The Athletic polled nine people — a combination of general managers, personnel executives, head coaches and assistant coaches who were granted anonymity so they could speak freely — with a simple question: Who was your favorite head-coaching hire?
Panthers head coach Frank Reich received 5.5 votes to edge out DeMeco Ryans (3.5 votes) of the Texans. (One executive split his vote between the two.) Sean Payton (Broncos), Shane Steichen (Colts) and Jonathan Gannon (Cardinals) did not receive any votes. No one from the coaches’ current or most recent organizations was polled to avoid personal biases.
Ryans, who played for the Texans for six of his 10 seasons in the league, spent the past two years as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator. The 38-year-old has been tabbed as a premium head-coaching candidate since the 2021 season, and he has also assembled a strong staff.
“I love DeMeco,” an executive said. “He is a leader, motivator and can maximize his players.”
Naturally, there were questions about the direction of the Texans organization. They have had back-to-back one-and-done head coaches — just the third time that’s happened since the 1970 merger — and are a league-worst 11-38-1 over the past three seasons.
But there is a resounding belief in Ryans, and the Texans should be able to find a franchise quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the draft. As an added boost, Ryans is regarded as a hometown hero because of his playing career, so his arrival should restore some faith among the fan base.
“DeMeco will be a good coach, and (general manager) Nick Caserio, contrary to public gripes, is a phenomenal person to work with who will be a great help,” an assistant coach said. “They should work well together but need time.”
Ryans led the NFL’s top-ranked defense in yards and points allowed last season. Aside from the 49ers’ waves of talent, a coach whose team played against them last season said Ryans does a good job of putting his players in positions to be successful.
Their scheme wasn’t overly complicated, but they were well coached and good at what they were instructed to do. Ryans understood how opposing offenses would try to beat their coverages, so they spent the practice week just repping against those route concepts over and over again. They were afforded that time because they were so comfortable with their system in the early going.
That will take time for the Texans as they work to restock their roster, of course.
“DeMeco is a perfect fit,” a second executive said.