As expected, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is in high demand.
Ryans has been one of the most popular head-coaching candidates in the NFL and has emerged as the top candidate for the Denver Broncos' opening, 9 News Denver reported Thursday, citing sources.
Broncos owners Carrie Penner, Condoleeza Rice and George Paton met with Ryans during their interview with him last Thursday in the Bay Area and a second meeting with Ryans, per the report, would include other involved owners.
That meeting, of course, would have to come sometime next week after the 49ers are back in the Bay following a matchup with the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday in Philadelphia.
After the Broncos finished the 2022 NFL season with a 5-12 record to solidify their sixth consecutive season without a playoff berth and their fifth straight losing season, Denver fired coach Nathaniel Hackett with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Broncos’ chief executive officer and owner Greg Penner’s goal for his next head coach was to hire someone with previous head-coaching experience. Denver’s three previous hires were all first-time head coaches -- which has not worked out well for the Broncos.
However, Penner said he’d keep an open mind when it came to filling the position with a “dynamic leader” who had an “edge” to him. If you’ve seen Ryans on the 49ers’ sideline during games, you know that’s exactly who he is.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan might agree.
“I think it starts as a man. He's the ideal leader with whatever he does, he was that way when he came in to Houston as a rookie linebacker," Shanahan told reporters Wednesday on some of Ryans' biggest strengths as a coordinator. "He took over that defense right away. You could tell who was in charge when he was a 21-year-old. He came in here as a quality control and within like six months we moved him to linebacker coach and he's always been that guy and then just watching him over these two years what he took in his years learning to get there, how much better he runs the 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 and I hope his wife doesn't get mad, but I hope he's not a head coach next year, but if he is, he more than deserves it.”
Other Broncos' head-coaching candidates include former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and former Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, a source told 9 News Denver, but Ryans is the top candidate.
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The Colts on Monday became the fourth team with a head-coaching vacancy to request permission from the 49ers to interview Ryans. The Broncos, Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals have received permission to speak with him.
Ryans has been the 49ers’ defensive coordinator for the past two seasons and has seen success each season. While his efforts have turned the spotlight on him this season, and rightfully so, the 38-year-old has unfinished business with his top-ranked defense.