DeMeco Ryans has been nothing short of stellar as defensive coordinator.
When Robert Saleh left to become the head coach of the Jets, Ryans had some pretty big shoes to fill. Saleh was a great defensive coordinator for the 49ers leading an elite defense in 2019 and 2020. Stepping in as a first time play caller was going to be a challenge for Ryans stepping into 2021.
However, not only was the challenge met head on by Ryans, he's thriving in the role. It is why he was in discussions of becoming a head coach after one season. Ryans elected to remain with the 49ers and is still doing an incredible job in year two. It is practically a lock that he will be gone after this year and be a head coach somewhere given how he has the defense clicking at a phenomenal level.
But what makes Ryans the perfect head coaching candidate isn't JUST what he does with his defense from a schematic and play calling standpoint. No, it goes way further than that. Ryans is the perfect head coaching candidate because of how he leads his players and gets them into the right mindset to go out there and make plays for him, their teammates, and themselves. Look no further than how he explained his constant positive energy and mentality.
"I can easily harp on all the negative things, the plays that we didn't make or beat guys up," said Ryans. "But that's not going to allow those guys to come back and be confident and make the plays that they're supposed to make, so it's always, for me, it’s always positive energy. No energy vampires allowed. I tell the guys always positive energy, it’s always upbeat, because when they make plays, I want guys enthusiastic about playing football."
Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
No one likes a "negative nancy" in any facet of their lives. The last thing these players, and anyone really, wants is to continually get harped on with negativity. So even though there are some aspects to the 49ers defense and even players independently who need to clean some stuff up, Ryans elects to remain a positive figure. And with that, he can use that positivity in coaching his players up so he can get the best out of them. This can only coerce the players to want to be better for him at that point.
"The game of football is fun. I want guys having fun out there, flying around and most importantly, our guys have to be confident. And you're confident when the energy is high. Everybody's smiling, everybody's having fun. If we're making plays right, that enthusiasm is going to be high, the energy is going to be high and that's when turnovers happen. That's when big hits happen, that's when big plays start to happen when everybody is just bought in and playing for each other.”
Ryans is already talking like a head coach. One of the things that made Saleh such a great candidate for the Jets is the leadership he brings. The Jets were a debacle when Saleh arrived and they desperately needed an adult with refined leadership skills to bring about a culture that players enjoy being a part of. Now he has the Jets with an astonishing winning record at 6-3 in year two of his tenure. Positive and strong leaders, especially ones that know how to build a strong defense/offense, will always thrive in this league.
There is no question in my mind that Ryans will excel at any team he gets hired from. And he WILL have his pick of the litter. Whoever hires him should feel ecstatic that they know their team is going to compete at a high-level and enjoy it. He is a coach that is easy to play for and root for.
The 49ers will surely miss him when he gets his deserved opportunity.