Feb 2, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans head coach Demeco Ryans listens to a question from the media during his introductory press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

John McClain: Ryans believes Texans have to earn prime-time appearance after this season’s snub

It’s not the first time DeMeco Ryans has been insulted, but when it comes to the Texans’ schedule, he hopes it’s the last.

The Texans, who finished 3-13-1 in their one season under fired coach Lovie Smith, are one of four teams that didn’t merit a prime-time game this season, joining the Colts, Cardinals, and Falcons.

Ryans wouldn’t admit to being insulted, of course, but he did address the topic after the first of the Texans’ two-day minicamp.

“We’re excited about the schedule and where we are,” he said Friday. “Not having any prime-time games, that’s the one thing we kind of look forward to. One thing I’ve learned, as a team, we have to earn our right to be in those prime-time moments. It’s a good opportunity for our team to put our head down, work and prove we belong.”

Which tells us a lot about Ryans and the kind of head coach he’s determined to be: If you want something bad enough, you should work hard enough to earn it. That’s the kind of work ethic the Texans are expected to have under their first-year head coach.

“It’s not about showing the NFL anything,” he said about the prime-time snub. “It’s about us, as a team, working. And when you humble yourself and you work, you’re deserving of those things. Then they’ll come to you. So that’s what it does for me — the internal motivation as opposed to external. It’s about who we’re going to be as a team. What are we going to represent when we line up on Sundays?”

The NFL schedule-makers made it tough on the Texans when it comes to Ryans’ first game. A trip to Baltimore, where they are 0-6, against quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens is a difficult assignment, to say the least. The second game against Indianapolis is Ryans’ first at NRG Stadium as the Texans’ head coach.

“You’re always excited to see where that first game is, and we get the opportunity to go to Baltimore versus a very tough team,” Ryans said. “Lamar Jackson – (it’s) going to be a tough matchup. They added some firepower to the offense this offseason. Great challenge for us to start out. We’re excited about that.”

And, naturally, Ryans will be excited about coaching before the home fans against the Colts in a game that could attract extra attention because of rookie quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson, the second and fourth overall picks in the draft. Not to mention Ryans and Shane Steichen being new coaches.

“(I’m) more excited about the home opener where we get the opportunity to play in front of our fans, and, hopefully, we can go against our (AFC South) opponent and put on a good show for the fans,” he said.

The Texans put on a good show Friday when Ryans and his staff welcomed nine draft choices, nine undrafted free agents, and four players participating on a tryout basis. The first day on the field lasted about an hour, and it’s usually an orientation to help the rookies find their way around NRG Stadium and Methodist Training Center.

Reporters covering practice kept a close eye on Stroud and outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr., the two first-round picks. Receiver Tank Dell, the third-round pick from the University of Houston, is always going to get attention because of his size (5-8, 165), talent and his background with the Cougars.

“They’re eager and excited to work,” Ryans said. “They’re hungry to get better. What we tried to get accomplished was for our guys to get acclimated to what we’re doing. There’s a lot of different communication – guys getting in the huddle, saying a play call (and) coming out of the huddle. It’s the simple things they have to get used to that’s different from the college game, where a lot of things are coming from the sideline, a lot of pictures, signal-based things, and they’re not used to verbalizing and communicating a lot.

“It’s like we’re taking them back a couple steps to huddling, making sure they’re speaking loudly in the huddle, offensively and defensively, and making sure the quarterback and linebackers are commanding those huddles.

It’s about adjustment. It’s the speed of the game. Everyone is fast. Everything has to speed up a tick, so that’s one hurdle the guys have to overcome. A good day is everybody working hard (and) coming back in with no injuries. That’s a great rookie minicamp — keeping everyone healthy.”

Stroud, Anderson, Dell, receiver Xavier Hutchinson, centers Juice Scruggs and Jarrett Patterson, defensive end Dylan Horton, linebacker Henry To’Oto’o and safety Brandon Hill are the draft choices who are participating.

Last year, three undrafted rookies – defensive tackle Kurt Hinish, linebacker Jake Hansen and fullback Troy Hairston — made the team. That gives hope this season to undrafted free agents like running back Xazavian Valladay, defensive end Ali Gaye, receiver Jesse Matthews and safety Darius Joiner.

“It’s exciting to get on the grass and work with guys,” Ryans said. “That’s where I thrive. Being a head coach, I have to learn how to step back a little and let the assistants do most of the hands-on work. If I see a point or two to implement, I’ll step in. It’s awesome for me to see (assistants) work – that energy they bring to practice. Our coaches have done an outstanding job.”

Ryans was asked what he remembers about the first day of his rookie minicamp in 2006 when Gary Kubiak and Rick Smith were in their first season as head coach and general manager.

“I don’t remember much of rookie minicamp,” he said. “I remember the spring practices and summer practices. I remember how physical practices were when we were in shorts and helmets and how fast things were moving for me. It was a different speed, and I had to get acclimated quickly if I wanted to keep up.”

Ryans kept up quite well. Well enough to be voted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in the first year of his 10-year playing career. Seventeen years later, he’s a rookie again, feeling like a playful pup. With free agency and the draft out of the way, Ryans is where he’s the most comfortable – on the field with players and coaches and trying to mold them into winners who, eventually, can help the Texans return to the playoffs for the first time since 2019.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for GallerySports.com. 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 SportsRadio610.com).

Exit mobile version