Inside the Texans’ team auditorium Tuesday morning, new coach DeMeco Ryans got to do something he had long awaited.
The former Texans Pro Bowl linebacker and team captain addressed the team at the launch of its voluntary nine-week offseason conditioning program, putting his initial stamp of leadership on the AFC South franchise.
Hired in January and signed to a six-year contract, the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator and NFL Assistant Coach of the Year emphasized that it’s about daily improvement and actions, not just words.
“It was encouraging, great participation from a lot of our guys,” Ryans said Tuesday during a press conference at NRG Stadium. “For me, the message to our guys was really just, How are we showing up?’ Showing up on purpose, being detail-oriented in how we work and just continue to have a growth mindset in everything we do. Our guys understand that if we want to be the best, we have to continue to strive to be better each day in everything that we do.
“We’re excited as coaches, excited to have the opportunity to meet with our guys for the first time, have the opportunity to in a couple weeks go on the field with our guys and work with them. It’s an exciting time. We feel the energy, the excitement from around the city, from our players, our entire building. We’re all fired up, and we’re excited to get going.”
Ryans takes over a franchise that’s seeking stability, and victories.
The Texans have had three head coaches over the past three seasons, Lovie Smith, David Culley and Bill O’Brien, plus interim coach Romeo Crennel.
During that span, they’ve combined for an 11-38-1 record. And the Texans are the only AFC South team that has never reached the AFC championship game.
Hiring Ryans is regarded as a power move toward ultimately becoming a more competitive team, and that’s why the Texans made a hefty investment in the charismatic former second-round draft pick from Alabama to energize the franchise and the fans.
Yes, Ryans is aware of the raised expectations surrounding the Texans since his return.
That isn’t something he shies away from. If anything, Ryans embraces the renewed enthusiasm.
The Texans had a lot of empty seats for home games the past few seasons, or seats occupied by raucous opponents’ fans.
“No pressure for me at all,” Ryans said. “This is an outstanding organization, an outstanding job. I love the excitement being around the city, just everybody stopping. Fans are excited, they want to take pictures, autographs. It’s an exciting time. I don’t feel any pressure because I know I’m surrounding myself with the right people and I know we can get the job done.
“I know Houston is hungry for a winner. Trust me, I’m just as hungry to create a winner for this organization, for this city. It means a lot to me, and I want to be able to bring that to Houston. So, it’s no pressure. It just reminds me just continue to put your head down and go to work with the right purpose and to be detailed and just make sure we’re adding really great players to our team so when we line up on that field on Sundays, I want to just put a team out there that our city is proud of.”
Under NFL collective bargaining agreement rules, the Texans have two weeks of meetings, weightlifting and other workouts and rehab exercises. That’s followed by workouts on the field with light individual or full-team drills. That precedes the Texans’ organized team activities and a full-team minicamp in June. Everything is voluntary except for the minicamp.
“It starts just with first and foremost one-on-one meetings with our players and coaches just so establish a relationship with our coaches and players,” Ryans said. “We want our players to understand we’re there for them and we want the best for them, and we’re here help them be better. That’s where the offseason starts. We’ll continue to be player focused. It’s individualized for each player, how can we help them get better, and that’s where our focus will be this offseason.”
Since being hired by chairman and CEO Cal McNair, Ryans has already interacted with several players, including Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil, over the past few months.
Texans defensive tackle Roy Lopez Jr. is among the players whom Ryans has made a strong impression on.
“Yes, I was able to meet him, we got to sit down and talk,” Lopez said. “It was awesome. I was able to hear his voice and hear where he’s coming from. When you hear his voice, you can definitely understand he was a former player. He carries himself that way.
“He’s very happy to be on the job. Congratulations to him. It’s amazing for him to coach the team he played for. I’m excited for him. I’m excited to play for him. Who wouldn’t be? His resume speaks for itself. I’m looking forward to getting to work.”
Texans nickel back Tavierre Thomas is looking forward to playing for Ryans.
“I feel like DeMeco is going to do really good in this league as a head coach because he’s been in our shoes,” Thomas said. “He’s played, now he’s coaching. From what everyone tells me that he’s coached, they love him and they say we’re going to love him, too. Hopefully, we get this thing rolling. With his leadership, I feel like we can get there.”
Ryans emphasized his goal goes beyond wins and losses.
It’s about building connections and trust with his coaches and, most importantly, with the players.
“I think that the connection is very important from a coaching staff and player, just understanding that we’re all on the same page and we’re all striving for the same goal,” Ryans said. “We’re all here to make the Houston Texans organization as a winner, and we only do that if we’re connected and we’re together. It’s a very important part of the process for me to make sure that the players understand that I’m genuinely here and I have their best interest at heart.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.