Even from 2,000 miles away, DeMeco Ryans has kept tabs on his former team.
The former 49ers defensive coordinator told reporters Thursday that even though he was busy in his first season as head coach of the Houston Texans, he always made sure to support his boys in red and gold. And as San Francisco prepares for its Super Bowl LVIII matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium, Ryans' loyalty lies with the Faithful.
"Yeah for sure, still watch the Niners," Ryans said. "A lot of love and appreciation for the organization, first off, to Kyle [Shanahan] for just giving me an opportunity to start my coaching career there. And so many great players there I had an opportunity to work with there. Fred [Warner], Dre [Greenlaw] -- I'm pulling for them.
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"This is their year. You just watch the entire year, how the season has gone, I think they're destined to get it done this year."
Ryans spent six seasons with the 49ers after being hired in 2017 as a defensive quality control coach. Four years later, he was promoted to defensive coordinator where he led the NFL's top-ranked defense during the 2022 season and was recognized as the league's Assistant Coach of the Year at NFL Honors.
While Ryans' leadership helped the players on the field, his close-knit relationships with each of his guys might have been even more impactful.
San Francisco 49ers
Warner, for instance, grew extremely close to Ryans over the years, crediting the player he is today to Ryans' guidance.
In his first season with the Texans, Ryans led Houston to a seven-victory improvement, the AFC South title and a first-round playoff victory. One first-place vote stood between him and The Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year Award for the 2023 season, with Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski winning the tiebreaker and, ultimately, the honor.
Nonetheless, his impact in his first year in Houston -- just like with the 49ers in the Bay -- is evident. And he'll be rooting for his boys Sunday to bring home the franchise's sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.