Robert Saleh to face ex-protege, Texans coach DeMeco Ryans


DeMeco Ryans was the Texans’ second-round pick in 2006 when Robert Saleh, then Houston’s assistant linebackers coach, first took note of the Texans’ new head coach.

Saleh told a story Friday of how Ryans stood out in OTAs that year, when Ryans came in as a weakside linebacker before Houston’s middle linebacker went down.

“We were like, ‘Well, let’s see if DeMeco can do it,’” Saleh said before the Jets practiced on Friday.

“And he goes in there and the communication goes from six to 12, just off the charts,” Saleh said of how Ryans adapted to the position. “We were like, ‘Well, we found our [middle linebacker]. He went out and won Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’s just a very special talent, a special mind.”

After Ryans retired as a player, Saleh became the defensive coordinator for the 49ers and put Ryans on his staff, as quality control coach, with Kyle Shanahan running the show.

Four years later, Saleh left San Francisco to take the Jets’ head job and Ryans replaced him as defensive coordinator before becoming head coach in Houston.

Saleh first hired Demeco Ryans in 2017 as a low-level coach with the 49ers
Saleh first hired Demeco Ryans in 2017 as a low-level coach with the 49ers. AP

“I learned how to coach from being under Saleh,” Ryans told reporters this week of his former coaching staffmate. “He taught me a lot when it comes to scheme, when it came to just handling players, game-planning. I learned a lot from Saleh and owe a lot to him. And that’s probably the reason why I’m standing here before you, because of him just taking me under his wing.”

“He knows how to evolve day-to-day,’’ Saleh said of Ryans, the favorite to be named NFL Coach of the Year. “You just knew [with] his demeanor, the way he talked to people [and] treated people, he was always going to be something special.”

Ryans has used that skill set to get Houston into the playoff picture in his first season as head coach, with the Texans just a year removed from a 3-13-1 record that got them the second pick in the draft.

With that pick, Houston selected C.J. Stroud, who has exceeded nearly all expectations — and significantly outplayed the top overall pick in last year’s draft, Carolina’s Bryce Young.

Ryans and Stroud appear to be on their way toward big things in Houston, which is something that hasn’t happened with Saleh and the Jets.

Saleh was Houston's assistant linebackers coach when Ryans was their second-round pick in 2006.
Saleh was Houston’s assistant linebackers coach when Ryans was their second-round
pick in 2006. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Saleh has been hurt by Zach Wilson’s underperformance after being the second pick in the 2021 draft and then Aaron Rodgers going down with a torn Achilles just four plays into this season.

Not surprisingly, Saleh didn’t want to go too far down the road with the contrasts he and his former protégé have had in the quarterback department.

“Stability at the quarterback position, we’re always chasing it,” Saleh said of NFL teams. “But I’ll leave that [analysis] to you.”

This will be the first time the ex-colleagues go up against each other, which will bring challenges to both teams.

“There are a lot of similarities, from a language standpoint, signal standpoint, call standpoint, technique, rules,” Saleh said. “All of it is damn near the same. [But] you don’t want to overthink it because it always comes back to us and our ability to execute.”

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