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All signs point toward DeMeco Ryans as Houston Texans head coach

Chron logo Chron 1/30/2023 Josh Criswell

San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was one of the first stars in Houston Texans franchise history. Soon, he could have the chance to transform his old team from an NFL afterthought to an annual contender.

Ryans—a second-round pick in 2006 who went on to become a Defensive Rookie of the Year and two-time Pro Bowler with the Texans—is set to have his second interview for the organization's head coaching vacancy this week, and possibly as soon as Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of Rapoport tweeted Monday morning, "If all goes well, a hire could be finalized Tuesday or Wednesday, sources say. Their top candidate all along, it appears a homecoming is on its way to happening."

Rapoport elaborated on the situation during an appearance on NFL Network, noting that the 49ers losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday's NFC Championship Game "does clear the path for [Ryans] to be named the Texans head coach at some point later in this week."

"He is considered to be the favorite," Rapoport said. "The Denver Broncos, who also had significant interest in DeMeco Ryans after interviewing him, they have received indication his intention is headed elsewhere ... Assuming all goes well, and it should, he will be named the Texans' head coach." ESPN's Adam Schefter also reported Sunday that Houston was expected to pursue Ryans to fill its head coaching vacancy.

Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon—a top candidate for the Texans each of the past two offseasons—indicated Sunday evening that he plans to stay in Philadelphia, further strengthening speculation that Houston is headed toward a reunion with Ryans.

Known as "Cap" by his former Texans teammates, Ryans has been lauded for his leadership traits and potential since his transition from player to coach. The 49ers had the second-highest Pro Football Focus defensive grade in the NFL in 2022, and have finished in the top eight in each of the past four seasons. San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan, a former Houston assistant, has been impressed by Ryans from the get-go.

"He’s the ideal leader, whatever he does," Shanahan said, via "He was that way when he came into Houston as a rookie linebacker. He took over that defense right away. You could tell he was in charge when he was a 21-year-old rookie. He came in here as a quality control [coach], and within like six months, we moved him to linebacker coach."

In returning to Houston, Ryans' impact would go beyond the football field. Official attendance figures don't truly paint the picture of how bleak the scene at NRG Stadium was on Sundays last fall, with a sea of empty seats widening with each coming week. Hiring Ryans won't ensure sell-outs, nor will it guarantee the Texans' ascent to NFL contention. But at the very least, it would generate interest for a franchise that is desperately seeking a return to relevancy.

At least one Texans great has vocalized his support for the team hiring Ryans as its next head coach, with three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt sending out a co-sign in the form of a tweet earlier this month.

"As rookie in Houston, I bought my first house across the street from DeMeco because if Meco thought it was the right place to live, it was the right place to live for me," Watt wrote. "Captain, leader, smart, tough, personable, crushed it as DC… He will be a great head coach."


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