Most Houston Texans fans are on cloud nine right now. The moment you hire a new head coach or new general manager, the fanbase should be at its highest point in terms of optimism. This is especially true when your team hires the arguably top coach on the market and someone with strong ties to the organization. However, at a certain point reality sets in and you begin to realize he is only human and will have his good points and bad.
As much as we would love for Ryans to be Bill Belichick it is not reasonable to make that comparison no matter who the coach is. That raises the question: who can we compare Ryans to and what does that mean for your Houston Texans? So, we will pick the five coaches he is most comparable to in terms of background, personality, and systems and see how he could compare.
The Dead Ringer— Mike Vrabel
Why are they alike: This is too easy. Vrabel wasn’t a Hall of Fame linebacker, but he was pretty damn good. He won rings with the Patriots and rose up the coaching ranks relatively quickly. His teams are never brilliant statistically, but he seems to win more than he should (48-34). Ryans had a similar career arc as a player and also has that leader of men quality that separates him from the run of the mill coach.
How might Ryans be better: In five seasons the Titans have advanced to an AFC title game and have a couple of other divisional playoff games. Yet, Vrabel has never had a consistently good quarterback or offense overall. Statistically his defenses have never been brilliant either. So, Ryans could leapfrog him if the Texans get the quarterback right in this draft.
How might Ryans be worse: The Titans were in an immediate position to compete when Vrabel got there. They have Derrick Henry which is a defensive coach’s dream. The Texans don’t have that kind of talent in place yet. Vrabel was an immediate success (9-7 in first season) and it isn’t likely that Ryans is going to be that good at the outset.
Wishful Thinking— Mike Tomlin
Why are they alike: Tomlin became the Pittsburgh Steelers coach at 35. Ryans is 38. So, they had similar coaching backgrounds going into their first seasons and their personalities are pretty similar as well. Tomlin didn’t have the former player pedigree, but otherwise they mirror each other in terms of how their players view them and how they get things done.
How might Ryans be better: Okay, let’s say he could be as good because you can’t be better than Tomlin. Tomlin had Ben Roethiisberger for virtually his entire run. The Texans will need to hit on quarterback in the draft this season. If they do then you could see Ryans having a similar run.
How might Ryans be worse: Other than Bill Belichick, no coach has a longer tenure in the sport. It is hard to imagine that Tomlin is still relatively young. So, to ask how Ryans could be worse is really not a damning question. He could be a mainstay in the playoffs for a decade and still not be quite as good.
A Realistic Fit— Robert Saleh
Why are they alike: They both came from the Shanahan tree and were literally on the same staff. So, their defenses are likely to be similar and both guys have an edge that their players have gravitated to and likely will gravitate to.
How might Ryans be better: It won’t be hard record wise since Saleh is only two years into a heavy rebuild. He still hasn’t found his quarterback and they are behind the eight ball this offseason as they could be on the veteran quarterback carousel. Will it be Aaron Rodgers? Derek Carr? Jimmy G?
How might Ryans be worse: As bad as the Jets are offensively, they are already pretty damn good defensively. Management did a better job drafting and he has already molded the defense in his image. Ryans could do the same, but he obviously hasn’t yet.
It’s Complicated: Sean McDermott
Why are they alike: I don’t know that they are in terms of personality or scheme, but McDermott is obviously willing to allow his offense to fly high and Ryans has the same kind of vibe to him. There is a lot to say about McDermott and Buffalo fans have probably said it all at this point.
How might Ryans be better: Buffalo has flamed out in the playoffs four seasons in a row. It is an Oiler-esque run in the making. In a similar way, the Bills have been good enough to win it all at least in the last two or three seasons, but just haven’t. Obviously, Ryans has the opportunity to be better when the lights are brightest.
How might Ryans be worse: McDermott is 62-35 as a head coach. No matter what happens in the postseason, that’s a pretty damn good record and a hard one to match for any first year head coach.
Lukewarm Comparison: Brandon Staley
Why are they alike: They are both young guys and as such we could guess they are both new age coaches that might use more analytics than the old heads. Of course, that is pure conjecture. So, we will just say they are both young.
How might Ryans be better: I’m surprised Staley still has a job. You could argue that few have done less with more than Staley has, but he did make the playoffs this season. In particular, Staley makes some head-scratching decisions that seem to cost them big games. It might not be much but it could have been worth two or three games over the past two seasons.
How might Ryans be worse: Staley has Justin Herbert. With a few notable exceptions granted, this game is all about the quarterback. We know Herbert is very good and could be great with Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator. We don’t know about Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud yet. God forbid the Texans take Will Levis.