Sports

DeMeco Ryans hired as Houston Texans head coach

Ryans had his second interview with the team this week, following the 49ers’ defeat in the NFC title game. He will be just the sixth head coach in Texans history.

DeMeco Ryans
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans before an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

A former Houston Texans player is coming back in a new role — head coach.

DeMeco Ryans, who spent the first six years of his playing career with the Texans, was hired Wednesday as the sixth head coach in franchise history.

Ryans has spent the last six years on the coaching staff of the San Francisco 49ers and had his second interview with the Texans this week, following the 49ers’ defeat in the NFC title game to Philadelphia.

Ryans became San Francisco’s defensive coordinator in 2021, and the team led the NFL this season by allowing just 300.6 yards per game. San Francisco was particularly good against the run, ranking second in the league by holding teams to 77.7 rushing yards on average. That's a stark contrast to Houston's run defense, which ranked last in the NFL by allowing 170.2 yards per game this season. Ryans helped the 49ers to a 13-4 regular-season record and the NFC West title this season.

The 38-year-old Ryans was an All-American college linebacker at the University of Alabama 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. He spent his first six NFL seasons with the Texans and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009.

Texans general manager Nick Caserio was searching for his third coach in as many years. Lovie Smith was 3-13-1 in one season and was fired on Monday, a year after Houston fired David Culley following one season and a 4-13 record. The Texans last qualified for the playoffs in 2019, their final full season under Bill O’Brien.

Texans owner Cal McNair took on a more "active role" in hiring Ryans. The team has faced criticism since Smith's firing for not giving their past two coaches a chance to succeed. Culley and Smith are both Black, and many former coaches and players have broadly criticized NFL teams for not giving Black coaches adequate resources and for giving up on them more quickly than their white counterparts.