Texans coach, former Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans named to Senior Bowl Hall of Fame

Texans coach honored

Houston Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans talks with reporters during an AFC coaches availability at the NFL owners meetings, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

HOUSTON – Texans coach DeMeco Ryans, a former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl linebacker who led the team to an AFC South division title last year, was named to the Senior Bowl all-star game Hall of Fame.

Ryans played in the 2006 Senior Bowl game.

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The other inductees for the Class of 2024: Marty Lyons (1979), Carson Palmer (2003), Eric Weddle (2007) and Roddy White (2005).

“Being from Alabama, it was a huge honor to get the invite and participate in the 2006 Senior Bowl,” Ryans said in a statement. “I’m thankful to have played my last collegiate game in front of my home state fans. This game provided me a pivotal opportunity as a draft prospect to prove myself against the best competition in college football. Now as a coach, I continue to follow the game closely to evaluate the top talent in the draft each year. Now, as a coach, I continue to follow the game closely to evaluate the top talent in the draft each year. This game helped me as a player many years ago, and it is still assisting players in reaching their dream of playing in the NFL.”

Ryans is a former Texans second-round draft pick who was named to two Pro Bowls while playing for the Texans.

He was named Pro Football Writers of America NFL Coach of the Year and finished second for NFL Coach of the Year in balloting to Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski

Ryans engineered a dramatic turnaround, galvanizing a losing team with his leadership.

He lifted the team to an AFC South division title, going 11-8 one year after they finished 3-13-1 under former coach Lovie Smith.

The McNair family nailed this hire as Ryans won a playoff game against the Cleveland Browns, and improved by six wins to become the seventh head coach since 2019 to improve by at least six wins since the previous year. The Texans are the second team in NFL history to have a winning record after three consecutive seasons of less than four wins.

With Ryans calling the defense, the former NFL Assistant Coach of the Year, led the Texans to finishing sixth in rushing defense, allowing 96.6 yards per game after finishing last in 2022, seventh in passing defense (245.5) and 11th in points allowed (20.8)

“I feel good about our season and what we were able to accomplish,” Ryans said after the season ended in an AFC divisional round playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. “As I told our guys, just be proud of what we were able to do. This league is a year-to-year business, and you just always embrace the moments that you have with the people that you’re around because, as we know, teams change, staffs change, a lot of change happens on a year-to-year basis.

“So, just embrace that. Live in the ‘now,’ but really be proud of what we were able to accomplish this year. Moving into the future and next year, we like where we are with the young nucleus of guys that we have. I feel like we have a good group to build off of, and you still have to add more pieces. You’re always adding and always looking to acquire talent and get better, and that’s where we’ll look to spend our offseason. Who can we find to help us get better?”

Although the resurgent Texans ultimately fell short during a lopsided 34-10 AFC divisional round playoff game defeat at M&T Bank Stadium as they failed to reach the AFC championship game for the fifth time in the postseason, they did build a rock-solid foundation this season as Ryans boosted the organization and the city and quarterback C.J. Stroud delivered arguably the best rookie season in NFL history. A year ago, before the return of Ryans, a former Texans Pro Bowl linebacker, and the arrival of Stroud, a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist at Ohio State drafted second overall, the Texans finished 3-13-1. Now, they’re a winning team.

“I think this team has grown a whole lot,” wide receiver Robert Woods said. “We found out who we are as a team. We established a Texans culture and been able to implement that. You see that on the field. I know everyone is happy for where we’ve come from last year, not many wins. A full turnaround of the team and culture, that’s what we expected getting DeMeco and C.J.

“We expected a turnaround. This team has established who we are. We believe in who we are. This year is a total confidence building. Everyone in this room believes in Texans football, believes in ourselves, believes in C.J. This team is only going up.”

It was a season defined by dramatic growth in Ryans’ first season, matching the combined victory total of the previous three seasons as he and Stroud became the first first-year coach and rookie quarterback tandem in NFL history to win a division title and Stroud joined Tom Brady and Joe Montana as the only passers in league history to lead the NFL in passing yards per game and touchdown-to-interception ratio.

When an organization has the pivotal head coach and quarterback positions figured out, the future is definitely bright.


Ryans’ belief in how to play the game of football was instilled in him back in high school with a passionate mentality and strong leadership skills that are now embodied by the AFC South division champion Texans.

Ryans’ return to Houston has engineered a dramatic turnaround in a franchise that had clearly lost its way, lifting the Texans through a renaissance of hard-nosed play and the fast development of Stroud.

“I had a coach that told me if you want to make it, you have to make sure you show up around the football every single snap,” Ryans said. “I know I wanted to go play college football. To do that, what I learned from him was, ‘Hey, you’ve got to play with tremendous effort every single snap, so you can show up and look different.’ You’ve got to look special. When they cut the tape on, are you special or are you just fitting in? Are you just another player out there?’

“That always resonated with me, like, man, when you suit up, you got to do something that’s different. Do something that others aren’t willing to do. A lot of people aren’t willing to run, play with great effort, play as physical as they can play. Every single snap? People aren’t willing to do that, so when you do it, and you have an entire team that does it, it jumps off the tape and people all around the league truly respect what you do.”

#Texans coach DeMeco Ryans on unselfish nature of the team and buy-in factor @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/h10J3Q5em4

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) January 15, 2024

Respect has been earned by the Texans in their transformation from worst to first.

Ryans matched the amount of victories combined in the previous three seasons under O’Brien, interim coach Romeo Crennel, Smith and David Culley.

And the Texans, under Ryans’ leadership, have emerged as a tougher, harder-hitting squad that remains poised in crucial moments.

“DeMeco is a perfect guy for this job,” said Stroud, who joined Tom Brady and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to lead the league in passing yards per game and touchdown-to-interception ratio. “He brings something out of his players that it’s indescribable just like that mental stability, that toughness that he talks about. We have really similar mindsets I feel of how bad we want to win, how hard we work, the focus that we know it takes to win games.

“We come from winning cultures and winning teams, so really it was up to us to get this team going. I appreciate him because he holds me to a standard and I know I hold him to one, but he’s always met that standard. I’ve never had to question anything, and it’s been really cool to learn and grow with him.”

Known as ‘Cap,’ when he played for the Texans as a team captain who set the standard for the entire team with his enthusiastic, but serious style, Ryans’ exuberance for big plays is unmistakable. When Texans linebacker Christian Harris and cornerback Steven Nelson delivered interceptions for touchdowns in an AFC wild-card playoff win over the Cleveland Browns, Ryans was running down the sideline and jumping into the air to celebrate the pair of pick-sixes.

When the Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts on the road to position themselves for the division title as Ryans and Stroud became the first rookie head coach and quarterback tandem to accomplish that milestone in NFL history, he took a long moment to lean against a wall outside the visitors’ locker room. Ryans was reflecting, taking a pause for gratitude to soak up the experience.

The Texans weren’t expected to be this successful. They were projected by most to win six or seven games and finish in last place in the AFC South. Instead, they became instant winners under Ryans. It’s proof that leadership matters a ton.

“For me, I always want the team to just play football how I see football, how I think it should be played,” Ryans said. “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 it, you should give everything you have to the game because you don’t know when your last play will be.

“I like where our team is right now. The way we play, we finish the right way. We play with great effort, and we enjoy playing with each other. We enjoy seeing our brothers make plays. We enjoy the success of others, and that’s how I truly believe the game should be played.”

Relatable, credible and charismatic, the former Pro Bowl linebacker has been an ideal fit for a franchise that had grown way too accustomed to losing.

Ryans was at the heart of a resurgent season.

“For me, when you talk about my leadership approach, it’s all about positive reinforcement,” Ryans said. “It’s all about positive energy. It’s all about just getting better one day at a time and that’s what I try to instill in all of our guys – just a get better mentality. I think our guys have taken that on.

“Each and every week we’ve gotten better. Always things to improve on, things to clean up, but all I want is just our guys to continue to do their best and strive to get better every single day.”

One year ago, the Texans were circling the drain toward the end of another season with no meaningful games and the conversation surrounding the team focused on needing to continue a lengthy rebuild.

The Texans had fired their head coach for the third consecutive year before recruiting Ryans to come home.

Ryans’ return began with a suggestion that the McNair family try to get the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year as the architect of the San Francisco 49ers’ top-ranked defense.

Ultimately, Texans chairman and CEO Cal McNair, his wife, foundation vice president Hannah McNair and general manager Nick Caserio zeroed in on Ryans and they hired him while facing a competing offer from the Denver Broncos.

“The McNair family has been awesome,” Ryans said. “You talk about support from your ownership, they’ve been outstanding with their support. Whatever we’ve asked, whatever we’ve needed from their end, they’ve been open-arms. And it’s truly one of the reasons why I chose to come here is just that they want to create that family environment, and that’s what it’s truly felt like.

“It’s felt like family from Day 1, and they’ve shown that throughout the entire year. They’re with us through the ups and downs. They’re with us, and that’s very important to have an ownership group who truly cares not only about the wins and losses, but they care about the people and the organization. I think that’s what sets the McNair family apart from others, because they have truly gracious.”

Now, the Texans are enjoying a complete turnaround terms of relevance and improvement on the field with the arrival of Ryans galvanizing the organization.

Ryans’ leadership has been instrumental to the upgraded record, injecting toughness and higher standards for the team along with the incredible play of Stroud.

The Texans have emerged with a harder-hitting defense and became more explosive on offense despite weathering multiple season-ending injuries, including dynamic rookie wide receiver Tank Dell to a broken fibula. Under the direction of Ryans, they are a winning team again.

“It’s been quite a turnaround,” Cal McNair said. “The players have responded. They play for him. They play hard. They go out and they expect to win no matter who’s out on the field.

“With DeMeco he was a leader right away. It’s sort of an overnight success that took several years to get here. We had to stay the course and we knew how to get to where we wanted. This is just a start, so we are really happy right now.”

When the Texans hired Ryans a year ago, he had to restore interest and pride in the local football team.

And Ryans and the players have been winning the fans back one game at a time.

“I think, when I took over the job here, one thing I wanted to instill in the entire city was pride back into our team here,” Ryans said. “So, I want people around the city to be proud of the Texans, be able to wear their Texans gear and wear it proud. So, I’m starting to see a lot of Texans gear around the city.

“Starting to see a lot of smiles when we go out to restaurants. A lot of people are excited about the Texans and what the men in this locker room have done on the field to get this city excited about the Texans again, and that’s what it’s all about. Our guys have done a tremendous job of regaining that respect, regaining that pride in our team, and that’s one thing I wanted to do when I took over here.”

Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com

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