Sean Pendergast

Houston Texans Head Coaching Search: Why Not DeMeco Ryans?

Nick Caserio can bring back a lot of the disenfranchised fans by hiring DeMeco Ryans as the next Texans head coach.
Nick Caserio can bring back a lot of the disenfranchised fans by hiring DeMeco Ryans as the next Texans head coach. Screen grab from Twitter (Mark Berman, FOX 26)
Right now, there are eight NFL teams searching for a new head coach. That is a normal number for a league that cycles through about 25 percent of its head coaches each offseason. It's now been two weeks, though, since the regular season ended and none of the head coaching vacancies have been filled. That is most assuredly NOT normal, as the dominos tend to fall pretty quickly after the season ends.

For whatever reason, teams are taking their time this offseason, which is smart. Filling the head coaching void will be the most important decision these teams make this offseason. For the Houston Texans, the importance of getting this hire right is magnified because they are just days removed from pulling the plug on the David Culley Era after just one season.

Culley was what he was — an affable placeholder, who managed football games like he was every bit of the 66 years old on his driver's license.  He was a disaster in some of the most crucial ways that you evaluate a head coach. So where are we right now with the Texans' search, as we wake up on Monday morning here in late January?

Who all have the Texans interviewed?
As of this writing, there have been five candidates interviewed with one more, Rams offensive coordinator (and former Patriots draft choice in 2008) Kevin O'Connell, requested. Former Dolphins head coach (and former Patriots defensive coordinator) Brian Flores was the first interview the Texans conducted, the day after firing Culley. From there, the team has interviewed Chargers OC Joe Lombardi, former Steelers wide receiver and FAU WR coach Hines Ward, Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon, and former journeyman QB Josh McCown. No other candidates have surfaced in any reports, but that can change in one tweet.

Who is the frontrunner?
If we were putting the five gentlemen who have interviewed into categories, let's just get one out of the way — Ward has zero chance at the job. That interview feels like a favor. Lombardi is interesting, mostly because (a) he spent a ton of time with the Saints working for Sean Payton, and (b) he is the grandson of the legendary Vince Lombardi. I feel he is long shot, though. Flores will likely land a job this cycle if he wants it, as he is also a candidate in Chicago and with the Giants. That leaves Gannon and McCown. For what's worth, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com had this to say about Gannon in a column that ran on Friday:

One of the hottest names out there is that of Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who I'm told made a very strong impression in his interview with the Texans and is considered by some in that building to be the current front-runner for the job. A head-coach job in this cycle would represent a rapid rise for Gannon, who was the Colts' defensive backs coach two years ago and is coming off his first season as a coordinator.
Gannon also has great interest from at least two other teams with openings, so if the Texans landed him, it would be in part because they somehow convinced him that a lot fo the noise about drama in the building NRG Stadium is just that — noise. Of course, this is also a team that much fo the league seems convinced is going to hire Josh McCown, who has coached exactly zero NFL games in ANY capacity. So let's go there for a minute....

How real is this Josh McCown possibility?
Look, with the Houston Texans in 2022, anything is possible, even hiring a journeyman quarterback with zero coaching experience to fill the most important job opening in team history. If you don't think this could happen, then you've just stopped paying attention to this organization. This is McCown's second interview for the head coaching job, as he got an interview in last year's cycle, too. Ultimately, if McCown landed on the staff of the new head coach as a coordinator or position coach, that feels more logical, and I would be fairly certain that whaevert fans who are still left rooting for this team might burn the stadium to the ground if McCown gets this job, mostly because McCown is a card carrying F.O.J.E. (Friend of Jack Easterby).
Why not DeMeco Ryans?
If you're looking for a decision that could unite and reinvigorate the fan base, maybe even bring back some disenfranchised seasons ticket holders — basically, if you're looking for the polar opposite of hiring McCown — the Texans' hiring former Pro Bowl LB and current San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans would do just that. Ryans is a franchise legend, yes, but he is also imminently qualified for the job, and would come in with major buzz, having just held Packers QB Aaron Rodgers to 10 points and under 300 yards of total offense in a divisional round upset this past weekend. Ryans is interviewing this week for the Vikings' opening, so he may be on the move sooner rather than later, but if he winds up somewhere else without even an interview from the Texans, this fan base will not be happy.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast