The Texans have their new coach in DeMeco Ryans, but it’s up to the front office to ensure he’s successful in Houston.
The Houston Texans hired 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their head coach on Tuesday, representing their sixth coach in franchise history and third over the past three seasons.
“For so many reasons, DeMeco is everything we are looking for in a leader and coach for our organization,” Texans owner Cal McNair said in a statement. “He has a proven track record for developing high-quality players and constantly innovated his defensive scheme over the last six seasons in San Francisco.”
The Texans became the first team in NFL history to have hired three consecutive Black coaches, but context is crucial here. While Ryans called it a “dream job,” Houston’s past two coaches were Black and each got axed after one season. Boardroom wrote after Lovie Smith was fired in early January why no one should want to coach this team.
As noted in that piece, Culley went 4-13 in 2021 but Houston lost its franchise QB in Deshaun Watson and had zero Pro Bowlers on its roster, which broke a 17-year streak for the franchise. Things weren’t much better for Smith, who, instead of folding for the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft in the final seconds of Week 18, elected to go for a two-point conversion that helped secure a W against the division rival Colts to finish the season 3-13-1.
Both Smith and Culley were hired into situations in which they had almost zero reasonable chance at what the franchise’s ownership and front office surely considered a success; they still got axed by season’s end. So, in the case of DeMeco Ryans — it isn’t about diminishing his accomplishments. He earned this job leading the top defensive unit in all of football in 2022.
But what happens if, say, the Texans fail to field a good team? How would they move forward — heck, can they move forward? Perhaps there are a few reasons to be somewhat optimistic. They have plenty of cap space ($40M) to sign good players, they have the second overall pick in the upcoming draft, and Ryans signed a six-year contract.
But does the six-year agreement provide assurance? Not really. Smith was on a four-year contract and is still owed an undisclosed amount. Culley was on a five-year deal and was owed a reported $17 million when he was fired in 2022. The question posed here: Is DeMeco Ryans being set up for failure in an already failing system?
Minority head coaches hired since 2017:
- Lovie Smith, Texans: Fired in 2023 after one season.
- David Culley, Texans: Fired in 2022 after one season.
- Brian Flores, Dolphins: Fired in 2022 after three seasons and four QBs.
- Steve Wilks, Cardinals: Fired in 2018 after one season and one QB that’s out of the league (Sam Bradford) and another on a practice squad (Josh Rosen)
- Anthony Lynn, Chargers: Fired in 2021 after four seasons and a 33-31 record.
- Vance Joseph, Broncos: Fired in 2018 after two rebuilding seasons and four QBs (Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, Case Keenum).
This Isn’t Going Anywhere
Steve Wilks took over a 1-4 Carolina team this past season. They finished 6-6 under his watch, yet the team gave the head-coaching job to former Colts’ coach Frank Reich. Attorney Douglas Wigdor, who represented Wilks in Brian Flores’ racial discrimination case against the NFL, issued a statement after the Panthers announced the hiring of Reich.
“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into Playoff contention and garnering the support of the players and fans, that he was passed over for the Head Coach position by David Tepper. There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”
Under the NFL’s Rooney Rule, San Francisco will receive compensatory third-round picks in 2023 and 2024 for the hiring of Ryans. DeMeco was coveted around the league and he’s certainly cut out for the job, but Houston might have more to prove than he does when you consider all of this. Let’s just hope they give him a real chance, a mistake they — and the entire NFL — have made to the point of insanity.
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