 77.7 yards. That’s a stark contrast to Houston’s run defense, which ranked last in the NFL by allowing 170.2 yards this season.
Ryans helped the 49ers to a 13-4 regular-season record and the NFC West title this season. San Francisco reached the NFC Championship game before falling to Philadelphia on Sunday.
The Texans decided on Ryans after interviewing Denver defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown, former Saints coach Sean Payton, Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.
The 38-year-old Ryans was a linebacker who was a second-round pick of the Texans in 2006. He led the NFL with 126 solo tackles that season to win AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
“DeMeco is a proven coach with a track record of success who has an innate ability to lead people,” general manager Nick Caserio said. “He is progressive in his vision, a great communicator, a connector and somebody that values collaboration.”
“We are working to build a sustainable program that has long-term success and DeMeco is the coach we feel is the best fit to help us achieve our goals,” Caserio continued. “We know how important it is to get results now and we have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited to partner with DeMeco to build our football team together.”
Rodgers won’t rush decision
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he doesn’t expect to make a decision on whether to play next season until after the Super Bowl.
Rodgers, 39, has said he is still making up his mind on whether he wants to return to the Packers for a 19th season, retire or request a trade. The four-time league MVP also has noted the possibility the Packers may want to move him.
“It’s going to be a little more time for my decision,” Rodgers said Tuesday during his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show” on SiriusXM and YouTube. “I feel confident that in a couple of weeks I’ll feel definitely more strongly about one of the two decisions.”
The first decision is whether he wants to play at all.
“You’ve got to be cognizant of what was going through your mind during the season,” Rodgers said. “Did you enjoy the grind as much? Did you enjoy practice? Did you enjoy the meeting time? Did you enjoy the routine? And not forget about those feelings and make an emotional response either way. I think that’s important.”
Rodgers was the league MVP in 2020 and 2021, but didn’t perform as well this season while playing with a broken right thumb and dealing with the absence of star wideout Davante Adams, who was traded to the Raiders in March.
Rodgers had his lowest passer rating as a starter and threw 12 interceptions, his highest total since 2008. The Packers went 8-9 and missed the playoffs to end a string of three straight NFC North titles.
Rodgers was asked if he would decide on his plans and would then call the Packers, who would then let him know what they’re thinking.
“I think so,” Rodgers said. “It sounds like there’s already conversations going on that aren’t involving me, which are interesting.”
Falcons hire Gray
Falcons coach Arthur Smith continued to reshape his defensive staff by hiring Jerry Gray as the assistant head coach for defense.
Gray, 60, brings 26 years of NFL coaching experience to Atlanta, including eight as a defensive coordinator and 16 as a defensive backs coach. In those 24 years as a coordinator or defensive backs coach, his defenses have ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense 10 times and in passing defense 13 times.
The addition of Gray, who had been Green Bay’s defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator, forms a reunion with Smith.
The two worked together as assistants on Washington’s staff in 2007-08 and on Tennessee’s staff from 2011-13, when Gray was the Titans’ defensive coordinator.
Gray also is a former defensive coordinator with Buffalo (2001-05).
The hiring of Gray comes after the Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator on Friday. Nielsen had been the Saints’ co-defensive coordinator.
The Packers finished in the top 10 in passing defense in each of Gray’s three seasons on the staff. The Packers ranked sixth in passing defense in 2022.