Losing Robert Saleh is a major loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Anytime a great coach leaves a team, it hurts the team and puts pressure on finding their replacement.
However, there was never any panic nor pressure on the 49ers. Finding the successor to Saleh was always within their own doors without worry. Linebackers coach DeMeco Ryans was promoted to defensive coordinator. The promotion of Ryans may seem bold since he has never been in this position before, but one thing is for certain: he is the perfect successor to Saleh. He proved that on Wednesday when he spoke at his OTA presser.
"I think there is a healthy balance but at the end of the day it's all about the players," said Ryans. "For me it's all about the players, and what can they do. Not only what can they do, but what can they excel that at a very high level to where they're not overthinking things, they're able to have their cleats in the ground so to speak and ready to play as fast as possible. And that's one thing that I've learned is just going through playing and coaching for the past couple of years, if no matter what I know what I want to do, it's all about what the players can absorb and what can they go out and execute on the field."
Those words by Ryans should bring excitement to 49ers fans. There are plenty of coaches in the league who are purely stubborn and refuse to play their players' strengths. Whereas you look at Saleh during his tenure with the 49ers, you see how adaptive he was. He had his own vision for a defensive system, but would tweak it to get the optimal balance with his players.
Last season was a perfect example of it. The defense was predicated on playing zone and allowing the pass rush to work with only the occasional blitzes. Saleh immediately worked the defense around into a blanket coverage defense with an increase in blitzes once the pass rush lost Bosa and failed to produce. That is something Ryans understands, as he stated, as a player and a coach. He has been able to see that no matter how brilliant a coach may believe their scheme is, it means nothing if they do not play to their players' strengths.
Saleh did that and emphasized eliminating gray areas, which is what Ryans elaborates to with the "overthinking" in his comments. Getting a player to play off of instinct is what is needed. If Ryans can do that and maintain what Saleh has created while implementing his own wrinkles, then Ryans could even have a chance to elevate the defense.