Last year was quite the season for first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. Robert Saleh evolved and developed into head coaching material as the 49ers surrounded him with talent. But nobody knew what to expect from his predecessor.
Ryans faced his fair share of challenges, from cornerbacks in and out of the lineup to having to bail an offense that struggled down the stretch. Nevertheless, he helped the 49ers' defense finish fourth in defensive success rate and seventh in EPA per play allowed from Week 10 on.
The Athletic listed the “40 under 40” coaches in the NFL, and Ryans found himself on the list:
DeMeco Ryans, 49ers defensive coordinator | Age: 37
Ryans went from first-year coordinator to head coaching candidate in 2021, thanks to a 49ers defense that finished top 10 in yards, points and rushing yards allowed.
Ryans, a 2006 second-round draft pick who played 10 seasons with the Texans and Eagles, interviewed for the Vikings’ coaching vacancy but withdrew his name before the second round of interviews. More opportunities will be available if the 49ers defense continues to excel under Ryans’ leadership.
“For myself, I wanted another chance, another season to grow and develop more, become a better coach, a better leader myself,” Ryans said at a news conference earlier this month, “so when I do become a head coach, I want it to be the right opportunity because I’m not just in it just to be a head coach and say, ‘Oh, I’m a head coach.’ If I do it, I want to be successful at it, and I want to do it for a long time.”
Despite only having one year as a coordinator under his belt, Ryans made it to the second round of interviews with the Minnesota Vikings.
The team has had plenty of success during the past couple of seasons. But, generally speaking, that’s what it takes for coaches to get noticed. I’m curious how much of the offense’s success will play a factor in Ryans remaining on the head coaching radar.
The Niners made it to the NFC Championship and were on the brink of another Super Bowl appearance in 2021. They beat Dak Prescott, then Aaron Rodgers, and were a quarter away from taking down Matthew Stafford in the playoffs.
The way the NFL hires offensive minds, it’ll take another superb coaching season for Ryans, who has a bright future. It’s nice to see him get the recognition after one year. I’m looking forward to seeing how Ryans evolves in Year 2.