There’s no question former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans helped transform All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner into the superstar he is today. Warner has admitted as much whenever there’s a microphone in front of him.
Here’s what Warner said about Ryans after Sunday’s NFC Championship: “We came into this thing together. I owe everything to him. He’s the reason I’m the player I am today.”
DeMeco is proud of Warner. You can hear that in his voice when he speaks about Fred. During his introductory press conference Thursday as the Houston Texans head coach, Ryans gave Warner his proper praise as he was speaking about turning around the Texans:
When people say they’re not good enough, that excites me the most. I know what it takes. It just takes time, it takes belief, it takes pouring everything you have into a young man, like a Fred Warner, who was a third-round pick. No one thought he could play middle linebacker, but I saw something. I saw a leader. I saw a guy who loved football.
ESPN’s Nick Wagoner wrote a tremendous piece about Ryans where he had an excerpt early during Warner’s career where DeMeco found his voice as a coach:
Ryans still had plenty to learn as he adjusted to his new role, but if there was one thing he knew he had to impart on talented if uncertain rookie Fred Warner, it’s that when you speak to your team, you must do it with conviction.
So, when Warner, who was playing middle linebacker for the first time, stepped into the huddle after an organized team activity and meekly mumbled out a playcall, Ryans stopped the proceedings immediately.
“He grabbed me and he was mad,” Warner said. “He made sure that I knew that as the MIKE ‘backer I say it with authority every time you go out there. I need to take command of the huddle.”
While that was the day Warner found his voice as a middle linebacker, the same might be said for Ryans as a coach.
Ryans has proven he has a way of conveying his message that gets through to his players. That’s coaching. You can be a rocket scientist (like the former Lions coach!) but if you can’t teach what you know in an applicable way, your skill set and knowledge is no good.
Thankfully for the 49ers, Warner is a willing learner, according to DeMeco:
“And I saw a guy who truly just allowed me to coach him. I coached him hard some time. It’s a fine line of coaching hard and loving hard. Now to say he’s the best linebacker in the NFL, I pride myself in that.”
Ryans continued to speak about Warner the person and how he does the right things off the field and has the proper work ethic.
The next defensive coordinator won’t just face the challenge of following in the footsteps of one of the best communicators and ply-callers in the NFL, he’ll be tasked with developing the younger talent on the roster that’s on the edge of breaking out, just as Warner was as a rookie.