A second-round pick out of Alabama by the Houston Texans in 2006, Ryans was acquired for a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft by Howie Roseman to serve as the middle linebacker in new defensive coordinator Billy Davis 3-4 scheme.
*spoiler alert* it worked.
Initially paired up with rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks, Ryans was a calming presence in the middle of the Eagles’ defense. He started all but one of the games he appeared in, amassed 334 tackles, five sacks, and five interceptions, and formed a special relationship with another rookie linebacker by the name of Jordan Hicks, who became the Simba to Ryans’ Mufasa in his final season as an NFL player.
If that was the end of the road for Ryans in the NFL, he’d surely go down as a fine player who would be remembered fondly by Eagles fans the world over. But instead, Ryans will be returning to the City of Brotherly Love this weekend as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, opposing the team he once cashed checks from for the fourth time in his career.
But how did Ryans go from being an impressive leader on the field to one of the hottest head coaches in waiting in the NFL today?
It’s always nice to see a former Philadelphia Eagles player make good.
After long being dubbed a coach-on-the-field for his tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles, DeMeco Ryans officially joined the coaching ranks in February of 2017, when he was hired by rookie GM John Lynch as a defensive quality control coach.
From there, Ryans slowly worked his way up the Niners’ hierarchy, becoming the team’s inside linebacker coach from 2018-20. Tasked with coaching up a unit sans any established Pro Bowl talent, Ryans took a keen interest in a then-rookie third-round pick out of BYU by the name of Fred Warner.
From the 49ers official website,
"Over the past three seasons, Ryans has worked closely with LB Fred Warner, who has led the team in tackles each year. In 2020, he earned AP First-Team All-Pro honors and the first Pro Bowl selection of his career. Warner led the 49ers with a career-high 125 tackles and was one of two players in the NFL with 110-or-more tackles (125), five-or-more passes defensed (six), two-or-more interceptions (two), one-or-more forced fumbles (one) and one-or-more fumble recoveries (two)."
Had things remained copasetic, Ryans would have undoubtedly continued on with coaching his former position, but with his immediate superior, Robert Saleh, set to leave town to become the head coach of the New York Jets, Lynch again called the former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: Defensive coordinator.
*spoiler alert* it too has worked.
While the Niners’ defense hit some rough luck in Week 1 after losing both Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley to injury, the unit still racked up 74 total tackles, three interceptions, and three sacks to go with nine QB hits, an interception, and a defensive touchdown by Dre Greenlaw, who also suffered an injury in the game (more on that here).
Make no mistake about it, even if the 49ers’ depleted cornerbacks corps could give the Philadelphia Eagles an edge on the outside, Ryans will surely rack up a ton of interesting pass-rushing looks, creative coverage options, and a steady dose of blitzes from Warner and company.
And the man calling the plays? Yeah, that’d be the man formerly known as Mufasa, who somehow hasn’t traded for Jordan Hicks just yet despite having requested a trade earlier this offseason. Eh, as these things so often go, former Philadelphia Eagles of a feather often find a way to flock together, even if they return to the Linc on the wrong sideline from time to time.