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Kyle Shanahan adds fuel to DeMeco Ryans rumors ahead of NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers DeMeco Ryans
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

It can’t be considered too much of as a surprise that San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is among the most-popular candidates of this year’s NFL head coach hiring cycle.

Ryans was a candidate last year before he ultimately returned to San Francisco, leading the league’s top-ranked defense in the process. Now, Ryans seems to be a finalist for four of the five head coach openings around the league.

In talking to the media on Wednesday, mere days ahead of their NFC Championship Game matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talked up Ryans big time.

“I think it starts as a man. He’s the ideal leader, whatever he does. He was that way when he came into Houston as a rookie linebacker. He took over that defense right away. You could tell he was in charge when he was a 21-year-old. He came in here as a quality control [coach], and within like six months, we moved him to linebacker coach.

He’s just always been that guy. And then just watching him over these two years, what he took in his years learning to get there — he runs his system, and then he adjusts every week. He sees how to play an offense. He pays attention to offense and defense. I thought he was ready last year to be a head coach.”

Kyle Shanahan on DeMeco Ryans

Shanahan and Ryans have a relationship that predates their time together in San Francisco. Ryans was a rookie linebacker with the Houston Texans while Shanahan coached wide receivers with the team back in 2006. If anyone knows what the defensive-minded coach brings to the table, it’s his boss.

Related: DeMeco Ryans and top NFL head coach candidates

DeMeco Ryans could be heading to the Denver Broncos

san francisco 49ers' demeco ryans
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While Shanahan noted that he doesn’t want to lose his defensive coordinator, the head coach made it clear that Ryans is ready for a promotion.

All of this comes with Ryans having spurned interview offers from the Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts. This came after he already conducted meet-and-greets with the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos.

In particular, Denver is an intriguing potential destination for Ryans. The tea leaves could also be blowing in this direction with talk of Sean Payton heading to Mile High simmering down and the Broncos having yet to schedule a second round of interviews. Their brass can’t sit down with Ryans until after Sunday’s NFC Championship Game. It’s not hard to read between the lines here.

Ryans’ performance in two seasons as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator since taking over for current New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh in that role speaks for itself.

Opp. PPGOpp. YPGPressure RateYards per PlayDVOA Rank
202121.5 (10th)310 (3rd)24.1% (20th)5.1 (4th)-7.4% (7th)
202215.3 (1st)300.6 (1st)22.5% (8th)5.0 (4th)-14.1% (1st)
2022 defensive stats, via Football Outsiders and Pro Football Reference

As for the Broncos, they are in need of a new head coach after firing Nathaniel Hackett just 15 games into his tenure in that role.

DeMeco Ryans will, however, have to sell Denver’s brass on what he plans to do offensively after Denver finished 32nd in the NFL in scoring last season.

New co-owners Greg Penner and Condoleezza Rice are among those leading the charge in this coaching search. It’s been made clear that building an offense around high-priced future Hall of Famer Russell Wilson must be in the cards. Once Ryans sits down with the Broncos’ brass after Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, this will be a major talking point.