HOUSTON — The Texans agreed to terms to hire San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their new head coach Tuesday, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
The Texans and Ryans agreed to a six-year contract, sources told ESPN, to become the franchise’s sixth full-time coach.
The Texans become the first team in NFL history to hire three straight Black coaches.
Ryans had his first interview with the Texans on Jan. 20 and met again with the franchise on Tuesday. Other NFL teams that had requested permission to talk with Ryans about their head-coaching vacancies included the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.
Ryans’ hiring ends a three-week coaching search since the Texans fired Lovie Smith on Jan. 8. Ryans, a former Texans standout linebacker, will be the fourth coach in Houston in four years after Smith and David Culley were each fired after one season.
Former coach and general manager Bill O’Brien was fired after starting the 2020 season 0-4. O’Brien led the Texans for six full seasons before that, and his 52-48 record (.520) leaves him as the only Texans coach over .500.
The franchise hired Nick Caserio as its GM in 2021. Caserio hired Culley (4-13) in 2021 and promoted Smith (3-13-1) from defensive coordinator in 2022.
Now Caserio has hired Ryans, who took over the 49ers’ defensive unit in 2021.
In his first season, the 49ers allowed the third-fewest yards per game (310), and in 2022, San Francisco allowed the fewest points (16.8) and yards (300.6) per game. Ryans’ unit also tied for the second-most takeaways (30).
Ryans’ defense helped lift the 49ers to a 13-4 record in the regular season before they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 31-7 in the NFC Championship Game as the No. 2 seed.
Before becoming a coach, Ryans had a 10-year career with the Texans and Eagles. He was a second-round pick out of Alabama by the Texans in 2006 and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after finishing second in league tackles (156). His 126 solo tackles were second most for a rookie in NFL history.
The following season, Ryans earned second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. The two-time Pro Bowler played for the Texans for six seasons and is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles (479).
Ryans, 38, has spent the past six years coaching; his first role was a defensive quality control coach for the 49ers in 2017 under coach Kyle Shanahan. In 2018, he became the inside linebackers coach, and was elevated to defensive coordinator when Robert Saleh left to become the New York Jets’ head coach in 2021.
One of the biggest tasks for Ryans will be fixing the league’s worst rush defense, which allowed 170.2 yards per game. No team has allowed over 170 rushing yards since the 0-16 Lions (172.1) in 2008. The Texans also have finished 27th in points allowed per game three seasons in a row.
The pass defense was a bright spot for a team that allowed the third-most total yards per game (379.5). The Texans finished 10th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (209.3) and had more interceptions (16) than touchdowns allowed (15).
The team’s 16 interceptions were tied for fourth, and the 15 touchdowns allowed were tied for the fewest.
Beyond fixing the defense’s woes, Ryans must fix the Texans’ offensive struggles and find an answer at quarterback.
The unit averaged 17 points per game (30th), and the Texans’ 19 interceptions were second most. Opening-day starting quarterback Davis Mills had 15 of those in 15 games and was tied for the league high, and Kyle Allen, who started when Mills was benched, threw the other four in two games.
The Texans have two first-round draft picks (No. 2 and No. 12 overall) in the 2023 NFL draft and could use one of those picks on a quarterback. They also could address the position via trade or free agency. The NFL informed teams on Monday that the salary cap will increase to $224.8 million for the 2023 league year. The Texans are estimated to currently have about $40 million in cap space.