San Francisco Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans recently interviewed for the Texans Head Coach job. Drew Dougherty caught up with 49ers beat writer Tracy Sandler of FanGirlSportsNetwork, and the two talked about Ryans' readiness for the job, leadership style and more.
DD: DeMeco Ryans is an interviewee for the Houston Texans head coaching job. If you're from here, that's not a big surprise. If you're from San Francisco, the Bay Area, it's not a big surprise either, is it?
SANDLER: No, definitely not. DeMeco Ryans is probably going to be one of the most sought-after coaching candidates this offseason. We thought last year might be a year that he left to take a head coaching job. He decided to stay with San Francisco one more year. He's done an incredible job with the defense, so it's not surprising at all.
DD: What have you seen, growth-wise, from him as far as leadership during his coaching tenure in San Francisco?
SANDLER: You have seen DeMeco come into his own. I think the players had bought in pretty quickly into DeMeco, but you see he's just really grown into a leader. You can just see him be more comfortable. His energy is amazing. His players absolutely love him. Something he's talked about a lot over the last several months is "Hero Ball" and how he always tells his players, 'You don't have to play hero ball. If everybody's doing their job, there doesn't have to be a hero.' That mentality kind of sums up who he is and how he coaches. Over the last two years, no matter who gets injured, who's in and who's out, this defense stayed at a high level and that's on him. That means the players have bought into him.
DD: I want to talk a little bit more about his leadership qualities in just a moment. But you just brought up a really good point about not playing hero ball and the need to be creative as a play caller and as a designer of a defense. What have you seen from him in that regard?
SANDLER: You've seen him adjust. They've had a number of injuries on this team across the defensive line. He's been able to adjust to the strengths of his personnel and they really have not missed a beat. They've had a couple of games here and there that were tough. But the way they adjusted after that and admitted that they didn't play their best ball kind of speaks to his leadership. Because that's telling your players 'We are a team and we are in this together and we will win as a team and we will lose as a team and we will make up for things that need to be made up for'.
DD: How would you describe his leadership style?
SANDLER: He can relate to his players. Having been a player, especially in that position, really helps him out and really helps the players. But you see the fieryness and the excitement on the sidelines. You watch a Niners game and they make a defensive play, there is nobody in that building more excited than DeMeco Ryans. That just also shows a love for his players and I think that makes them feel good. Not to take a total cliché term, but you've seen him be a real 'Leader of men'. It was hard. He had tough shoes to follow because Robert Saleh turned out to be an excellent defensive coordinator. DeMeco took over and there's this 'All gas no breaks' style and he's he finessed the defense. He changed the defense not a ton, but he changed it somewhat to fit his style. That was not an easy thing to do. Those players loved Robert Saleh. It wasn't like he left and they were like, 'Good riddance.' They loved Robert Saleh. He came in and really made the defense his own. These players trusted him and trusted him early. You've seen the benefits: he's got the number one defense in the league.
DD: What's one DeMeco Ryans anecdote that stands out to you above anything else?
SANDLER: I'll always remember DeMeco Ryans running down the sideline, jumping up and down, with the wires having to be to be pulled back. I think that was one. It's also cool at practice to see him and (49ers Head Coach) Kyle (Shanahan) next to each other, talking, smiling, laughing. There's such a good relationship there and such a rapport. I don't know that you always see that, but it's not unusual if you look over and Kyle and DeMeco are talking and laughing. That's kind of a cool thing to see.