The Texans will give Matt Burke a second chance on the coordinator level. Shortly after interviewing the Cardinals’ defensive line coach, the AFC South team plans to hire him as its next defensive coordinator, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.
While DeMeco Ryans will head up Houston’s defense, Burke will step in as the young HC’s right-hand man here. Burke previously oversaw the Dolphins’ defense from 2017-18 but has been with three teams since. Burke, 46, spent the 2022 season with the Cardinals, worked with the Eagles from 2019-20 and was with the Jets in 2021.
Ryans obviously earned the Houston HC job on the strength of his defensive acumen, but it is not a certainty he will call plays. He and Burke have not determined that key component of the Texans’ 2023 blueprint, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, who suggests Burke has a legitimate chance to step into this role (Twitter link).
This process did not double as a wide-ranging search. Beyond Burke, it is believed only Jets safeties coach Marquand Manuel interviewed for the position. Manuel interviewed for the gig twice, per KPRC’s Aaron Wilson, but the Texans were unable to secure meetings with Chris Harris or 49ers D-line coach Kris Kocurek. Harris interviewed for San Francisco’s DC position and received a Texans interview request; he ended up sticking with his initial offseason pledge — a Titans staff gig. Harris is now Tennessee’s cornerbacks coach.
Kocurek is expected to stay with the 49ers, with Wilson noting a title bump may be on tap. Manuel interviewed for both the Texans and Panthers’ DC posts. Unable to bring Kocurek to Houston, Ryans is also interested in former San Francisco coworker Cory Undlin. Undlin’s 49ers contract has expired, per Wilson; that could well lead the team’s passing-game coordinator/DBs coach to the Texans. Undlin, 51, spent the 2020 season as the Lions’ DC but was one of Ryans’ top assistants over the past two years.
An NFL staffer since 2004, Burke has spent much of his career coaching linebackers. He served in that role with the Lions, Bengals and Dolphins. Miami promoted Burke to DC in 2017, and he worked as Adam Gase‘s DC during the latter’s final two seasons running the Dolphins. Success proved elusive. The Dolphins ranked 28th and 25th in defensive DVOA, respectively, during Burke’s two years in charge. The Dolphins ousted both Gase and Burke in 2019, pivoting to an aggressive rebuild.
Burke just finished overseeing J.J. Watt‘s final season. The former Texans superstar rebounded from an injury-plagued 2021 to exit the NFL on a high note, producing 12.5 sacks — including two in his final game, against Ryans’ 49ers — and seven pass deflections. Perhaps more indicative of Burke’s Arizona work: Zach Allen‘s contract-year ascent. Working alongside Watt, Allen produced eight pass batdowns — a total that tied for the league lead among D-linemen last season — and registered a career-best 5.5 sacks and 20 QB hits.
The Cardinals stayed with Vance Joseph‘s 3-4 scheme in 2022, but Ryans and Burke used 4-3 looks during their seasons running defenses. It should be expected the Texans will pivot to that alignment in 2023. Houston does not have much in the way of cornerstone defensive pieces; it will be on Burke to spearhead a young group. The Texans ranked 27th in scoring defense and allowed the third-most yards last season.