Jump to content
ExtremeRavens: The Sanctuary

Ravens Insider: Mike Preston: DeMeco Ryans, leader of youth movement among NFL coaches, has made the Texans a contender | COMMENTARY


Recommended Posts

When Houston Texans linebacker Christian Harris intercepted a pass from Joe Flacco in the third quarter Saturday and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown in a 45-14 wild-card win against the Cleveland Browns, there was a red blur running with Harris on the sideline.

It was Texans coach DeMeco Ryans, who was almost as emotional as Harris after the play.

That’s part of the reason Houston hired Ryans last January. At age 39, the former Pro Bowl linebacker personifies NFL coaches these days. Team owners want them young, fit and full of energy while being able to navigate social media and develop a winning culture.

What about the X’s and O’s?

That used to be a priority, but it’s not as important anymore. That’s not to undermine Ryans and the job he has done in his first season with a rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud.

The fourth-seeded Texans (11-7), who play the top-seeded Ravens (13-4) on Saturday in the AFC divisional round, have improved significantly since they lost, 25-9, at Baltimore in the season opener.

If you need proof, just ask Ravens coach John Harbaugh.

“They haven’t surprised me, or they haven’t surprised us,” Harbaugh said. “They’ve done pretty much what I thought they were going to do. They are a very good football team. They are very talented. They play very hard. They execute at a high level. They have a lot of skill players and a good offensive line playing very physical. Their defense is all over the field, as you’d expect, obviously, just a really good football team.”

The man behind the turnaround is Ryans. Before he arrived, Houston had five coaches in four seasons, including interim Romeo Crennel. The Texans went 3-13-1 under Lovie Smith in 2022, 4-13 under former Ravens assistant David Culley in 2021 and 8-25 in the previous two seasons under Bill O’Brien, who finished 52-48 in seven seasons.

Houston had become an NFL wasteland, and then came Ryans.

Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans breaks through the offensive line, forcing Joe Flacco out of the pocket.
Baltimore Sun photo by Karl Merton Ferron
Texans linebacker DeMeco Ryans breaks through the offensive line to force Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco out of the pocket during a divisional round playoff game Jan. 15, 2012, in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Staff)

He fits the trend around the league. The New England Patriots recently hired Jerod Mayo, 37, as their coach. The Miami Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel is 40, and the San Francisco 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan is 44.

Two of the Ravens top assistants being mentioned as head coaching candidates are defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, 36, and assistant head coach Anthony Weaver, 43. Another name being tossed around in that mix is Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, 36.

It’s a young man’s game.

In the case of Weaver and Ryans, they aren’t that far removed from playing in the NFL and can relate to players. They also understand social media (a lot of coaches might spend more time reading Twitter and Facebook than devising game plans). They want to know the pulse of their teams, and that’s where culture comes into play.

A happy locker room is usually a winning locker room. Where there is dysfunction, there is usually chaos. Some players have that sense of entitlement and might be high maintenance, needing coaches to repeatedly tell them how good they are or will become.

It’s one of the reasons why defensive players strut around or celebrate after every big play. An older coach such as former Patriots mentor Bill Belichick, 71, never liked those kinds of celebrations but had to tolerate them in New England.

There is speculation that Pete Carroll, 72, lost that connection with his players, which is why he stopped coaching the Seattle Seahawks.

Ryans’ attitude is contagious. He reportedly had a tough training camp because he wanted to establish a foundation and create a strong work ethic. He is a deeply religious man with three children.

Slowik has free reign on offense, but Ryans is in charge of the defense. On Saturday, he made the call to have cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. shadow Cleveland receiver Amari Cooper all over the field and Cooper had four catches for 59 yards and no touchdowns.

You can’t argue with Ryans’ pedigree. As a Texans linebacker, he was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, a second-team All-Pro in 2007 and a two time Pro-Bowl selection in 2007 and 2009. As the 49ers’ defensive coordinator in 2021 and 2022, he led one of the best units in the league.

Houston enters Saturday having won four of its past five games, but the turning point of its season might have been back-to-back wins against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals to finally earn a winning record at 5-4.

“Right, you talk about drastic improvements — our first game going against Baltimore — man, tough place to play,” Ryans said. “Rookie quarterback, new team, new start, going out to Baltimore. You look up — I remember going into halftime — and man, we were right there. Going against a really tough team, we were right there.

“They kind of took it away in the second half. But, from there to where we are now, we’ve definitely grown. Completely different team. They’re a completely different team and I think they’ve been probably the most consistent defense throughout the entire year.”

The Texans are a team with few stars. Stroud should win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors after passing for 4,108 yards. He’s only 22, but there are few quarterbacks who can deliver a better ball on long to intermediate passes. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is a stud and wide receiver Nico Collins (80 receptions, 1,297 yards, eight touchdowns) has performed well, even though the team lost two of its top receivers in rookie Tank Dell and Noah Brown.

On defense, the Texans have two good pass rushers in ends Jonathan Greenard (12 1/2 sacks) and rookie Will Anderson Jr. (eight). Stingley and fellow cornerback Steven Nelson each have five interceptions, even though support from the safeties has been questionable.

But the Texans rely on the big plays from Stroud and he keeps them in most games. His matchup against the Ravens’ defense should be a good one.

Regardless, Ryans has taken one of the NFL’s worst franchises near the top.

“You see who guys are, their true character, when things get tough, when everything isn’t going well,” Ryans said. “How do guys respond? We’ve seen that, we’ve seen how everybody responded through those tough times that we had, throughout some tough losses. But everybody continued to stick together, everybody continued to work, and that’s the reason why we’re in the position that we are in now.”

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Create New...