Finally, finally, we got him. The Houston Texans hired DeMeco Ryans!
Woooooo! Good defense, a consistent coaching staff, and winning more than 4 games a season are finally things we can look forward to again! After years of crappy football, embarrassing free agent acquisitions, scandal within the organization, Bill O’Brien, Jack Easterby, multiple one-and-done seasons for head coaches, and Davis Mills, we finally have something to celebrate.
DeMeco Ryans, a former Pro-Bowl linebacker for the Houston Texans, has been the architect behind one of the best linebacking corps in the NFL since becoming San Francisco’s inside linebackers coach in 2018 and defensive coordinator in 2021. He built his defense around the play of linebackers Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Azeez Al-Shaair, leading a defense that ranked 9th in points in 2021 and 1st in 2022. Ryans’ team may have given up 31 points in the NFC Championship game, but disaster at quarterback and turnovers prevented them from controlling the game, like they just had the week before.
Fred Warner reflects on how DeMeco Ryans impacted his game pic.twitter.com/3EzCcbpsr5— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) January 31, 2023
With Ryans becoming the head coach on a six-year deal, Houston could finally be waving goodbye to organizational dysfunction, scapegoating, setting up employees to fail, and the like with such a long-term agreement. With the draft capital and cap space Houston is now in possession of, Ryans will be able to hit the ground running in year one, and there’ll finally be a head coach in Houston who believes they have a chance at turning this thing around.
But, unfortunately, this not a post fawning over Ryans’ accomplishments and destiny to lead the Houston Texans to championship contention, but a post ranking the final 4 teams to still be playing last weekend. Here are my personal power rankings entering the Super Bowl:
- Philadelphia Eagles - Philadelphia’s offensive and defensive line dominated yet another playoff game, and enter the Super Bowl waiting to be truly challenged by their opponent. Haason Reddick and Jevon Hargrave put the early pressure on Brock Purdy, who injured his wrist on the very first series, thrusting Sam Francisco’s fourth quarterback of the season - Josh Johnson - into the starting role in the championship game. Another fumble to end the first half down 21-7, and then ANOTHER quarterback injury for San Francisco to kickstart the second half marked an early victory procession for the Eagles. Now, entering the Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs, continuing that dominance on the line to aid in rushing the ball will be the key to victory.
The Eagles gained the majority of their yards on the ground, and if turnovers (or penalties) can offer them an early lead again, they can lean into the rushing attack all the way to the podium. This was actually one of the sloppiest offensive performances by the Jalen Hurts-led Eagles team, averaging only 4.8 yards per attempt through the air. But, as with many games this year, sometimes it pays more to be lucky than good. Because of their strength on the line and sheer luck, I think the Eagles will win the Super Bowl.
2. Kansas City Chiefs - A fantastic, defensive victory for the Chiefs, who relied less on their superstar quarterback playing on a sprained ankle and more on their defensive line and rookies. Chris Jones, Frank Clark, and George Karlaftis made Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow’s life a living nightmare for the first quarter of the game, and on the most important drive of the game: Cincinnati’s last possession. Despite their offensive line issues, Joe Burrow’s interception, Max Scharping floundering in a big spot like Houston fans are all too used to seeing, and failing to get the rushing attack off the ground, Cincinnati was 60 yards and a field goal away from victory with 2:30 left to play. After a beautiful 23-yard pass to Hayden Hurst on third and 16, they were just a few first downs away from either booting themselves to the Super Bowl, or into overtime. Instead, a short pass to Hayden Hurst for 2 yards, an errant pass to Trenton Irwin, and then a crucial Chris Jones sack given up by Burrow and tackle Hakeem Adeniji sent Cincinnati’s hopes at a return to the Super Bowl circling down the drain. We all know what Mahomes does in a tie game with under a minute left: he throws, scrambles, and just sprints to victory.
Isiah Pacheco continues to be the secret sauce of this offense, but if Kansas City can get even more production out of their defensive backfield of rookies, turnovers can put them over the top. Patrick Mahomes has made a Hall-of-Fame career out of getting out of pressure and extending the play, and if he expects to do the same against the Eagles, he’s going to have to get moving early. But, because of his injury and the strength of Philadelphia’s defensive line, I think the Chiefs will lose the Super Bowl.
3. Cincinnati Bengals - Cincinnati did the impossible and made their tattered offensive line look like a strength against Buffalo, but such luck would not follow them to Kansas City. Hakeem Adeniji and Max Scharping shoulder the most blame in failing to protect Joe Burrow, but the entire line gets the blame for a poor rushing attack. Even though Joe Burrow has usually been the author of Cincinnati’s victories, the Bengals have relied on first down carries from Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine in every game. This time, they only had six first downs on the ground.
Entering the off-season, the Bengals will seek to keep players like Vonn Bell, Jessie Bates, and Germaine Pratt from leaving in free agency while also filling in the depth chart on the offensive line. Cincinnati laid the groundwork for showing other teams how to build a deadly passing offense in just a few years. Now, entering the 2023 offseason, it’s time to copy off the Eagles’ notes on how to create a dominant offensive line.
4. San Francisco 49ers - San Francisco has been fighting the injury bug all season, but a double whammy to their quarterback room during the NFC Championship game was simply too much to bear. They can be happy with how the 49ers’ defense kept them alive into the second half, but after Josh Johnson’s fumble and eventual injury, the game was over. Brock Purdy tearing his UCL and putting his long-term position in the 49ers’ locker room throws salt onto the wound. I guess for a season as tumultuous as this, a crash landing only makes sense, but this was certainly a game San Francisco wishes they would’ve gotten a fair shake out of.
Entering the offseason, the 49ers will have plenty of decisions to make at quarterback, but will likely end up settling with a battle between Purdy and Trey Lance in training camp. Additionally, San Francisco will need to decide how to go about keeping backs Tashaun Gipson and Jimmie Ward - although, I wouldn’t mind either packing their bags and joining DeMeco Ryans in Houston…