It didn't take long for the San Francisco 49ers to find the heir to former coveted defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. On Thursday, the New York Jets announced that they agreed in principle for Saleh to become their 20th head coach in franchise history.
Four days later, San Francisco announced the promotion of former linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans to fill the 49ers vacancy.
Here are five things to know about the 49ers new defensive coordinator:
1. All-Pro Experience
Prior to the start of his coaching career, Ryans spent 10 years in the NFL between the Houston Texans (2006-11) and Philadelphia Eagles (2012-15). Ryans earned AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 and received First-Team All-Pro honors the ensuing season. Originally drafted in the second round (33rd overall) by the Texans in the 2006 NFL Draft, the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker finished his career with 971 total tackles, 13.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and seven interceptions, including one for a touchdown.
2. College Standout
A native of Bessemer, AL, Ryans played linebacker at the University of Alabama (2002-05). As a senior, he was a unanimous All-American selection, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and earned First-Team All-SEC honors in 2005. Ryans also earned defensive MVP honors in the 2006 Cotton Bowl and was selected as the 2005 Lott Trophy recipient for his combination of athletic excellence and off-the-field achievements. He was also named to the 2006 class of the NCAA Top Eight Award. Other collegiate achievements include, 2005 Consensus First-Team All-American, 2005 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, 2005 Bednarik Trophy Semifinalist, 2005 Butkus Award Finalist, 2005 Draddy Award Finalist, 2005 Nagurski Award Finalist, 2005 Lombardi Award Semifinalist and 2004 Second-Team All-SEC.
3. Started from the Bottom
Ryans began his coaching career just four seasons ago with San Francisco. Ryans joined the 49ers new regime under Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch in 2017 as a defensive quality control coach. The following season, he was promoted to inside linebackers coach, which he held for the past three seasons.
4. The Evolution of All-Pro Fred
Ryans was credited with the development of San Francisco's former third-round pick Fred Warner. Warner earned his first-career All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2020 after appearing in all 16 games and leading San Francisco's defense with 125 total tackles (ranked 10th in the NFL), while adding two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one forced fumble, a sack and seven quarterback hits.
According to Pro Football Focus, Warner earned an 88.6 overall grade on the season, PFF's best-graded linebacker in the league, with a significant gap between himself and the next closest player (Seattle Seahawks Bobby Wagner – 82.9). His passer rating allowed of 81.4 when targeted was 25 points lower than the average linebacker target.
"He's just such a smart guy, one of the smartest minds I've been around," Warner said of Ryans on the 49ers Unscripted Podcast. "I put him up there with Saleh. Just the fact that DeMeco, playing at such a high level in the NFL, you already have so much respect for a guy like that. But to be able to teach the way he does. I always respect coaches who have the ability to teach just because it's so easy to just yell at somebody. But somebody who can actually sit down with you and actually go through, 'Okay, why did you do this wrong' or 'what techniques do you need to use' and really break it down for you.
"Your players respond to you so much more and he's taking that mindset that he had in the league as a linebacker and brought it over to being a coach. So, when you see the way I play or Dre Greenlaw or Azeez Al-Shaair, anybody who goes out there on Sundays, it's a direct reflection of how he coaches and the type of player that he was."
5. Ahead of His Time
At just 36 years old, Ryans now becomes the youngest defensive coordinator in the NFL. He supplants Adam Zimmer (36), who serves as the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings, by six months.
Click here to get to know the 49ers new offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel.