John McClain: Ryans’ mission is to deliver ‘a championship to the city of Houston.’

Feb 2, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans head coach Demeco Ryans speaks to the media during his introductory press conference as general manager Nick Caserio (right) looks on at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

John McClain: Ryans’ mission is to deliver ‘a championship to the city of Houston.’

In 4½ decades of covering the Oilers and Texans, I’ve witnessed 15 head coaches participate in news conferences with the Houston media, including three who were promoted on an interim basis. None matched the kind of passion, vitality, and sincerity that DeMeco Ryans demonstrated on Thursday afternoon.

Addressing an overflow crowd in the team auditorium at NRG Stadium, Ryans used his hour-long introduction as the Texans’ new head coach to generate excitement, create hope and unite a fan base that’s dwindled over the last three disappointing, controversial, and exasperating seasons that saddled the team with a combined 11-38-1 record, causing coaches Bill O’Brien, David Culley, and Lovie Smith to be fired.

“It’s a surreal moment for me, truly a blessing,” Ryans said from the stage he shared with chairman and CEO Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio. “This is outstanding. I’m still trying to believe it. I’ve been coaching for only six years, and for it to turn around this quickly and to be in this position, it’s a dream job because I’m at home in H-Town. It’s my dream job because for me to be the head coach of the team that drafted me, I never could have imagined that.

“I get to work with Nick and Cal to build this team the right way. We have a young team. We have a lot of draft capital. We’re excited to add even more talent to the team. It’s a dream job because we can win here, and we’re going to win here by collaborating, working together, and building it the right way with the right people.”

As he answered questions from the media, Ryans looked around the room and saw 25 former teammates and 10 current players who came to celebrate his coronation as the sixth coach in franchise history. When he walked into the room, they gave him a thunderous ovation.

“We want to deliver a championship to the city of Houston,” Ryans said. “The excitement is real, and I can’t wait to get to coaching. We want to bring a winning team to Houston. We want to bring the fans a team you’re going to be proud of. We’re going to fill up NRG Stadium, and we want you guys to make this truly a home-field advantage for us again.

“To my former teammates here, it’s great to see all of you guys. The work we put in together, it means so much to me to see you guys here. The love and support you’ve given me has been outstanding. I love you guys so much.

To the current players that are here, I can’t wait to get started with you. I’m fired up. This is a young team. We’re on the cusp. We have to add some pieces to what we’re doing. I’m so excited to get to work with you and to build a winning program.”

Four teams showed interest in Ryans as their next head coach. He interviewed with the Broncos on Jan. 19 and the Texans the next day. He cancelled interviews with the Cardinals and Colts.

“I’m thankful for the Broncos (because) we had great interviews,” he said. “Great people there. But when it came down to it, there’s no place I wanted to be more than H-Town. It was an easy pick for me. It was a no-brainer to be here, to be home. It wasn’t a difficult decision at all. It was very easy.”

Ryans, who coached with the 49ers under Kyle Shanahan, was their defensive coordinator the last two years. His defenses ranked third in 2021 and first this season. San Francisco lost in the NFC Championship Game both seasons. He was voted NFL Assistant Coach of the Year this season.

Ryans’ first interview with the Texans was on Zoom. His second was in Houston. Hannah and Cal McNair, and Caserio were at the forefront of the interview process, and they were determined to not let him leave Houston without the job. They gave him a six-year contract to replace Smith.

“It was one of the more impressive interviews, interactions, that I’ve been around,” Caserio said. “The thing about it is he’s genuine. He’s sincere (and) real. By the end of the (Zoom) call, we kind of had some parting words, ‘Do you have anything else you want to leave with us?’ He said, basically, ‘I want to come home. This is my dream job. Let’s make it happen.’ I think it behooves us to take that information and say, ‘Let’s figure out a way.’

“He was impressive in our discussion and interactions. There are so many things that go into being a great head coach. Part of it is learning along the way – leadership, strategy, the ability to connect and lead people — and you start to put all those things together. It was who DeMeco is as a person and a man. I think that resonated with us.”

The McNair family has known Ryans since 2006 when he was the second-round draft choice. He played linebacker for six years with the Texans and four with the Eagles before spending six years coaching with the 49ers.

“I think everything that DeMeco exhibited as a player, what he’s done as a coach, his leadership, his selflessness, his toughness, his team-first mindset, his charisma, and the more time we spent together, it was almost a no-brainer as to who was the right fit for this team (and) this city,” Caserio said. “He’s one of our own. He believes in our program. He has been in our players’ shoes. For him to come home and give us the opportunity to be a partner with him (we’re) certainly grateful and appreciative and can’t wait to get started and work together.”

Ryans is in the process of hiring assistant coaches, including offensive and defensive coordinators.

“We want to find the best staff that complements each other and supports our players,” he said. “We want a very diverse coaching staff, and that’s not only diversity in race but diversity in experience. We want experienced coaches (and) some coaches not so experienced.

“We want coaches who are great teachers. We want guys who bring positive energy and do it in a fun way. We want guys who can connect with players. If you can connect with players, then you can lead players. If you can’t connect, there’s no way you can coach those guys. We want guys who are committed to working together. No egos allowed. No energy vampires allowed. We want a positive culture. We’re going to work together to make sure we’re giving the players everything they need.”

Fans and media are more concerned about the offense than the defense – who the new offensive coordinator’s going to be to replace Pep Hamilton. Last season, the Texans had the worst offense in team history.

“How I envision the offense looking, we want to play with precision, effort, and physicality,” Ryans said. “We want to own the line of scrimmage. We want to establish the run game first, but we also want to be balanced. We want to be able to operate with play-action passes. We also want to be efficient.

“We want to have playmakers we can get the ball to. If it’s not down the field, we want to be able to throw a checkdown and put it in the hands of an explosive playmaker and see him create. Everything about our offense, we want to make sure that we’re adaptable to the players we have, making sure we’re playing to their strengths, getting the ball in our playmakers’ hands and letting them make plays.”

The players Ryans wants will need more than talent.

“We want players that have a special work ethic and a relentless mindset in everything they do,” he said. “That’s what you’re going to see from Texans football. We’re going to be fast, physical, and tough. We want smart players who truly are dedicated to being the best they want to be and guys who are coachable and want to win. And we want to do it in a first-class manner.”

The Texans have the second and 12th picks in the first round of the draft. Caserio and Ryans have an opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback, but they’ve given no indication about what direction they’ll go because there’s still three months left in the evaluation process.

“We have one quarterback on our roster, and we have to add more,” Ryans said about Davis Mills. “The quarterback is just one piece of a team. Yes, we want a great quarterback, but we also need a great offensive line to protect the quarterback. We need great running backs, great tight ends, great receivers. We need a great defense (and) special teams. When it comes to the calling plays, we’re still working through that. Whether I’ll call plays or not, I haven’t made that decision yet.”

Until he hires his staff, Ryans can’t focus on free agency and the draft. Caserio is in charge because he controls final decisions on personnel, but he’ll be working closely with Ryans and try to give his new coach what he needs to be successful.

“What I’ve learned the most about (being a head coach) is it’s all about collaboration,” Ryans said. “What excites me is working with Nick and being aligned and build a team together. When we’re scouting players, it’s the scouts looking at a player, the coaches looking at a player, everybody having their opinion, but we all can come to agreement. If it works for us or not, it’s OK. Everybody has a voice. Everybody will be heard when we talk about players.”

When it comes to the Texans on the field, there’s one voice that needs to be heard the loudest, and it belongs to Ryans, whose return to Houston after 11 years is being celebrated more than any move the team has made since founder Bob McNair was awarded an expansion franchise in 1999.

(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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