After going with an offensive-minded head coach with Nathaniel Hackett, the Denver Broncos ownership might switch gears and put more emphasis on the defensive side of the ball with their next hire.
Troy Renck of Denver7 News reported that Broncos’ ownership met with San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, in person, in the Bay area on Jan. 19th, 2023. Ryans now joins a long list of candidates the Denver organization has talked to, including Sean Payton, David Shaw, Ejiro Evero, Jim Harbaugh and others.
Ryans is a coveted coordinator that has spearheaded a 49ers defense that has been dominant since he took over the position in 2021. Last season, Ryans’s unit finished 7th in total defensive DVOA and finished the 2022 regular season 1st in the same category. The 49ers’ defense is also among the best teams in the NFL when it comes to takeaways. They finished the season 3rd with 30 takeaways, only behind the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys.
The best part of the Broncos team in 2022 was their defense, led by Evero as their coordinator. While their defense is 10th in total defensive DVOA, hiring a coordinator like Ryans as head coach brings higher expectations and proves things can be better.
The Broncos have had defensive-minded head coaches in the past, most recently with Vic Fangio. It will be interesting to monitor where things go from here as the Broncos hope to zero in on their next head coach.
Ryans Is Proclaimed to Be A Players Coach
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Broncos fans that Ryans would be a player-friendly coach. Before becoming a defensive coordinator in San Francisco, Ryans played in the NFL for ten seasons. He spent six years with the Houston Texans before finishing his final four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
During his career, Ryans played in 140 games totaling 970 combined tackles, 72 tackles for loss, 34 quarterback hits, 46 passes defended and seven interceptions. His best season as a pro came as a rookie in 2006 when he won Defensive Player of the Year after leading the league in solo tackles with 126. Ryans was also selected for two Pro Bowls.
One of the players Ryans has molded into an All-Pro is 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa. The edge rusher has been around Ryans since coming into the league in 2019. Speaking with Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, Bosa reiterated why Ryans would be the perfect hire for any team.
“I told him [Ryans] he needs to hold off on those interviews for a few more weeks,” Bosa said. “He’s gonna be an unbelievable head coach at some point. He just knows the feel of the players and he listens to players when he needs to…he’s as good as it gets. I said earlier, maybe a couple weeks ago that he’s the best defensive coordinator I’ve ever been around, hands down.”
Denver has All-Pros of their own on defense that could learn a lot from a coach like Ryans. Cornerback Patrick Surtain II, Justin Simmons and even Randy Gregory, when healthy, could become game wreckers with a coach like Ryans.
Denver Broncos Historical Success Under A Defensive Coach
As mentioned at the top, the last defensive head coach with the Broncos was Vic Fangio from 2019 to 2021, finishing with a record of 19-30. Before Fangio, Vance Joseph didn’t produce a winning season for the Broncos during his tenure, winning just 11 games in two seasons.
The last defensive-minded coach to succeed was John Fox, the head coach in Denver from 2011 to 2014. Fox had three winning seasons and brought the Broncos to the Super Bowl in 2013, which they lost to quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. During the 2013 season, the Denver defense finished with the 15th-ranked defense in DVOA.
If Ryans is hired for the head coaching position, it will be interesting to see who he picks as his offensive coordinator. The defense would be in good hands, but all eyes would be focused on improving the offense. With Ryans as the defensive coordinator in San Francisco, the offense has been in the top ten in offensive DVOA both seasons. Suppose the Broncos’ offense can become middle of the pack next season in the NFL and Ryans elevates the level of the defense. In that case, there will be a lot of optimism surrounding the Broncos and their postseason aspirations.