INDIANAPOLIS – Before John Lynch became the San Francisco 49ers’ general manager, the Hall of Fame safety was a television analyst watching future Texans coach DeMeco Ryans ply his trade as a hard-hitting Texans Pro Bowl linebacker.
Lynch would frequently meet with Ryans in production meetings, getting to know the Texans’ team captain and former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Ryans made a lasting impression on Lynch, who would later work with Ryans with the 49ers as a quality control coach, linebackers coach and, later, the defensive coordinator and architect of the NFL’s top-ranked defense and NFL Assistant Coach of the Year.
“He’s one of the people I admire most in this league, and that’s the honest to God’s truth,” Lynch told KPRC 2 at the NFL scouting combine. “I remember DeMeco well as a fan of the game. I was a broadcaster at the time and used to have him a lot at my production meetings because he was the leader of that defense. I remember Andy Reid telling me early in his tenure this guy is one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around and he was a fantastic player to boot.”
After Ryans retired, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was quick to add him to the coaching staff. He made a fast rise, working with former Texans position coach Johnny Holland to bring along All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw.
‘When Kyle and I were assembling a staff, he said he wanted to bring DeMeco in and I said, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a home run. Let’s do it,’” Lynch said. “And then he was just better than we ever thought he would be. He really took to it. Fred Warner, Dre’ Greenlaw, they’re special people, but they would both tell you that DeMeco helped mold them into the players they are.”
When the New York Jets hired Robert Saleh to become their new head coach, Ryans was ready to take the next step in his coaching career. The defense rose to new heights in San Francisco.
‘We become the No. 1 defense after losing Robert Saleh,” Lynch said. “We were all in a panic. ‘How are we going to hold on? Not only did we hold on, we got better under DeMeco’s tutelage. The Texans are getting a great one. I think they know that he’ll be a fine coach.”
Lynch has talked with Texans general manager Nick Caserio. The collaboration with Ryans behind the scenes has been smooth and interactive.
“I’ve talked to Nick and I know how excited he is to work with him,” Lynch said. “To boot, he brought some of the assistants who were really valuable to us his way, (Texans offensive coordinator) Bobby Slowik, (Texans defensive passing game coordinator-secondary coach) Cory Undlin. DeMeco will do a tremendous job. I have no hesitation to say that. The sky is the limit. He’s a great friend, a great person. Aside from being a really talented coach, he’s a tremendous leader of people.”
Shanahan involved Ryans in many key decisions, helping to prepare him to become a head coach, as he did with other assistants like Saleh and Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel.
“I think Kyle kind of pulled back the curtain for him,” Lynch said. “Kyle really respected DeMeco. Kyle spends a lot of time with his coaches and included DeMeco on a lot of the decisions he has to make on a daily basis. He also told him you can’t do everything. You’ve got to trust coaches and personnel people. It’s a hard league. It’s hard to win a game. You can’t do it alone. DeMeco knows all these things. I’m very confident the Texans got the right guy.”
McDaniel was an offensive assistant for then-Texans coach Gary Kubiak when he met Ryans.
Both would emerge as future head coaches, Ryans now with the Texans as a first-time head coach, and McDaniel coming off his first season and a playoff appearance with theDolphins.
McDaniel also has a high degree of belief in his former 49ers colleague as the former second-round draft pick from Alabama takes over the Texans’ head coaching position.
“I couldn’t be more confident in an individual in terms of a guy being made for this position of head coach in the National Football League,” McDaniel said at the combine. “DeMeco is a special breed unlike any that I’ve come across in my walks of football life.”
Ryans, 38, is a former defensive quality control coach and inside linebackers coach named defensive coordinator in 2021.
Ryans is the latest head coach from the Shanahan coaching tree after McDaniel, who was successful in his first year running the Dolphins.
Ryans quickly earned the defensive captain title and earned a nickname that stuck with him to this day: ‘Cap.’
“You’re talking about a guy who, as a 22-year-old, walked into an NFL building and led an entire defense as a captain and really the best player on the defense from Day One,” McDaniel said. “Fast forward to him as a coach. I saw him cutting his teeth as a position coach, really as a position assistant, and then would lead to a position coach. You’re talking about a guy who makes an appearance to the coaching world look easy.”
That’s because of Ryans’ relatability, poise and background as a player. Having that credibility speaks volumes in the locker room.
“Players play for him, players believe in him,” McDaniel said. “He has the disposition to handle the natural turbulence that occurs from this scope. I couldn’t be happier for an individual who’s more deserving, and really, this is a dream of his.
“He felt very connected to the Houston fan base and had always held that in high regard and in high esteem. For him to get that particular on top of that it’s an NFL job, I think it’s a storybook beginning to what will be a very successful career.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.