INDIANAPOLIS — DeMeco Ryans has reached the top of the coaching ladder in the place where he began his playing career.
That path is precisely why he believes he’s the right man to lead a turnaround in Houston.
“I think I relate to guys because I’ve been in these guys’ shoes,” Ryans said Wednesday at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. “I’ve played the game. I’ve been here through this combine process. I’ve played the game and played at a high level. I understand what players go through. Not only on the field, but it’s off the field where guys are pulled in a lot of different directions.
“I understand that for you to be able to be a good coach, you have to be able to connect with guys. It’s not just about telling guys what to do. It’s being on that level with the guys where they have a true mutual respect for you. Guys truly feel that I have their best interest at heart. That’s the only thing I care about, is developing great men on the field and off the field. I’m indebted to those guys. I want to see them be as successful as possible, see them create great lives for their families moving forward. That’s my connection with players.”
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It’s easy to play for a coach who truly cares about your well-being as more than just a cog in a football machine. Ryans knows this from his own playing days, in which he earned Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors at the start of a 10-year NFL career.
In order to turn the Texans into a winner, though, Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio will have to add top-tier talent to a roster that has lacked it in recent years. It won’t be an overnight overhaul, of course, and it will depend heavily on how the Texans proceed at quarterback.
Unlike other QB-needy clubs, the Texans have kept their preferences private, instead relying on the same theme of evaluating different quarterbacks with different fits while declining to reveal which might fit their system. Ryans made sure Wednesday to note his team won’t try to fit a quarterback into a system, but instead craft its program to fit the quarterback.
Who that quarterback will be remains undetermined. Ryans said the Texans will add two players to the quarterback room this offseason, and Houston won’t stop there.
“It’s all about the player that you have, not only a quarterback but a receiver. What does that guy do well?” Ryans said. “Linebackers, what do they do well? As coaches, you put guys in positions to be successful. It’s not about a system per se. It’s about just making sure that a player has the right tools and you’re putting him in a spot where he can thrive.”
Ryans has seen how an addition at quarterback can reverse a team’s fortunes rather quickly. When he was in San Francisco, the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo pivoted the 49ers from an afterthought to a contender, helping the 49ers reach a Super Bowl and three NFC Championship Games between 2019 and 2022.
He’s hoping a similar fate awaits the Texans, and also knows it won’t happen without putting in plenty of work to get the job done. Ryans will need to collaborate with Caserio, with whom Ryans said he has “hit the ground running” with, to transform the Texans into a legitimate threat in the AFC South, and is encouraged by a seamless alignment of their visions for the future in Houston.
Most importantly, though, Ryans knows he’ll make his greatest impact with a finalized roster he is charged with preparing to play on Sundays. Ryans believes he’s ready for the opportunity.
“It’s connecting with players,” Ryans said. “It’s about inspiring guys, seeing guys grow and develop. That’s what drives me as a coach, to see a guy change the trajectory of his family by going out and playing football.”
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