John McClain: NFL rules keep Ryans, Gannon, Steichen from interviewing with Texans before championship games

September 18, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans before the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

John McClain: NFL rules keep Ryans, Gannon, Steichen from interviewing with Texans before championship games

The four teams left standing in the race to play in Super Bowl 57 are the best teams in the NFL. Fans have exciting, intriguing matchups between the Bengals and Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game and the 49ers and Eagles in the NFC Championship Games.

Texans’ fans are keeping a close eye on the San Francisco-Philadelphia game. 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is a leading candidate to replace Lovie Smith as the Texans’ head coach, but he’s unable to be interviewed a second time this week because of NFL rules. The same goes for Eagles’ coordinators Shane Steichen (offense) and Jonathan Gannon (defense), both of whom also interviewed with the Texans.

General manager Nick Caserio and chairman and CEO Cal McNair will have to begin their second round of interviews in Houston without Ryans, Steichen, and Gannon until next week.

Ryans’ defense – the best in the NFL this season – helped the 49ers eliminate the Cowboys 19-12 at Levi Stadium. It was San Francisco’s 12th consecutive victory. The last time the 49ers lost was Oct. 23 to Kansas City. The 49ers shut down the Cowboys’ running game and intercepted quarterback Dak Prescott two times.

The Eagles, who lost the two games at the end of the season without injured quarterback Jalen Hurts, are favored by 3½ points after clobbering the Giants 38-7 in the most impressive performance of the playoffs. The Eagles earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage, and their balanced offense is going to be the toughest test for Ryans’ defense that allowed 16.3 points per game in the regular season and 17.5 in playoff victories over Seattle and Dallas.

The Eagles defeated the Giants for the third time this season, generating 268 yards rushing. Hurts threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, showing he’s recovered from the shoulder injury that plagued him near the end of the season.

Philadelphia’s defense led the NFL with 70 sacks this season, including double digits for its four starting linemen. The Eagles added five more sacks – all by linemen — against the Giants when they harassed quarterback Daniel Jones from start to finish.

The Eagles’ pass rush is so powerful it could do what other defenses have been unable to do – hand San Francisco rookie quarterback Brock Purdy his first defeat. Since replacing the injured Jimmy Garoppolo, Purdy has a 7-0 record. He’s the first rookie quarterback to win his first seven games without a loss since Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.

Cincinnati was the only underdog to win over the weekend. The Bengals pulverized the Bills so decisively in the snow at Buffalo it was hard to remember Cincinnati wasn’t favored. The Bengals’ 27-10 domination of the Bills was more lopsided than the score indicated.

Led by quarterback Joe Burrow, the Bengals have played so well in their 10-game winning streak they may win their first Super Bowl. They’ve reached the AFC Championship Game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history.

The Bengals are playing so impressively, and, coupled with the high ankle sprain suffered by Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes, they’re favored by 1½ points. The Bengals, who’ve covered the last nine times they’ve been an underdog, haven’t lost since Oct. 31 when Cleveland defeated them. Other than New England, the Bengals are trying to become the first team to lose a Super Bowl and return the next year since the Bills lost four in a row in the early 1990s.

Despite getting injured in the Chiefs’ 27-20 victory over the Jaguars, Mahomes still threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns. He won’t be close to 100%. Even if he were, the Bengals might still be favored because they’ve dominated the Chiefs over the last 13 months.

In 2021, the Bengals beat the Chiefs 34-31 in the regular season and 27-24 in overtime in the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bengals defeated the Chiefs 27-24 this season.

In their last three games against each other, Burrow has thrown eight touchdown passes and one interception. He’s averaged 327.3 yards. Mahomes has six touchdown passes, two interceptions, and a 265.6 average.

No quarterback is hotter than Burrow. He’s 5-1 in the playoffs the last two seasons, with the only defeat to the Rams in the Super Bowl. He turned Buffalo into his personal winter wonderland by torching the Bills for 242 yards and two touchdowns without an interception in the driving snowstorm.

The AFC Championship Game features Burrow and Mahomes, the best quarterbacks in the NFL, even though Mahomes won’t be close to full strength. The NFC Championship showcases Hurts and the Eagles’ outstanding running game against Ryans’ dominating defense.

Texans’ fans should be rooting for Ryans, but all they really want to know is will he be the team’s next head coach? We could find out next week.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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