The 49ers are in the market for a new defensive coordinator.
DeMeco Ryans, who took over the 49ers’ defense under Kyle Shanahan in 2021, reportedly agreed to become the head coach of the Houston Texans on Tuesday — which means there will be a new coach running the defense for the third time in four seasons.
The news was first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Texans have not yet announced the deal, which reportedly lasts six years.
Ryans, 38, coordinated the NFL’s top-ranked defense in 2022, with the 49ers giving up just 300.6 yards per game and 16.3 points per game. Those figures came after a 2021 season when the 49ers finished third in total defense (310.0) yards per game and ninth in scoring defense (21.5).
After joining Shanahan’s staff in 2017 as a quality control coach, Ryans was elevated to linebackers coach from 2018-20 under coordinator Robert Saleh. When Saleh was hired to become head coach of the New York Jets, Shanahan promoted Ryans to run the defense.
Ryans wore his emotions on his sleeve in pushing and prodding a talented defense.
“I’m emotionally involved because I’m excited when these guys make plays,” Ryans said last week. “I know how much effort, time and sacrifice these players put in. And when we go out there Sunday, the whole world gets to see that. Football is meant to be fun.”
A second-round draft pick out of Alabama in 2005, Ryans played for the Houston Texans from 2006 through 2011 and the Philadelphia Eagles for four more seasons.
Shanahan was a Texans offensive coach in 2006 and took notice of Ryans’ leadership skills.
“He’s the ideal leader, whatever he does,” Shanahan said. “He was that way when he came to Houston. He took over the defense right away. You could tell he was in charge when he was 21 years old. He’s just always been that guy.” I thought he was ready last year to be a head coach.”
A year ago, Ryans was a candidate in Minnesota but removed himself from contention to coach another year with the 49ers.
Fred Warner, the 49ers Pro Bowl linebacker said following the loss that he was mentally preparing himself for Ryans to move on.
“I hadn’t thought about it up to this point because, obviously, you think you’re going to win it all,” Warner said. “But seeing him was emotional. It was. It was the first time it him that this was the last one with him.”
Ryans’ ascension to linebackers coach coincided with the selection of Warner in the third round of the NFL Draft.
“We came into this thing together,” Warner said. “I owe everything to him. He’s the reason I’m the player I am today.”
Nick Bosa, the 49ers’ defensive end and the favorite to be this year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year, said at the close of the regular season Ryans “as a defensive coordinator, he is easily the best one I’ve been around.”
Since winning the AFC South with a 10-6 record in 2019 under Bill O’Brien, the Texans have fallen hard times with an 11-38-1 record under four head coaches preceding Ryans.
O’Brien was fired during the 2020 season and replaced by interim coach Romeo Crennel during a 4-12 season. The Texans went 4-13 in 2021 under David Culley and 3-13-1 last season under Lovie Smith.
Houston has been in a state of flux at quarterback since Deshawn Watson said he didn’t want to play for the Texans following the 2020 season. General manager Nick Caserio arrived in 2021 after spending 20 seasons with the New England Patriots.