How 49ers drafting Mitchell taught Ryans valuable coaching lesson


DeMeco Ryans was introduced as the Houston Texans' new head coach Thursday with plenty of fanfare, and it didn't take long for the former 49ers defensive coordinator to assure fans their team is in good hands.

The 38-year-old shared with reporters the many ways San Francisco prepared him to be an NFL coach -- one of which included a valuable lesson in talent evaluation involving 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell.

"What I've learned most about [the front-office side of coaching], it's all about collaboration," Ryans said as he sat alongside Texans owner Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio. "... Everybody has a voice, and everybody will be heard when we talk about players.

"When I think about this position here and I think about building a team, it's me being in the draft room for my first year as the defensive coordinator. I'm looking there, and I'm a former linebacker, and man, I wanted to get some 'backers ... We were at a point in the draft, sixth round, where we're there and there are two linebackers on the draft board for us. I'm like, 'Ah, I really want a linebacker,' but I also know that -- is this the right thing for our team?"

Ryans wanted a linebacker in the 2021 NFL Draft. Enter Mitchell, the running back San Francisco ended up drafting No. 194 overall.


"So, we look at a highlight tape, pop this running back up and it's Elijah Mitchell," Ryans continued. "I'm watching him and I'm like, 'Wow! Man, this dude is fast. This dude can help us.' I know I want the linebacker, selfishly, but I see a running back who can truly help our team.

"So I say, '[49ers coach] Kyle [Shanahan], let's take the running back.' "

Ryans' first draft as the 49ers' defensive coordinator taught him that NFL leadership positions are about putting your own desires to the side and doing what's best for the team.

RELATED: Warner, Bosa share how Ryans' lasting 49ers impact won't fade

His selflessness ended up paying dividends, as Mitchell went on to break the 49ers' single-season rookie rushing record during his first year with San Francisco and helped the team reach the NFC Championship Game.

Now, Ryans and his unselfish nature will look to make history of his own in Houston as he attempts to take the Texans from worst to first in 2023.

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