Sean McVay on DeMeco Ryans: 'Glad I don't have to play him anymore'

Dialing up plays and matching wits, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and DeMeco Ryans were two strategists at work on opposing sidelines the past few years in the NFC West division.

Ryans built game plans seeking an edge against one of the most creative play-callers in the NFL, and the 49ers went 6-0 in the regular season the past three seasons against the Rams with the notable exception of an NFC championship game loss two seasons ago to the eventual Super Bowl champions.

Now that Ryans, the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year last season as the leader of the 49ers’ top-ranked defense is the Texans’ new head coach, his clashes with the Rams and McVay will be infrequent.

“He’ll be great, he’s a great leader,” McVay said. “You hear people talking about DeMeco and how seamlessly he made the transition into coaching you can feel the presence he had as a player was just different.

“He always elevated people he was around. Such a quick study. His identity, his command he put on that defense and the way the guys played really well for him, I think he’ll do the same thing as a head coach. I’m glad I don’t have to play him anymore!”

McVay isn’t alone in his glowing assessment of Ryans.

Kets coach Robert Saleh isn’t the least bit surprised by the meteoric rise of Ryans from a star linebacker into an ultra-professional coach who thrives as a leader of men and a consummate teacher.

Saleh was on the Texans’ coaching staff when Ryans was playing in Houston as a Pro Bowl linebacker, defensive captain and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Then, Saleh worked with the former Alabama consensus All-American with the San Francisco 49ers when Ryan was a quality control and linebackers coach before ascending to defensive coordinator when Saleh became a head coach with the Jets.

Now, Saleh can’t wait to see Ryans put his stamp on the Texans as he’s introduced Thursday as the sixth head coach in franchise history.

“DeMeco is awesome,” Saleh said. “He’s going to do great. This is a really cool opportunity for him. Captain ‘Meco: phenomenal, family man, obviously relatable. As a former player, he has that empathy and relatability. He’s very, very smart. He’s always trying to learn. I think that’s what you appreciate the most out of him.”

Ryans has always had a thirst for knowledge and is never complacent in wanting to improve.

That’s what stands out to Saleh as Ryans has made a smooth transition from playing the game as a hard-hitting, instinctive linebacker into a coach who communicates on a deep level with his players.

“Former players, most of the time, it’s an adjustment,” Saleh said. “You have to learn a way to teach it. The natural instinct is you want to teach it the way you did it, but not everybody is like you. DeMeco was an All-Pro football player. He remade himself into a teacher and learned all the ways that guys can play the game To implement what he learned to maximize all the guys around him, that’s what makes him special.”

Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Tallk 790.

NFL Combine

Photo: Getty Images

Texans plan to play Jimmie Ward at safety

When the San Francisco 49ers needed reinforcements in their secondary, they shifted safety Jimmie Ward to nickel cornerback.

It wasn’t a secret that Ward didn’t love the move, preferring to play his natural safety position. He wound up battling injuries, playing a dozen games after starting the season on injured reserve with a hamstring problem and missed another game due to a broken left hand and finished the season with 50 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble.

Now that Ward, 31, has joined the Texans on a two-year, $13 million contract that reunites him with coach DeMeco Ryans, his defensive coordinator in San Francisco, he won’t have to worry about playing nickel again. Ryans plans to deploy Ward strictly at safety.

“Of course, everyone knows Jimmie wants to play safety,” Ryans said at the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. But in talking to Jimmie last year, I always told him, when you play the nickel position and you can play the safety position, it just opens up a lot more avenues for you, and that’s what it’s done for Jimmie.

“Jimmie has been very fun to work with because he’s jumped into that nickel role, and he thrived in the role, made probably more plays than he’s made playing safety, so Jimmie can play anywhere, but I’m going to play him at safety.”

Ward has 451 career tackles, seven interceptions, three sacks and seven forced fumbles in 106 games.

A former first-round draft pick from Northern Illinois, Ward is an experienced player who can help teach Ryans’ defense to younger players.

“Initially you want to bring guys in who know exactly how I want things done, how our culture will be set,” Ryans said. “You want to bring those guys in but also knowing it doesn’t just work that day. To be able to get a guy like Jimmie Ward is very vital for our defense. Jimmie is a guy, he plays safety in our scheme. He’s played nickel. Jimmie is a veteran guy who’s played a lot of football. With the younger guys that we have, we have a very young group, young nucleus of players who are talented.

“I feel like Jimmie can come in and just help those guys, aside from the football aspect but also just off the field, just how to be a true pro. That’s what Jimmie provides and brings to those guys, and excited to get a guy who can do it and the leadership role he can provide off the field, and on the field Jimmie is still playing football at a high level. So, to add a safety who can make dynamic plays for us was very vital.”

Los Angeles Chargers v San Francisco 49ers

Photo: Getty Images

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content