DeMeco Ryans

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. Sean Payton stepping away from the Saints created nine full-time vacancies available this year.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 2-7-22 (1:45pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Jim Harbaugh To Meet With Vikings, Patrick Graham Gets Second Interview

We’re starting to get even more clarity on the Vikings head coaching search. According to Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune (on Twitter), Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will get a second interview with Minnesota. Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter), Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will visit Minnesota for an in-person interview on Wednesday.

Serving as New York’s defensive play-caller during Joe Judge‘s tenure, Graham improved the unit considerably in 2020. The Giants ranked ninth in scoring defense, after their 2019 unit ranked 30th. But the team regressed this season, falling back to 23rd. DVOA slotted Graham’s second Giants defense 18th, however.

Harbaugh had a chat with the Vikings on Saturday, and there have been reports that the Vikings wanted an in-person interview with the current Michigan coach. They’ll ultimately get their wish, and Harbaugh will take another major step in returning to the NFL. Harbaugh, 58, spent four seasons with the 49ers before leaving for Ann Arbor after the 2014 season. He has been connected to various teams in the past, but this year represents the closest link to the former NFC champion coach returning to the NFL.

Meanwhile, Pelissero notes (on Twitter) that 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans has declined a second interview with the Vikings, with Ryans looking to “further his development in San Francisco.” That leaves four candidates for the job: Graham, Harbaugh, and Rams coordinators Kevin O’Connell and Raheem Morris.

Vikings To Conduct Second Interviews With DeMeco Ryans, Kevin O’Connell; Jags Also Interested In O’Connell

49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell will be matching wits in today’s NFC Championship Game. And they are also competing against each other for the Vikings’ head coaching job.

Per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, Minnesota plans to conduct second interviews with both Ryans and O’Connell this week. Ryans, whose unit ranked third in yards allowed and tenth in points allowed in his first season as DC, is also said to be a candidate for the Raiders’ head coaching post. However, with Las Vegas seemingly zeroing in on Josh McDaniels, the Vikings’ gig may be Ryans’ only real chance to earn a promotion to HC in this year’s cycle.

O’Connell, who spent the 2019 season as Washington’s OC before joining the Rams in that capacity in 2020, oversaw an offense that finished in the top-10 in terms of both points per game and yards per game in 2021. A member of the popular Sean McVay coaching tree, O’Connell was a finalist for the Broncos’ HC job that ultimately went to Nathaniel Hackett, and he has also taken a head coaching interview with the Texans. As Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes, the Jaguars also want to sit down with O’Connell.

There is some confusion in Duval at the moment, which is not unusual for Jags fans. Earlier this week, we heard that the club was on the cusp of hiring Bucs OC Byron Leftwich as head coach and Cardinals vice president of pro scouting Adrian Wilson as general manager. According to Rapoport, neither hire “came close to happening,” and while Leftwich remains a candidate for the job — perhaps if the Jags agree to replace embattled GM Trent Baalke with Wilson — O’Connell has emerged as a late entrant to the race. The 36-year-old is reportedly a “big fan” of Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence, and Rapoport says O’Connell could quickly become the team’s top choice.

The problem for the Jags, as Pelissero notes in a follow-up tweet, is that, if the Rams defeat the 49ers today, Jacksonville would be unable to interview O’Connell until after the Super Bowl since it did not conduct an interview during the week of the divisional round. So, if the Rams win and the Vikings decide O’Connell is their guy, the Jaguars wouldn’t even have the chance to make a pitch.

In addition to Ryans and O’Connell — both of whom were employed by the Niners during new Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah‘s tenure there — Pelissero confirms that the Vikes still want to have an interview with Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh. We heard yesterday that an interview was scheduled to take place, but Pelissero says the only thing that has happened so far is an “exploratory conversation” to gauge Harbaugh’s interest. Still, a formal interview could happen this week, and Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network classifies the relationship between Harbaugh and Adofo-Mensah — who also, of course, share significant 49ers connections — as a strong one.

Vikings Interview DeMeco Ryans

The Vikings interviewed DeMeco Ryans for their head coaching position on Sunday afternoon, per a club announcement. The 49ers defensive coordinator, who is also in the mix for the Raiders’ vacancy, is one of ten candidates being considered by Minnesota. 

Ryans, a longtime NFL linebacker, has been with the Niners since 2017. After one season as SF’s defensive quality coach, Ryan coached the team’s inside linebackers for three seasons before graduating to defensive coordinator in 2021.

Now, he’s making a strong case for another step up, especially after his defense held Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to just ten points on Saturday. In the regular season, his Niners D finished third in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed. While Ryans remains focused on the NFC Championship Game, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him land a head coaching job in the coming weeks.

For now, Ryans is one of just a handful of known candidates on the Raiders’ radar, alongside interim HC Rich Bisaccia, Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, and (possibly) Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ list includes:

Matt Rhule Eyeing Michigan Job

With next season looking more and more like a make-or-break year for Matt Rhule, the Panthers’ head coach may be making anticipatory moves to stay employed. Jason La Canfora, of CBS Sports, reported that Rhule, and potentially other head coaches in the NFL, may set their sights on the University of Michigan opening, should current head coach Jim Harbaugh be drawn to Las Vegas. 

Harbaugh is currently negotiating with Michigan after he led the Wolverines to their first College Football Playoff appearance and their first outright Big Ten Championship since 2003. He had signed an extension at the start of the season to secure him in Ann Arbor through 2025, but, with mounting interest from the Raiders, the negotiations are giving Michigan a chance to convince him to stay. The Raiders are searching for a new general manager as well as head coach, following the departures of Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden. Harbaugh isn’t the only target in Vegas, though. He’ll have to compete with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, who, despite a season of turmoil, led the Raiders to a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Jerod Mayo and DeMeco Ryans have also been mentioned as candidates.

Rhule’s interest in heading back down to the college ranks of coaching have not quite been a secret. Sources have informed La Canfora that Rhule was watching the situations at Penn State and LSU closely, in case a beneficial opportunity presented itself.

Rhule got his first head coaching opportunity at Temple in Philadelphia, where he had spent years as an assistant under Al Golden. He took his first Power 5 opportunity as the head coach at Baylor, following the scandal that led to Art Briles‘s dismissal. He took the Bears from 1-11 in his first season to 11-3 in his third season and rode that success straight to the NFL.

There are still many situations that need to play out. Harbaugh would have to leave Michigan. Rhule would have to decide to put his name in the ring for the vacancy at Michigan. Michigan would have to determine that Rhule is the best candidate for the position. None of this is guaranteed, but, if it all plays out, look for Carolina to be added to our 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

Raiders Expected To Interview 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans

While DeMeco Ryans is surely focused on his showdown with the Packers tonight, the 49ers defensive coordinator has garnered another interview. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter), the Raiders are expected to interview Ryans for their head coaching vacancy.

The former NFL linebacker has been on the 49ers coaching staff since 2017, and he was promoted to defensive coordinator last offseason after Robert Saleh left for New York. During his first season in the role, the 49ers defense ranked third in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed.

We previously learned that Ryans was on the long list of candidates for the Vikings HC job. Indeed, Schefter notes that the defensive coordinator is set to meet with Minnesota on Sunday.

This is the fourth name connected to the job in Las Vegas, with Ryans joining a group that includes:

Vikings Request Permission To Speak With Six More Coaches About HC Job

And like that, we’ve got a growing list of candidates for the Vikings HC job. Following news that the Vikings requested permission to interview Todd Bowles for the gig, we’ve learned that the organization requested permission to interview six additional coaches:

  • Jonathan Gannon, defensive coordinator (Eagles) (via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero on Twitter)
  • Nathaniel Hackett, offensive coordinator (Packers) (via Pelissero on Twitter)
  • Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator (Cowboys) (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Twitter)
  • Kevin O’Connell, offensive coordinator (Rams) (via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Twitter)
  • Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator (Cowboys) (via Pelissero on Twitter)
  • DeMeco Ryans, defensive coordinator (49ers) (via Pelissero on Twitter)

Five of those coaches have already been connected to other HC vacancies, but this is the first reported interview request for Ryans. The former NFL linebacker has been on the 49ers coaching staff since 2017, and he was promoted to defensive coordinator last offseason after Robert Saleh left for New York. During his first season in the role, the 49ers defense ranked third in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed.

Of course, the Vikings may not be sticking with only seven candidates. ESPN’s Courtney Cronin tweets that the Vikings have also explored the candidacy of Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Per Pelissero (on Twitter), the Vikings are hoping to find a replacement for former GM Rick Spielman before they hire a replacement for former HC Mike Zimmer. However, considering the anti-tampering rules, the Vikings only have until Sunday to interview coaches on byes, so they have reason to speak with someone like Hackett ASAP. The Vikings plan to kick off their GM interviews on Sunday, with Titans director of player personnel Monti Ossenfort first in line.

49ers Hire DeMeco Ryans As DC, Mike McDaniel As OC

The 49ers have officially promoted inside linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator. On the other side of the ball, they’re bumping run game coordinator Mike McDaniel to offensive coordinator, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

[RELATED: 49ers Re-Sign Josh Johnson]

Ryans takes over for former DC Robert Saleh, who has agreed to become the Jets’ new head coach. Many believed that Saleh would try to take Ryans with him to the East Coast, but the 49ers didn’t want to let Ryans get away. Given the work he has done with LBs Dre Greenlaw, Fred Warner, and Azeez Al-Shaair, the young assistant was a natural fit for the role.

McDaniel, meanwhile, takes over for Mike LaFleur, who will serve as Saleh’s OC in New York. McDaniel has worked with Kyle Shanahan at multiple stops and his profile has grown larger over the years. He was a candidate in the Browns’ most recent head coaching search and the Dolphins were also eyeing him as an OC candidate in this cycle.

49ers Likely To Promote DeMeco Ryans To DC

The 49ers are expected to promote linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to defensive coordinator, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Ryans would take over for Robert Saleh, who has agreed to become the Jets’ new head coach. 

[RELATED: Jets Hire Robert Saleh]

Saleh may want to bring Ryans with him to New York, but the Jets would have to work something out with the Niners in order to facilitate the lateral move. Ryans has impressed in SF, molding youngsters Dre Greenlaw, Fred Warner, and Azeez Al-Shaair into quality linebackers. Thanks in part to Ryans’ guidance, Warner went from a third-round prospect to a Pro Bowler in 2020.

Ryans may be tasked with a new-look defense in 2021. Safety Jaquiski Tartt, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, and defensive ends Ronald Blair and Kerry Hyder are set for free agency. Those players could potentially reunite with Saleh on the East Coast, as noted by Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic.

 

NFC West Notes: Sowers, 49ers, Peterson

Katie Sowers made history as one of the NFL’s first full-time female coaches, and as its first openly gay coach, but she won’t be back with the 49ers next year. Sowers is parting ways with San Francisco, she announced on Instagram. “Dear Faithful,
We have been through so much together over the last 4 years and words will never express how much your love and acceptance meant to me. I will forever cherish the memories and hearing your stories throughout the years. Together, we made a difference in this world. You were there every step of the way..from my first day at Levi’s , to the super bowl, and even when my Dad passed away. You all supported me through it all. Change is inevitable in this life.. enjoy every minute and cherish the memories because time will pass you by faster than you know. One last walk out of the tunnel. I am forever grateful for my time in SF… until we meet again,” she wrote. 

Sowers became the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl last year. She’s been a full-time offensive assistant on Kyle Shanahan’s staff the past few seasons. It doesn’t sound like she has any plans to stop coaching though, and she said in a recent interview with Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle that the lack of a clear path upward was the reason for her departure. “In terms of advancement opportunities, there are more other places than here, in terms of my ceiling for growth. I feel like I have a lot to offer. It’s been an amazing learning experience here, but instead of staying as is, it’s best for my professional growth if I move on.” That doesn’t mean it was a bitter divorce with the 49ers however, as Sowers emphasized that she “loved” her time there.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • Sowers might not be the only staff member Shanahan needs to replace if defensive coordinator Robert Saleh lands a head coaching job. Should one of the handful of teams interviewing Saleh offer him the gig, it sounds like the 49ers could look in-house for his replacement. Linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans is a candidate for the DC role should that happen, Shanahan said at his year-end press conference. Shanahan also added that “it’s a matter of time before DeMeco is coordinator in this league, a matter of time before he’s a head coach.” Ryans played as a linebacker for ten years in the league with the Texans and Eagles before retiring and joining the 49ers as a quality control coach in 2017.
  • The Cardinals are keeping Kliff Kingsbury, but his staff isn’t remaining entirely intact. The team is letting receivers coach David Raih go, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. Raih spent the past two years in Arizona after previously serving the same role in Green Bay.
  • The Cardinals also have a bigger decision ahead of them, what to do with star cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson is set to be a free agent this spring, and he recently acknowledged he might’ve played his last down in the desert. “Everything is going to take care of itself. I’ve done all I can to present that I would love to be here. But at the end of the day, it’s up to (the Cardinals),” Peterson said, via Darren Urban of the team’s official site (Twitter link). Peterson also said the potential salary cap drop due to COVID-19 could play a role in where he lands this offseason. Drafted fifth overall by Arizona back in 2011, Peterson has become a franchise icon over the past ten seasons. He’s made eight Pro Bowls and earned three first-team All-Pro selections, but he hasn’t been as good the past couple of years and is now on the wrong side of 30. It’ll be very interesting to see what his market looks like come March.