- Programming note: NFL Honors airs on NBC Bay Area at 9 p.m. PT on Thursday night.
PHOENIX — The top assistant coach in the NFL is an assistant coach no longer.
The 49ers benefited from having DeMeco Ryans on staff as defensive coordinator for the past two seasons. Under Ryans’ direction, the 49ers had the NFL’s top-ranked defense during the 2022 season.
On Thursday, Ryans was recognized as the NFL’s Assistant Coach of the Year at NFL Honors.
Ryans was named the winner over fellow finalists over Detroit offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and Philadelphia offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
Ryans parlayed his successes as 49ers defensive coordinator into his new position as head coach of the Houston Texans.
“I love DeMeco,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said last week. “He is one of the best coaches I've ever been around, best people I've ever been around.
“It’s more than deserved and more than earned. And I think they made the best hire by far that was available because DeMeco is going to be a great one. He already has been.”
Ryans’ new job came as no surprise to the men he coached, including NFL Defensive Player of Year Nick Bosa.
"Just the way he is as a coach and a leader is, he’s the best coach I’ve been around,” Bosa said late in the season.
Ryans played 10 seasons in the NFL with Houston and Philadelphia. After concluding his playing career in 2015, he joined Kyle Shanahan’s first staff with the 49ers in 2017 as an entry-level quality control coach.
Ryans, 38, was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator after the New York Jets hired Robert Saleh as head coach in 2021.
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What separated Ryans was his ability to find ways to keep his players prepared and motivated over the course of a long season, Bosa said.
“I think he has really figured out how to perfectly push us but not push us too hard and not give us too much credit,” Bosa said.
In addition to Ryans' win, edge rusher Nick Bosa was named 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Shanahan (NFL Coach of the Year), Brock Purdy (NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year) and Christian McCaffrey (NFL Comeback Player of the Year) did not take home awards Thursday night.