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How DC Matt Burke, DeMeco Ryans realized they aligned on defensive philosophy

Matt Burke's first meeting with DeMeco Ryans was set to happen over Zoom. The two coaches never worked together and, in fact, worked against one another as NFC West division rivals. Last season, Burke served as the Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach when Ryans was the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers.

However, Burke would be two hours late to his interview for the Houston Texans defensive coordinator position, his first "real interaction" with Ryans.

"It was scheduled for seven o'clock, and my son actually fell and cracked his eye open, and I had to take him to the hospital to get stitches," Burke recalled. "It's my first job interview, and I'm texting DeMeco like, 'Can we push this back a little bit? I'm sorry.' Then I had this panic Zoom interview with him, and I was two hours late for my interview."

Burke's son was fine, thankfully, and the job interview turned out to be even better. The two quickly realized what others had been telling them for years, that their defensive philosophies were a match. Burke worked for several top-tier defensive-minded coaches, from Jim Schwartz (Detroit) to Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati) and Vance Joseph (Miami) to Ryans' former defensive coordinator in San Francisco, Robert Saleh. In 2021, Saleh hired Burke as his Director of Game Management, to help bridge the gap between analytics and gameday management and coaching.

"We've kind of been tangentially connected," Burke said. "Obviously, have a lot of cross-over people. Coach Saleh when I spent some time with him, through that and some of the guys on the staff out there still mainly like Kris Kocurek and through J.J. (Watt) a little bit. We've always had a lot of overlapping connections and in division. Just sort of reached out like that. I've never spent time on a staff with DeMeco (Ryans). The connection part of it, I think both sides were telling the other person, 'Man, this is someone you should meet up with. You guys would really get along. Your philosophies align.' As we started going through this interview process, that came out for both of us."

Both Ryans and Burke had the same vision for how they wanted to see their defense played. The Texans coaching staff, now complete, is in the process of evaluating the roster and putting together a scheme.

"We want to be aggressive and have an attack front," Burke said. "I have a history in that front and what DeMeco did in San Francisco. At the end of the day, my job is to try to help him execute his vision for what he wants. I think the attraction coming here is that there are already some pieces on defense that we like and we're looking forward to working with. We're still in the process of getting to know those players. They're just starting to come back to work out some of the guys, and we're bumping in to some of them around here. Just foundationally, we're exciting with some of the pieces that fit what we're looking to do. We're going to be an aggressive attack front and try to get these guys getting off the ball and try to dictate a little bit instead of being reactionary on defense."

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