DeMeco Ryans

AFC South Notes: Colts, QBs, Texans, Titans

While the Texans may be torn on a quarterback pick, the Colts are a near-lock to select a passer with their first choice. It is now possible every passer but Bryce Young will be available for Indianapolis at No. 4, which would put the retooling team to a decision. The Colts-Will Levis connection may be this draft’s second-strongest tie — after the Panthers-Young match — but Albert Breer of notes assistant GM Ed Dodds is high on C.J. Stroud. Dodds has been with Indy since 2017, becoming Chris Ballard‘s top lieutenant soon after the GM’s arrival.

Ballard, whom Breer adds was high on Levis beginning back in the fall, also is believed to place value on the increasingly popular S2 cognition test; Stroud’s low score has been leaked. Another team moving into the Texans or Cardinals’ spots could end up making the decision for the Colts, but if no trades emerge, Indy might have a fascinating Stroud-or-Levis decision on its hands. The two seem to be trending in opposite directions, but the Ohio State prospect has received higher grades — by scouting outlets and anonymous evaluators — as a prospect.

Here is the latest from the AFC South:

  • With the Texans set for a complex call at No. 2 overall, not much has emerged regarding their No. 12 choice. But Houston, in the wake of the latest Brandin Cooks trade, may be targeting receiving help. Of the receivers, the Texans prefer Jaxon Smith-Njigba, per the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora. Despite missing almost all of his junior season, Smith-Njigba has regained momentum and has the best chance to be the top wideout of the board. With the Packers (No. 13) and Jets (No. 15) connected to the one-year Buckeyes wonder, the Texans could outflank their potential competition. John Metchie is back at work for the Texans, after missing 2022 following a leukemia diagnosis, but the team dealt Cooks to the Cowboys and did not do too much — the Robert Woods pickup notwithstanding — to replace him. The Texans are also considering moving down from No. 12, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who adds teams are not too interested in moving to 2.
  • One of the teams lurking as a trade-up candidate to outflank the Colts, the Titans are now being linked to trading back and accumulating picks. Both La Canfora and’s Jeremy Fowler indicate buzz has emerged tying Tennessee to a trade-down effort from No. 11. Yes, with a few exceptions, most teams are willing to move up or down in each draft. But the Titans do have a decision to make regarding their QB future. The team toured prospects’ pro days but did not exhaust “30” visit resources at the position. Stroud is believed to be the Titans’ preference — assuming Young is out of the equation — and La Canfora views Titans trade-down talk as a smokescreen effort. Tennessee is believed to have dangled Ryan Tannehill in trades.
  • Although Jeffery Simmons staged a minicamp hold-in effort last year and lobbied for a new deal, Breer writes the Titans did not consider trading the standout defensive lineman. Ownership also assured Simmons, who since-fired GM Jon Robinson drafted in the 2019 first round, he was a long-term priority despite Robinson’s ouster,’s Terry McCormick tweets. The Titans made Simmons the NFL’s second-highest-paid defensive tackle, at $23.5MM per year, and gave him the highest D-tackle guarantee. Simmons is also coming off ankle surgery; the fifth-year standout said he underwent a cleanup procedure this offseason.
  • Jimmie Ward‘s issues with a return to cornerback last season became well known, but the longtime 49ers defender — after being moved to nickel corner again in-season — said he told DeMeco Ryans he expected last season to his his San Francisco finale. But Ward said (via KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson) Ryans communicated to him he would be interested in bringing the veteran defender to his HC destination. Ryans followed through on that, with the Texans signing Ward to a two-year, $13MM deal. Ward is back at safety.
  • Jaguars fourth-year cornerback Chris Claybrooks faces misdemeanor charges of domestic assault with bodily injury and vandalism under $1,000 stemming from an arrest earlier this month in Nashville,’s Gerry Smits reports. Claybrooks allegedly grabbed his ex-girlfriend’s arm and threw her cellphone to the ground.

Russell Wilson Wanted Sean Payton To Replace Pete Carroll With Seahawks?

More information emerged regarding Russell Wilson‘s odd 2022 Friday morning. A report from Kalyn Kahler, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks of The Athletic indicates the veteran quarterback made a request that Seahawks ownership fire both Pete Carroll and John Schneider, citing the duo had inhibited his pursuit of Super Bowls and awards.

This alleged request came weeks before the Seahawks decided to trade Wilson to the Broncos. Wilson denied (via Twitter) he asked for the Seattle HC and GM’s firings, and a lawyer for the QB described that assertion as “entirely fabricated.”

Wilson-Carroll disagreements about the direction of the Seahawks took place ahead of the QB’s 2021 trade destination list surfacing, and after the 2022 trade, reports indicating the NFC West team viewed its former franchise passer as declining came out. A shockingly mediocre Wilson season commenced in Denver. His partnership with Nathaniel Hackett proved a poor fit, and Hackett became the third first-year HC since the 1970 merger to be fired before season’s end.

The Broncos have since traded for Sean Payton, nearly two years after Wilson’s trade list included the Saints. Wilson wanted the Seahawks to trade for Payton’s rights after his Saints exit last year, according to The Athletic. Payton announced he was leaving the Saints on Jan. 25, 2022; Schneider and Broncos GM George Paton began discussing a trade ahead of the Feb. 5 Senior Bowl. The trade took place March 8.

The previously referenced Latavius Murray text message to his former coach occurred just before the Broncos’ Christmas blowout loss to the Rams. Payton had said Murray texted him about he and a backfield teammate wanting him in Denver, with the veteran running back confirming Wilson was the teammate. Murray sent the text Dec. 23, per The Athletic. The Broncos fired Hackett on Dec. 26, following a 51-14 loss to the Rams. No accusation is made of Wilson wanting Hackett to go, but that relationship had long trended in that direction. During the Broncos’ coaching search, Wilson reached out to Payton.

Payton soon put the kibosh on Wilson’s team having full access to Denver’s facility, but Paton allowed Wilson’s personal coach (Jake Heaps), a physical therapist and a nutritionist such privileges last year. Heaps had partial access to the Seahawks’ facility, per The Athletic, and Wilson did not have an office there. Wilson agreed to stop using the office and to keep his support staff out of the building over the season’s final two weeks.

Wilson organized weekly meetings for Denver’s offense during the players’ Tuesday off day, and The Athletic notes Heaps was part of those summits, which were aimed around preparing for the next opponent. An anonymous coach also said he did not agree with the evaluations Wilson and Heaps made on scouting reports distributed on Tuesdays. With Hackett also being accused of being too deferential to players, the potentially incongruent scouting reports would provide a partial explanation for the Broncos’ myriad offensive issues. Those came to a head during an ugly Thursday loss to the Colts in October and persisted for much of the season.

The team ended the year with three play-callers. All three (Hackett, QBs coach Klint Kubiak, OC Justin Outten) are elsewhere now. Melvin Gordon, whom the Broncos waived in November after extensive fumbling problems, said Hackett attempting to blend Wilson’s Seattle offense and Hackett’s preferred Green Bay-style blueprint was “a bit much.” The organization fired Vic Fangio in large part due to his team’s struggles offensively, but the Broncos’ Pat ShurmurTeddy Bridgewater setup ranked 23rd in scoring. The Hackett-Wilson season produced a last-place ranking, and while numerous injuries contributed to this decline, the Broncos’ QB-HC partnership generated most of the attention. Payton, who signed a five-year contract, will be tasked with cleaning up this mess.

Payton will call the Broncos’ plays next season, accepting the team’s offer after DeMeco Ryans had generated some buzz. Ryans may not have been a serious candidate. While he preferred the Texans, The Athletic describes the former 49ers DC’s Broncos interview as “awkward.”

The Seahawks have begun negotiations with Geno Smith, whose surprising season earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors. It remains to be seen if the organization will make a true long-term commitment to Wilson’s former backup, but the team that had made some draft missteps late in Wilson’s tenure will be in position to land more starters via the 2023 first- and second-round picks obtained in the Wilson swap. Carroll is signed through the 2025 season; Schneider’s latest extension runs through 2027. Both decision-makers are going into their 14th seasons in Seattle.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers, Broncos and Texans’ hires, this year’s vacancy count sits at two. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

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

Updated 2-14-23 (1:30pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Texans To Hire Matt Burke As DC

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 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, 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.

Coaching Notes: Texans, 49ers, Bengals, Panthers

DeMeco Ryans was a popular name on the head coach market before ultimately landing with the Texans. The now-former 49ers defensive coordinator also generated strong interest from the Broncos, but the coach admitted that his choice to join Houston instead of Denver wasn’t all that difficult.

“When it came down to it, there was no place I wanted to be any more than H-Town,” Ryans said earlier this week (via NFL Network’s Bridget Condon on Twitter). “…It was a no brainer.”

While Ryans’ comments could certainly be interpreted as shade being thrown at the Broncos, his comments were more about his connection to Houston and the Texans organization. Ryans was selected by the Texans in the second round of the 2006 draft, and he proceeded to spend six years with the organization. While the Texans were able to lure their favorite for the job, the Broncos had to pivot to Sean Payton, who was ultimately dealt from the Saints to Denver.

With Ryans now in the building, the focus shifts to the rest of the coaching staff. Naturally, the coach will be looking to some of his former peers for positions, as we previously heard that 49ers passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik as well as 49ers defensive quality control coaches Andrew Hayes-Stoker and Stephen Adegoke are candidates to join Ryans in Houston. Matt Barrows of The Athletic adds another name to the list of targeted 49ers coaches, noting that Ryans leaned heavily on safeties coach Daniel Bullocks when he was in San Francisco. Barrows described Bullocks as Ryans’ “eyes in the coaches’ booth,” so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the head coach recruits his confidante to Houston.

More coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Bengals quarterbacks coach Dan Pitcher interviewed for the Buccaneers offensive coordinator job before Cincinnati ultimately signed him to an extension. However, the new contract hasn’t stopped teams from inquiring on his availability. Bengals head coach Zac Taylor indicated that “there’s still interest from other teams” in adding Pitcher to their staff, per ESPN’s Ben Baby on Twitter. Pitcher became the club’s quarterbacks coach in 2020, and his work with 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow over the past few years is starting to pique the interest of other organizations.
  • It’s been a bit since we heard that the Commanders requested an interview with 49ers assistant head coach/running backs coach Anthony Lynn for their offensive coordinator vacancy. Earlier this week, Josina Anderson passed along (via Twitter) that Lynn had follow-up and informal conversations with the Commanders to determine “if there is mutual interest.” It’s uncertain if the two sides decided to move on with a formal interview.
  • Commanders defensive backs coach Chris Harris interviewed for the 49ers defensive coordinator vacancy earlier this week. If Harris doesn’t land the gig, he’s most likely going to end up on the Titans coaching staff, per Albert Breer of (via Twitter). We heard last month that Harris was set to join the Titans as their their defensive pass game coordinator and cornerbacks coach. However, no deal was finalized, and Harris was clearly waiting out the 49ers’ search before fully committing to Tennessee.
  • The Panthers are searching for new coordinators on both sides of the ball, but it sounds like their special teams coordinator will be sticking around under new head coach Frank Reich. According to Joseph Person of The Athletic, general manager Scott Fitterer and owner David Tepper encouraged head coaching candidates to retain ST coordinator Chris Tabor and offensive line coach James Campen for next season. Following a four-year stint as the Bears special teams head, Tabor joined the Panthers last offseason, with Reich describing the unit as “really strong.” Campen has bounced around a bit in recent years before landing in Carolina for the 2022 campaign.

Broncos Want Sean Payton To Retain Ejiro Evero

FEBRUARY 2: Evero and Payton will discuss the prospect of working together Thursday, Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. With the Cardinals and Colts’ HC positions having not yet been filled, Evero continues to have options on multiple levels. The Vikings are now interested in interviewing him for their DC gig. It is safe to say the ex-Rams position coach is one of the NFL’s fastest-rising staffers. Evero remains under contract with the Broncos, though CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson adds Payton has a few names in mind for the DC position (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 1: With Sean Payton set to leave his one-year post as a FOX analyst and take over the Broncos, the topic of his staff will come up. Ejiro Evero remains in the mix for the Cardinals and Colts’ head coaching jobs, but the Broncos would like to retain the Nathaniel Hackett-tabbed defensive coordinator.

Payton will have final say over his staff, but Mike Klis of 9News notes Broncos brass would like to keep Evero on for a second season as DC. The Broncos hired Evero to head up their defense last year, offered him their interim HC job after Hackett’s firing and made him one of their first interviews for the full-time position Payton just landed. It is unclear how Payton feels about keeping a holdover for such an important position, but the Broncos were clearly impressed with Evero’s first season.

[RELATED: Payton Addresses Decision To Accept Broncos’ Offer]

As Denver’s offense imploded, the team still rarely found itself in blowout losses. Evero’s defense, despite injuries and the Bradley Chubb trade, largely kept the team in games. The Broncos ranked 10th in defensive DVOA and seventh in total defense. Evero has longstanding ties to Hackett, with the two having been friends since college, and has come up in head coach and coordinator searches.

The Broncos showed their cards with Evero by blocking him from interviewing for the Falcons’ DC post, which would be a lateral move since Evero called plays last season. Evero, 42, remains under contract. The Rams are also interested in bringing Evero back, in the event Raheem Morris lands a head coaching gig. While coaches from five-win teams are not poached often, Evero interviewing for all five HC positions this year paints a fairly clear picture of his rise.

Payton employed Dennis Allen as his DC from 2015-21 and figures to bring his own staffers to fill most of the Broncos’ assistant spots. He has been tied to Vic Fangio, and while the acclaimed defensive leader has said he has not signed a contract with the Dolphins just yet, it would be a surprise if he returned to Denver so soon. The Broncos fired Fangio after three seasons, with the exec who pulled the trigger on that move — GM George Paton — still in place. The Broncos stand to upgrade tremendously on offense with Payton, but losing Evero could hurt their defense — or at least bring significant change to one of the NFL’s better units.

Multiple factors held up the Broncos’ Payton process, per Klis, who notes the Saints indeed followed through with the Jon Gruden asking price. The Saints first set the Payton price at two first-round picks and two seconds — the cost Tampa Bay paid Oakland for Gruden 21 years ago — before moving down to the Bill Parcells haul. The Jets sent the Patriots first-, second-, third- and fourth-rounders over a three-year period to acquire Parcells’ rights back in 1997. Denver balked at both price points, and after Paton and Mickey Loomis spent days negotiating, the GMs eventually settled on the Chubb pick (No. 30 overall) and a 2024 second-rounder in exchange for Payton and a 2024 third. This transaction doubles as the first coaching trade in 17 years, since the Chiefs sent the Jets a fourth-round pick for Herm Edwards.

The other delay here involved Jim Harbaugh. The Michigan HC resurfacing in the Broncos’ search altered the process,’s Jeff Duncan tweets. Both Harbaugh and DeMeco Ryans resided as Broncos favorites at points during this lengthy search, as each did not require draft compensation to hire. Ryans ended up preferring the Texans, and Harbaugh twice informed the Broncos — the second time after CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor for a second meeting — he was staying at Michigan. The Broncos did not make Harbaugh an offer, Albert Breer of tweets. The Vikings also did not offer Harbaugh their HC job after their 2022 interview.

Although the Broncos had targeted other coaches, Payton had long been a frontrunner and still possessed considerable leverage here. The Super Bowl-winning HC had the option of staying at FOX — something Breer adds the Broncos believed he would do (Twitter link) — or moving forward with one of this year’s HC-needy teams. Payton informed the Panthers he was no longer interested in their position, Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports notes (video link), and the Cardinals adding a few names to their mix Monday provided a good indication they were not in the Payton race any longer. But the Broncos will pay up to guard against Payton doing TV for another year and potentially hopping on the 2024 coaching carousel for a higher-profile job.

Payton’s Broncos deal with average between $17-21MM, per Klis and Denver7’s Troy Renck (Twitter link). That will place the longtime Saints HC in the top coaching tax bracket. Rob Walton‘s ownership group will be in position to pay up for the assistants Payton wants, adding some intrigue to Denver’s staff. While the team almost certainly will not insist Evero stays, such a move will be encouraged.

Texans Hire DeMeco Ryans As HC

The Texans interviewed DeMeco Ryans for a second time Tuesday, and the team is not letting the hot HC candidate leave town without a deal. Ryans will become the next Texans head coach, Adam Schefter of tweets.

The parties finalized a six-year contract to bring Ryans, a Texans linebacker from 2006-11, back to Houston. This will wrap a six-year Ryans tenure in San Francisco, and Houston — after back-to-back one-and-done coaching tenures — will land one of this year’s top HC options.

Long expected to secure one of this year’s HC jobs, Ryans will head back to Houston after overseeing a dominant San Francisco defense. The 49ers ranked first in total defense, scoring defense and defensive DVOA this season. While Brock Purdy‘s elbow injury effectively ended San Francisco’s Super Bowl hopes early in the NFC championship game, the 49ers’ loss opened the door for the Texans to make an official hire this week.

Being the head coach of the Houston Texans is my dream job and my family is thrilled to be back in H-Town,” Ryans said. “I have been around the game of football my entire life and I’ve always had a natural ability to lead others. I know what it takes to win and be successful in this league as both a player and coach. We’re going to build a program filled with players who have a special work ethic and relentless mindset. I understand the responsibility I have to this organization and to the fans of Houston to build a winner and I can’t wait to get to work.”

Ryans, 38, jumped to a DC role just three years after being promoted from the quality control level; he has spent his entire career on Kyle Shanahan‘s staff. Shanahan was with the Texans during part of Ryans’ time as a Houston defender and has long stumped for the well-regarded leader. The 49ers’ defensive performance this year left little doubt Ryans would soon become a head coach, and both the Broncos and Texans aggressively pursued him. Houston won out, and Ryans profiles as a vastly different HC compared to the franchise’s previous two.

All five head coach-needy teams this year reached out to Ryans. Four of those scheduled interviews, but Ryans ended up passing on Cardinals and Colts meetings — which would have come hours before the 49ers’ divisional playoff game against the Cowboys — to lead to a two-team race. Despite days of Texans-centric developments regarding Ryans, the Broncos may or may not have made a Tuesday push for him. While Sean Payton had long been the Broncos’ preference, he cost first- and second-round picks. And Ryans clearly impressed the Broncos, to the point they were prepared to abandon their pursuit of an experienced head coach.

This could be a seminal hire for the Texans, who completed odd coaching searches in 2021 and ’22. GM Nick Caserio interviewed Josh McCown in both years, but potential backlash about hiring a head coach with no experience is believed to have affected a hire. The Texans hired David Culley in 2021, despite no other teams being in on the then-Ravens wide receivers coach, and fired him after a 4-13 season. Last year’s search did not include Lovie Smith until the end, but after McCown and Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon were in the mix, Caserio instead promoted Smith. The former Houston DC oversaw a 3-13-1 season that led to his firing.

The hiring of back-to-back 60-somethings — for a team amid a long rebuild — proved confusing. Considering the team went through a chaotic period when Bill O’Brien held the dual HC-GM role and was at the forefront of the Deshaun Watson scandal, stability is desperately needed here. Hence, the six-year contract. The Texans included a host of younger names in their 2023 search, but Ryans stood out. It can be safely assumed Ryans will not be a one-and-done, given the team’s recent past and the momentum the linebacker-turned-coordinator built in San Francisco.

The Texans drafted Ryans in the 2006 second round and plugged the Alabama product into their lineup immediately. Ryans became a steady presence for the Texans in their first decade, and he was a starter for the 2011 team that secured the franchise its first playoff berth. The Texans had previously extended Ryans, but they traded the two-time Pro Bowler to the Eagles in 2012. Ryans played four Philadelphia seasons before hanging up his cleats. The McNair family is obviously familiar with Ryans from his playing days, and they will bet on him once again. This will mark a homecoming for the Ryans family as well; his wife, Jamila, is from the area.

Although the Texans have just 11 wins over the past three seasons, they hold two first-round picks in the 2023 and ’24 drafts thanks to the Watson trade. In addition to carrying this year’s No. 2 overall pick, Houston is projected to rank in the top five for cap space this year. That is believed to have intrigued Payton. But not too much smoke followed the Payton interview on the Texans’ end. They will instead entrust Ryans to be the sideline leader that pushes Caserio’s rebuild to higher levels.

This will mark the second transaction of the month that will give the 49ers a third-round pick. The Titans hiring 49ers exec Ran Carthon as GM earlier this month sent the 49ers two thirds, and Ryans’ Texans hire represents the latest in a steady line of minority hires from San Francisco. Although the NFL expanding the Rooney Rule to attach draft compensation to minority HC or GM hires, the 49ers already collecting two thirds for Carthon will reduce the Ryans haul to one third-rounder. Nevertheless, the 49ers have now seen five minority staffers land HC jobs (Ryans, Robert Saleh, Mike McDaniel) or GM positions (Carthon, Martin Mayhew) since the NFL adjusted the rule. The pick from the Texans’ Ryans hire will arrive in 2025, Matt Miller of tweets.

Texans Aiming To Close DeMeco Ryans Deal

The Texans are attempting to move this DeMeco Ryans process past the goal line. The two-year 49ers defensive coordinator is set for a second interview with the team this week, and after back-to-back one-and-done HCs, the Texans appear more committed to a candidate this time around.

With Ryans pivoting from Broncos frontrunner to Texans favorite, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports notes (via Twitter) Houston’s ownership is pushing to close the deal and make the former linebacker the franchise’s next head coach. Ryans, who played for the Texans from 2006-11, is believed to have interest in coaching his former team. Now that the 49ers have been eliminated, Ryans can be hired at any point. He is the clear clubhouse leader for the Houston job, Peter King of NBC Sports writes.

The 38-year-old coordinator has not closed the book on the Broncos, Anderson tweets, but he is believed to prefer the Texans. The hope here is a deal is agreed to during Ryans’ second interview this week, per Mark Maske of the Washington Post. The Broncos were the first team to speak with Ryans but have not scheduled any second interviews.

Texans ownership and GM Nick Caserio were impressed with “everything about” Ryans in his Zoom interview Jan. 20, veteran Texans reporter John McLain notes. The past two Texans HC searches meandered and ended on candidates other teams were not considering — David Culley, Lovie Smith. This one is decidedly different, as all five HC-needy teams were interested in speaking with Ryans. The longtime Kyle Shanahan staffer, however, has only spoken with two teams. Both have been impressed to the point he became their frontrunners.

While the Colts and Cardinals had interviews scheduled with Ryans, he declined to speak with those teams hours before the 49ers’ divisional playoff game against the Cowboys. The Panthers also reached out to Ryans with an interview request, but after logistics initially impeded an interview, the parties moved on. It now looks like the Texans hold a big lead on the Broncos, whose coaching search has hit a few snags.

Denver’s position comes with a new ownership group, a quarterback extension (Russell Wilson’s five-year, $245MM pact) that has brought sustained turbulence since Week 1 and a placement in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. The Texans’ division does not feature a similar gauntlet, and the team holds two first-round picks and is projected to be among this year’s cap-space leaders. Ryans also knows this ownership, to a degree, dating back to his days playing for the then-Bob McNair-run franchise. The Texans traded Ryans to the Eagles in 2012, but his wife is from Houston. It certainly looks like, despite the Texans’ issues with HCs under Caserio, an agreement is coming soon.

DeMeco Ryans Books Second Texans HC Interview, Emerging As Favorite

JANUARY 29, 5:40pm: With the 49ers having been eliminated, attention will turn to Ryans’ second interview with the Texans. Rapoport confirms (via Twitter) that it is set to take place this week, and that it is likely to be followed by Houston naming him its next head coach.

JANUARY 29, 8:06am: A source tells Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports that the Texans’ job is Ryans’ top choice, which jibes with Rapoport’s earlier report. Sources tell Adam Schefter of that Ryans is now the favorite for the post.

JANUARY 27: DeMeco Ryans could soon find himself in a position in which multiple head coaching offers come his way. Shortly after being tabbed as a Broncos frontrunner, the 49ers’ defensive coordinator remains squarely on the Texans’ radar.

The Texans have their former linebacker on their second-interview docket, and Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of note (via Twitter) the team has identified him as a top candidate for the job. Mutual interest exists here, according to Pelissero and Rapoport, who add a second Ryans-Texans meeting is expected to take place in the days after the NFC championship game. The Texans have already interviewed Ejiro Evero and Mike Kafka twice, but it does not look like the team will make a hire until next week.

Although early rumblings of Ryans hesitancy about the Texans job emerged, that seems well in the past. The second-year San Francisco DC met with his initial NFL organization last week. Ryans, who has been on the HC radar for months, was set to go through four HC interviews in a four-day span. But the standout defensive play-caller cancelled his Cardinals and Colts meetings, which were set to take place just hours before the 49ers’ divisional-round matchup with the Cowboys. Despite narrowing his options, Ryans still looks likely to land a job in this year’s cycle.

This could certainly complicate matters for the Broncos, who have seen some twists in their coaching search. Jim Harbaugh was the first coach to interview with the team; he decided once again to stay at Michigan. Dan Quinn, who interviewed for Denver’s HC job last year and this year, resided as a live option for the AFC West franchise. But the Dallas DC informed interested teams he was staying with the Cowboys. The Broncos’ run at Sean Payton has also encountered some turbulence. The team was initially linked to Frank Reich but never brought the new Panthers HC in for an interview.

Denver’s new ownership group can outmuscle other teams regarding a coach’s salary, and if the Payton trade avenue is closing, that may be what it comes down to for the team. It will be interesting to see how the Broncos respond to this Texans development, as both Quinn and Ryans being off the table could result in the team regrouping. The team looks to already be doing so. Ryans’ plans of interviewing with the Texans next week do not appear to align with the Broncos’ search, Rapoport adds (on Twitter). Broncos CEO Greg Penner and GM George Paton are continuing discussions with other candidates, potentially pointing to this Ryans-Texans reunion coming to pass.

It is notable the Texans could change the Broncos’ search to this degree, given their recent history. Houston is conducing a coaching search for a third consecutive offseason. GM Nick Caserio chose off-the-radar options to be his head coach in 2021 (David Culley) and ’22 (Lovie Smith). Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon has been closely connected to the Texans’ HC position for the past two Januarys, having interviewed for the position both this year and last. Caserio made an unexpected pivot to Smith, promoting him to fill the position in 2022. Houston going 3-13-1 prompted a Smith firing, following Culley as a one-and-done and inviting questions about both Caserio’s status and the direction of this rebuild.

The Texans have sought a younger coach this year, and after the past two hires, Ryans would be virtually assured of having multiple years to build something with the team that drafted him. Houston initially drafted Ryans in the 2006 second round, and the inside linebacker became a fixture with the team. The Texans extended Ryans, who helped the team to its first playoff berth back in 2011, but traded him to the Eagles in 2012.

In addition to Ryans having a history with the Texans, his wife, Jamila, is from Houston. Unsurprisingly, given Friday’s news, Rapoport added during a Pat McAfee Show appearance he believes Ryans would choose the Texans over the Broncos (video link).

Ryans, who broke into coaching in 2017, has re-emerged on Houston’s radar thanks to leading San Francisco’s No. 1-ranked defense. The 49ers finished the regular season first in yards, points and DVOA. They have long expected Ryans to land a job, which would mark the third straight offseason in a Kyle Shanahan coordinator did so. Though, the potential bidding war for Ryans makes this pursuit a bit more interesting than the processes that led Robert Saleh and Mike McDaniel out of the Bay Area.

Here is how the Texans’ head coaching search looks as of Friday afternoon:

DeMeco Ryans Advancing In Broncos’ Search; Sean Payton Souring On Team’s Ownership?

7:35pm: Payton has provided information straight from the source, disputing that there is any truth to Maske’s report of his fears of a power struggle in Denver with a tweet this evening. Payton denies that any issue exists with Broncos’ ownership stating that they were fantastic and that they “had a great visit.”

Ryans is still gaining traction and Caldwell and Shaw are also strong contenders, while Quinn has stated his desire to remain in Dallas, but if Payton is to be taken at his word, he should still be considered one of the favorites for this position.

3:01pm: Vowing to be “ultra aggressive” in its first coaching search, the Broncos’ new ownership came into this process with a goal of adding an experienced head coach. Recent developments may be leading the team in a different direction.

DeMeco Ryans has emerged as a frontrunner in this race, Mike Klis of 9News reports. The second-year 49ers defensive coordinator met with the Broncos and Texans late last week, nixing interviews with the Cardinals and Colts, and has been steadily rising in this race. While the Broncos are still considering Sean Payton, Jim Caldwell and Dan Quinn, Ryans’ rise is obviously notable considering his accomplishments with the 49ers this season.

But the team has cooled on Payton, Denver7’s Troy Renck adds (via Twitter). Payton also looks to have lost some interest in this job. A sense of what might have changed emerged Thursday. Recently, the former Saints HC was believed to be high on the Broncos’ new ownership group. Now, it might be a negative for the FOX analyst. Payton fears a potential power struggle with one member of the contingent, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. Payton would want to work with Russell Wilson, who reached out to him recently, and is believed to be high on Denver’s defensive pieces. But an issue with ownership may well nix this potential partnership.

Rob Walton, CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice have been the ownership group’s key members during this search, joining GM George Paton. The latter is the only experienced football staffer involved here, given the ownership contingent arriving last summer, but Penner is set to make the final call on the team’s second HC hire in two years. It does not seem Rice, who joined the group after the Walton family, is Payton’s concern. The veteran HC has “loved” his interactions with the former Secretary of State, Maske adds (on Twitter).

The Broncos have not gone through second interviews yet, separating their search from this year’s other four. The Panthers just made their hire — Frank Reich — after interviewing he and Steve Wilks twice. If the Broncos want to hold a second interview with Ryans, they must wait until Jan. 30 because of the 49ers’ advancement to the NFC championship game.

David Shaw was believed to be a sleeper candidate for this position, but Klis omitted the longtime Stanford HC from the team’s mix Thursday. Shaw stepped down from his Cardinal post after three losing seasons in the past four years. Penner and Rice’s Stanford ties were thought to represent key connective tissue to Shaw, but Denver going with an NFL-seasoned coach makes sense given the recent failures of college hires.

Ryans, 38, has helmed the NFL’s top-ranked defense this season and has been viewed as likely to land one of this year’s jobs for a bit now. All five HC-needy teams reached out to the former linebacker. The Texans remain in the mix for their former defender, per Klis, but they certainly look to have competition from the Broncos.