First-year coach Demeco Ryans turns Texans around with relentless mentality

HOUSTON (AP) — DeMeco Ryans was in high school when a coach told him that if he wanted to pursue a career in football, he would have to show great energy on every single snap.

Ryans took that message to heart and now in his first year as coach of the Houston Texans, he has demanded his team demonstrate the same relentless mentality. It has catapulted the Texans (11-7) from one of the NFL's worst teams to a spot in the divisional playoffs Saturday at top-seeded Baltimore, where a win would put them in the AFC title game for the first time.

“It always resonated with me, like man, when you fit in, you have to do something different. Do something that other people aren't willing to do,'' Ryans said. “A lot of guys aren't willing to run, play with a lot of effort, play as physically as they can every single snap...So, when you do that, and you have a whole team that does that So it comes out on tape and people around the league really respect what you do.''

Ryan returned to Houston this season after being drafted by the Texans in the second round in 2006, winning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and spending his first six seasons with the team as a linebacker. The Texans have made the team relevant for the first time in years after amassing just 11 wins over the past three seasons under three different head coaches and one interim coach.

Bill O'Brien was fired after the Texans started the 2020 season 0-4 and Romeo Crennel finished the campaign 4-12. David Culley came next and was let go after a 4-13 season in 2021, before Lovie Smith went 3-13-1 last season and was fired.

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Although Ryan, known by the nickname "Cap" as the team's undisputed captain or leader during his playing days in Houston, was hired last January, few outside the building expected the new coach to be so Will change things soon. ,

The Texans, who won the AFC South, were predicted to finish last in the division and oddsmakers put their over/under on a win at 6½. But those inside NRG Stadium can already see better days ahead with the hiring of Ryans, who spent the last two seasons as San Francisco's defensive coordinator.

John Weeks is Houston's long snapper who is the longest-tenured player on the team and spent his first two seasons as Ryan's teammate in 2010 and 2011. He saw a change as soon as Ryans took over.

“It was immediate,” Weeks said. “Coach's hiring brought a lot of new energy to the building and then what he and (general manager) Nick (Caserio) were able to do with the draft, bringing in all the young talent... I think we all knew there was a Once we started hanging out and once we started clicking, we felt like we had something that could be special."

The 39-year-old Ryans is often seen jumping and screaming on the sideline after a big play, looking like he's one of the players celebrating more than the coach.

Players say that energy is contagious.

Defensive back Kareem Jackson also spent two years playing with Ryans in Houston and has enjoyed seeing the players' reaction to his role as coach after rejoining the Texans last month.

"When he was a player, he was a guy you wanted to play with, you wanted to go out and do your job for him because he came in with a lot of energy," Jackson said. “And it's the same way now that he's a coach, the energy he brings, his positivity, his aura, you want to play for that kind of coach. “It makes it easier to come in, execute, and want to be here.”

Of course, their success is tied to the performance of rookie quarterback CJ Stroud, the second overall pick in the draft. Stroud threw for 4,108 yards with 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions in the regular season, helping the Texans return to the playoffs for the first time since 2019.

Ryans and Stroud connected almost immediately, and the quarterback has credited Ryans for making his transition to the NFL easier.

"Our mentality is really similar, I think how bad we want to win, how hard we work – we know how much focus it takes to win games," Stroud said. “We come from winning cultures and winning teams, so it was up to us to really lead this team forward.”

Stroud added, "I appreciate him because he holds me to a standard and I know I hold him to a standard, but he's always lived up to that standard." "I never had to question anything, and it's been really great to learn and grow with him."

And as the Texans prepare for one of the biggest games in franchise history on Saturday, where they'll try to advance to the conference championship after going 0-4 in their previous divisional matchup, Ryans' message hasn't changed. Is.

He said, "For me, I always want the team to play football the way I see football – the way I think it should be played." “I think football should be played with passion, I think it should be played with energy, and I think, when you get the opportunity to do that, you should give everything you have to the game because You don't know when your last game will be."

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