As a first-year assistant coach in the NFL, Mike McDaniel noticed something unique about another rookie that season.
McDaniel joined the Houston Texans in 2006 to serve as an offensive assistant under then-coordinator Kyle Shanahan. On the other side of the ball, the Texans lined up rookie linebacker DeMeco Ryans, the first pick of the second round. Ryans started every game of his first four NFL seasons.
“From the jump, here’s a rookie linebacker that’s playing the (middle) linebacker position and calling the entire defense,” McDaniel said.
Ryans played 10 NFL seasons. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was selected to two Pro Bowls in his career.
He took a year off after his career ended with the Philadelphia Eagles. Then, Ryans joined Shanahan’s staff in 2017 with the 49ers as an entry-level assistant. He served as linebackers coach the past three seasons before getting the promotion this offseason to defensive coordinator.
Ryans took over after Robert Saleh’s departure to become New York Jets’ head coach.
At the same time, McDaniel was promoted from run game coordinator to offensive coordinator after Mike LaFleur joined Saleh’s staff.
McDaniel said he has long considered Ryans as an individual who was destined for success in the sport after his playing career concluded.
“At every stage, the various teams he played, he was an extension of the coaching staff,” McDaniel said of Ryans. “He became Rookie of the Year. He is built for this. I think he has an unbelievable rapport with the players and really through the whole process.
“I know the whole team is excited to have him as the coordinator for the defense.”