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DeMeco Ryans as top NFL head coach candidate: Looking at 3 perfect landing spots

Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker and current San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans was one of the top NFL head coach candidates last cycle.

Ryans drew interest from the Minnesota Vikings, among other teams, before ultimately being passed up on.

That will not be the case following this season. Ryans has his 49ers defense ranked No. 1 in the league in total yards and points allowed. San Francisco has not yielded a second-half point in each of its past four games, all wins. The team hasn’t given up a single point in the past 93 minutes of football action.

Ryans, 38, will be an NFL head coach next season. That much is known. In fact, he will likely have his pick of the litter. Below, we look at three perfect landing spots for the defensive whiz and respected figure.

Related: Sportsnaut’s NFL defense rankings heading into Week 13

DeMeco Ryans heads back to the Houston Texans

houston texans hire demeco ryans
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ryans was a second-round pick of the Texans back in 2006 after a brilliant college career at Alabama. He played six seasons with Houston, earning Pro Bowl nods in 2007 and 2009. While a lot of things have changed regarding the Texans since then, there’s a decent chance that they’ll now be looking for a fourth head coach in as many years with Lovie Smith having this team at 1-9-1 on the season.

Ryans’ experience as a play-caller on defense has proven valuable during his short time as an assistant coach in the NFL. He also has the young pieces in place to turn around Houston’s historically bad defense. That includes rookies cornerback Derek Stiingley Jr. and Jalen Pitre. Just look at how the likes of Charvarius Ward and Talanoa Hufanga have played for San Francisco this season. The only question here is whether Ryans would want to join a downtrodden organization with other options likely available to him.

Related: Top candidates to replace Matt Rhule as Carolina Panthers head coach

Carolina Panthers add to potentially dominant defense

It must be noted that Carolina’s 4-8 record this season is not an indictment on its defense. This unit has played exceedingly well under less-than-ideal circumstances given the performance of its offense. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a mere 88.1 passer rating against this unit. Carolina has also given up a total of 50 points over the past three games.

San Francisco’s defense under Ryans this season ranks first in points allowed, first in yards given up, 10th in pressure rate and first in yards per play. Sure a lot of that has to do with the personnel it boasts in the likes of Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Charvarius Ward, Jimmie Ward and Talanoa Hufanga. But it’s not like Ryans’ scheme hasn’t played a role in this.

Carolina could ultimately decide to keep interim head coach Steve Wilks after firing Matt Rhule. Though, it might make more sense to go with a young head man who displays fire Ryans has in San Francisco. With a young core group of defenders including Brian Burns, Derrick Brown, Jaycee Horn and Jeremy Chinn, Ryans would have a lot to work with in Carolina. If he brings on a good offensive mind to run that side of the ball, things could come together relatively quickly.

Related: Sportsnaut’s Week 13 NFL power rankings

DeMeco Ryans heads to the Cleveland Browns

demeco ryans nfl head coach candidate
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

We have no idea how long Kevin Stefanski will be with Cleveland. The team is in the midst of a second consecutive disappointing season after earning a playoff spot in his first year. Drama has taken hold following the acquisition of Deshaun Watson. There’s a lack of draft capital stemming from the trade for the aforementioned Watson.

What we do know is that Browns fans are not happy about this year’s iteration of the team. Should Cleveland’s brass decide to go in another direction, there would not be a better fit than Ryans. That could be said for both sides.

Imagine Ryans working with a defense that includes Pro Bowlers Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. His scheme seems to be ideal for both star players.

What’s even more interesting here is who DeMeco Ryans would bring with him to Cleveland to help run the Watson-led offense. While San Francisco is void of a true offensive coordinator following the departure of Mike McDaniel, someone like passing-game coordinator Bobby Slowik would be absolutely ideal.

He’s worked with Kyle Shanahan since the 2017 season and understands full well the nuances of the head coach’s complex passing scheme. In turn, that would do wonders for Watson on the other side of the ball.