LeBron's first triple-double of season lifts Lakers

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NEW YORK — LeBron James moved within 89 points of breaking the NBA’s career scoring record and climbed into fourth place on the assists list, finishing with a triple-double in his return to Madison Square Garden as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 129-123 in overtime on Tuesday night.

James had 28 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, with the points giving him 38,299 for his career. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the leader with 38,387.

But James’ game has always been about more than scoring, as he proved again Tuesday. He fed Dennis Schroder for a 3-pointer that snapped a 118-all tie with 3:13 remaining, grabbed his 10th rebound later in the extra period and then powered to the basket for a 127-121 lead with 19 seconds to go.

He had earlier moved ahead of Mark Jackson and then Steve Nash into fourth place on the assists list during his first game at Madison Square Garden in three years. James is the fifth player in the shot-clock era to rank in the top five in both career points and assists at the same time, joining Bob Cousy, Dolph Schayes, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.

The triple-double was James’ first of the season and 106th of his career, one shy of tying Jason Kidd for fourth-most all-time, although he did pass Kidd for the most seasons with a triple-double. James became the fourth-oldest player in NBA history with a triple-double and the oldest with a 20-point triple-double.

Anthony Davis added 27 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who had dropped two straight to open their trip. Both James and Davis had sat out their loss Monday in Brooklyn.

Jalen Brunson scored 37 points and Julius Randle had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks.

James’ 3-pointer with 1:41 remaining in regulation gave the Lakers a 114-108 lead, but he then missed two long jumpers that could have put away the game. The Knicks rallied to tie it at 114 on a basket by Brunson, who then stepped in to draw an offensive foul after James fed Davis near the basket. But Randle couldn’t get a shot off in time in the Knicks’ last possession, sending the Lakers to overtime for the second time in three games.

James sat out Monday with what coach Darvin Ham said was left foot soreness, though the Lakers had listed the injury as an ankle. They listed him as questionable to play in the morning, then upgraded James to available after he moved well during a pregame workout.

He certainly didn’t want to miss this one after being hurt two years ago and suspended last season for striking Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart in the face. His last game here was Jan. 22, 2000, when he was days away from passing Kobe Bryant into third place on the career scoring list.

Now the only one left to catch is Abdul-Jabbar, which could happen in the next 10 days.

The game was tied at 90 before James fed Troy Brown Jr. for a 3-pointer with his eighth assist, then set up Thomas Bryant for a dunk that moved him ahead of Jackson and then Nash into fourth place for assists. He has 10,338 assists.

James has already called MSG one of his favorite places to play, and this visit drew a sellout crowd that included celebrities such as Michael J. Fox, Michael B. Jordan, Emma Stone and Chris Rock. Fans filled seats in the lower sections of the arena just to watch James warm up, but he struggled to give them one of his vintage performances once the game began.

He threw up an airball in the second quarter as part of his 2-for-8 start, but made his final two shots of the half, then threw a pass that Schroder heaved in from halfcourt to beat the buzzer and cut it to 53-52 at halftime.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

By |2023-01-31T23:26:23-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

'Grateful' Vandersloot pens goodbye to Sky

Courtney Vandersloot announced Tuesday in a social media post that she won’t be returning to the Chicago Sky, setting the stage for her free agency move to another WNBA team.

Free agents can officially sign with teams beginning Wednesday.

Vandersloot, the No. 3 overall pick in 2011 out of Gonzaga, is one of the top point guards in WNBA history, having led the league in assists per game six times in her 12 seasons in Chicago. She also helped guide the Sky to a WNBA championship in 2021.

“To the Sky organization who drafted the little guard from a mid-major and believed in my from the jump, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Vandersloot wrote on Instagram. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have realized my dreams because of you.

“Although I never planned for this day to come, I have decided it is time for me to pursue a new beginning. I will forever be grateful for the memories I have made during my time here. As I look ahead to a new chapter, with a new team, in a new city, know that Chicago, its fans, and the Sky organization will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s goodbye for now, but thank you forever.”

It has been speculated since the end of last season, when the Sky lost in the semifinals to the Connecticut Sun, that Vandersloot, an unrestricted free agent, might move on this year. Her decision may even be tied in part to another free agent, forward Breanna Stewart, who is deciding between staying with the Seattle Storm and joining the New York Liberty.

Vandersloot and Stewart could opt to play together.

Vandersloot, who turns 34 on Feb. 8, has averaged 10.2 points and 6.6 assists in her WNBA career. Her wife, guard Allie Quigley, is also an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last 10 seasons in Chicago.

Another player from the Sky’s championship squad, Candace Parker, announced Saturday on social media that she would be joining the Las Vegas Aces.

By |2023-01-31T22:11:03-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

Cal fires swim coach McKeever after investigation

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BERKELEY, Calif. — Longtime University of California women’s swimming coach Teri McKeever was fired Tuesday following an investigation into alleged harassment, bullying and verbally abusive conduct, the school said in a statement.

McKeever led the Golden Bears to four NCAA team titles over 29 years. She coached the U.S. women’s swim team at the London Olympics in 2012, the first woman to serve in that role.

Cal Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said in a letter to team and athletic staff that an investigative report by an independent law firm detailed “numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin, and disability discrimination. … The report also details verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

Knowlton said the 482-page report substantiated many allegations of unacceptable behavior and said it was in “the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole” that the program part ways with McKeever.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that the investigation followed a Southern California News Group probe in May that said McKeever “allegedly verbally and emotionally abused, swore at and threatened swimmers on an almost daily basis, pressured athletes to compete or train while injured or dealing with chronic illnesses or eating disorders.”

By |2023-01-31T20:41:18-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

Purdy, Lance focused on recovery, not QB plan

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As they head into an offseason full of quarterback uncertainty, the one thing the San Francisco 49ers know for sure is that they have two signal callers — Brock Purdy and Trey Lance — under contract and recovering from injuries.

As of Tuesday, the Niners have a good idea of when one will return, while the other is still, to some degree, up in the air.

Purdy suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow in the first quarter of Sunday’s 31-7 NFC Championship Game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. An MRI on Monday revealed the tear but Purdy said Tuesday that he is still unsure of which direction his recovery will go. He had more imaging scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s different options in terms of letting it recover, surgery, all these different types of surgeries — repair versus reconstruction — so we still haven’t come to a conclusion about any of that,” Purdy said. “[I’m] working with our medical team now and we’re still trying to come to a conclusion on what I have to do.

“But there’s literally nothing that I know yet for sure that is set in stone.”

Purdy and the Niners hope he will be able to have a surgical UCL repair augmented with an InternalBrace to help reinforce the ligament as it heals. The timeline for recovery from that operation — as opposed to Tommy John surgery, which entails full reconstruction with a tendon graft — would allow Purdy to be back in about six months.

If Purdy could recover on that timeline, he would be ready around the start of training camp.

Purdy said Tuesday, two days removed from the injury, that the elbow is still swollen but feels normal when he is stationary. When he is walking or trying to pick something up, he said, he still feels pain.

With the injury still bothering him, Purdy said he and coach Kyle Shanahan did not discuss the team’s plan for quarterback in 2023. Instead, they focused on how to get him as healthy as possible for next season.

“For me, I just wanted to win at all costs,” Purdy said. “That was still my mindset was just to win and let everything else fall into place. So, for me to claim or say anything in terms of what’s going to happen moving forward, that’s out of my control. I’m going to do what I can to get healthy and be ready to compete come fall.”

As for Lance, there is a realistic expectation he will be ready to go when the Niners begin organized team activities in May. He is supposed to have the walking boot removed from his broken right ankle at the end of this week and has already begun doing some impact training on his foot underwater.

Following a second surgery on the ankle at the beginning of January, Lance said he has better range of motion and is feeling much better. He is expected to be cleared for football activities in three to three and a half weeks. That should lead to him being available for most of the offseason program.

“I plan on being 100% far before OTAs,” Lance said. “I feel like I’m in a really good spot.”

Lance plans to remain in the Bay Area until he is cleared, at which point he will decide where to train this offseason. Like Purdy, Lance said he isn’t thinking much now about how San Francisco’s quarterback situation will play out but he did acknowledge it’s likely to be a big offseason storyline yet again.

“I’m sure it will be a whole story again this year for you guys so I’m super excited for that,” Lance said, laughing. “But I’m excited to get back out there, excited to compete.”

One other significant piece of offseason business the Niners will have to take care of is signing defensive end Nick Bosa to a lucrative contract extension.

Bosa is heading into the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, and is poised to become the highest-paid defensive player in league history. He also knows that he — like tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner and receiver Deebo Samuel did — might have to wait a bit before anything can get done. Those contracts were agreed to and signed in July or August.

“I’m definitely going to have patience and probably not worry about it for some time,” Bosa said. “I’ll just enjoy my time off and get ready to roll next year.

“I’d love to be here for sure. This is a great organization, they treat me as good as you can and I have amazing relationships here, so hopefully.”

By |2023-01-31T20:11:33-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

What does the hiring of Sean Payton mean for Broncos and Saints? Answering the biggest questions

After making the biggest splash move last offseason by trading two first-round and two second-round picks for Russell Wilson, the Denver Broncos were back at it Tuesday with another blockbuster trade.

The Broncos agreed to compensation with the New Orleans Saints in return for Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Payton went 152-89 in his 15 seasons as Saints head coach, including a win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. The Saints will receive the Broncos’ 2023 first-round pick (No. 29 overall) and their 2024 second-round pick for Payton and the Saints’ 2024 third-round selection, sources said.

Denver will hope for better results from this move after Wilson struggled for most of the season. The Broncos finished last in the league, averaging 16.9 points per game, which resulted in first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett being fired after a 4-11 start.

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold, Saints reporter Katherine Terrell and draft analyst Matt Miller break down the deal from all sides.

What’s the history of coaches being traded for first-round draft picks?

Before the Payton trade Tuesday, three coaches had been traded for packages that included a first-rounder:

In 1997, Bill Parcells was traded from Patriots to Jets for four picks (1997 3rd, 1997 4th, 1998 2nd, 1999 1st). In 2000, Bill Belichick was traded from Jets to Patriots for three draft picks (2000 1st, 2001 4th, 2001 7th). The Patriots got two picks (2001 5th, 2002 7th) back from the Jets. In 2002, Jon Gruden was traded from Raiders to Buccaneers for four picks (2002 1st, 2002 2nd, 2003 1st, 2004 2nd) and $8 million.

The Baltimore Colts also ended up getting a first-round pick from the Miami Dolphins for Don Shula. The NFL ruled Miami violated tampering rules in its recruitment of the coach and made them surrender the pick. – ESPN Stats & Analysis

Why did this move make sense for Payton?

Payton loves a challenge and is fond of saying “crisis or carnival,” referring to how a team will respond to the weekly tests that come up during the season. Wilson will be a big part of that challenge. Payton has offered up his plan to “fix” Wilson in public interviews this year. Not only does Payton get a chance to try to return a veteran quarterback to his previous winning form, but he also inherits a unit that finished seventh in total defense. It’s also Payton’s chance to show that he can win without future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees, who was with for 15 seasons in New Orleans. — Terrell

Why did Denver believe it was worth giving up draft picks — including a first-rounder — for Payton?

The fact the Saints were willing to take the No. 29 overall pick was likely a key piece of the deal. General manager George Paton acquired the pick from the Miami Dolphins (the Dolphins originally got it from the San Francisco 49ers) in exchange for Bradley Chubb in November. The Broncos did not have the draft capital of some other teams in the pursuit of Payton because they surrendered five picks, including first- and second-round rounders in 2022 and 2023, as part of the Wilson trade. They had hoped to keep their 2024 first-rounder and not surrender more than one first-rounder in any potential deal for Payton. The willingness of the Saints to agree to a deal that included that 29th pick to go with a second-rounder in 2024 (they don’t have a second-rounder this year) means the Broncos won’t pick until the third round next year, but it was still a price they were willing to pay to get the kind of resume Payton brings with him. — Legwold

Why did the Saints decide this was the right move?

The Saints knew from the day Payton stepped away that he could be back on the sidelines by 2023 — whether it was with them or not. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis didn’t want to prevent Payton from returning, but he also wanted adequate compensation. That compensation would’ve dropped drastically if Payton didn’t find a team until 2024, which would’ve been the final year of his Saints deal. The Saints now get a chance to get back into Day 1 of the draft and won’t walk away empty-handed after losing their coach unexpectedly last year. Their future at quarterback is murky enough that Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan was tweeting his desire for the Saints to draft one minutes after the Payton news broke. The first-round pick could certainly help them get back into the mix – including giving them more draft capital if they wanted to try to trade up to draft a quarterback. — Terrell

What does this mean for Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson?

Wilson called Payton “one of the world’s best” after the Broncos’ win over the Los Angeles Chargers in the season finale and said “the wizardry you would have on the field was magnificent” with Payton’s teams. So, it’s safe to say he’ll be on board with this move. After a career-low 16 touchdown passes in a season when his team finished with the worst record (5-12) of any season in his career, Wilson will be ready to turn the page. When Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner said he wanted the new coach to bring a “culture of accountability,” Penner meant everybody, including Wilson, was going to have to be better in 2023. And Payton will be tasked with making that happen. — Legwold

The Saints now have a first-round pick. What is their biggest need and who could fit there?

The Saints’ biggest need by far is at quarterback. Andy Dalton is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and while Jameis Winston has a year left on the two-year contract he signed in 2022, there’s no guarantee that he will return to New Orleans. But at pick No. 29, I don’t have a late first-round grade on any quarterback in this class. They could pivot to look for upgrades on the defensive line. Keion White (Georgia Tech), Derick Hall (Auburn) and Tuli Tuipulotu (USC) could all be targets for New Orleans, which also owns the No. 40 overall pick early in Round 2. — Miller

How much power, beyond that of a head coach, will Payton wield?

Even as Penner cited the mistakes made this past season, including all of the things that led to Hackett’s firing, he has said Paton would have a significant role in the construction of the roster. Paton was also part of the group Penner had working on the coaching search. Payton has conveyed to the Broncos during the interview process that he is comfortable working with Paton. Both will answer to Penner, so he may have to settle an argument or two along the way, as the Broncos are poised to have what Penner had called a “traditional” setup with the head coach and general manager each answering to the owner. — Legwold

By |2023-01-31T20:11:37-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

NFL will see 'a better version' of Hooker, QB says

MOBILE, Ala. — Former Tennessee star quarterback Hendon Hooker is on track to be healthy in time for his opening NFL training camp this summer, he told ESPN on Tuesday afternoon.

At the Senior Bowl, Hooker flashed the familiar halogen grin that accompanied his rise to stardom at Tennessee the past two seasons. He told ESPN he has begun working out after Dr. Neal S. ElAttrache repaired the torn ACL in his left knee on Dec. 13.

“It will be a better version of Hendon Hooker, the best we’ve seen yet,” he said when asked what he’ll look like upon his return.

Hooker won’t participate in the Senior Bowl game on Saturday, but he accepted an invitation here to meet with NFL teams and further familiar himself with NFL offenses. He’s perhaps the most intriguing player in Mobile this week, as he surged into becoming a top Heisman candidate and potential high-round draft pick with his dominant play for the Vols this season. That searing streak to stardom ended suddenly with a torn ACL on Nov. 20 against South Carolina.

“There were a lot of emotions, missing the game and missing being around my teammates,” he said. “There’s been a lot of jokes and laughter and also going back and watching tape and tearing up.”

Hooker threw for 58 touchdowns and five interceptions the past two seasons at Tennessee and led the Vols to the school to a No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press poll, the highest the Vols had been ranked since 2001. Hooker said that he has met with close to 20 teams, joking that there’s many to count. He said he has had a few “double meetings” with teams but declined to name the teams. He let them know that he’ll be ready for camp this summer and is planning to be ready for full contact by the start of the preseason.

Hooker will not run at Tennessee’s Pro Day on March 30, but he plans to warm up and “stride it out” to show how well he’s moving.

“I feel great,” Hooker said. “I’m moving around. I’m excited to get back to my regular self. My cerebral side has elevated to a whole other level. I’m continuing to build that and my leadership skills and communication skills. I’ll have that chip on my shoulder whenever I get back.”

Hooker has been working out and rehabbing in California. He said after the surgery, there was an adjustment process of learning to walk on crutches, shower and sleep sitting up because of the injury.

He made a point to thank his sister, Nile, for moving out to California with him and help him navigate his comeback. His on-field quarterback training has been done by Steve Calhoun and Jordan Palmer, as he said that throwing while sitting allows him to both experiment with different arm angles and simulate deep balls. He’s working out with fellow college quarterbacks Max Duggan (TCU), Clayton Tune (Houston), Will Levis (Kentucky) and Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA).

“I’m doing really well, putting 100 percent weight on it,” Hooker said. “I’m able to do exercises without my brace. I’ll throw sitting down some. Nothing too crazy on my knee where I’m twisting and turning on it, just taking it slow and all the precautions.”

Hooker said that while out in California in December, he would wake up at 4 a.m. for the Vols’ 7 a.m. Zoom meetings at the Orange Bowl. He said he wanted to understand the game plan to help out Joe Milton, the Tennessee backup, and “be transparent” when they were chatting about the game.

When teams have asked Hooker what kind of player they are getting, he has responded this way: “I want to be smart and learn and want to come in and be extremely competitive. A dynamic guy who is hungry for betterment of himself on and off the field. A dynamic guy in the pocket and a good deep-ball thrower and an accurate thrower. And an athletic player. A competitor.”

By |2023-01-31T18:11:10-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

Sources: Chelsea sign Fernandez for record fee

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Chelsea have agreed to sign Enzo Fernandez from Benfica and will meet the midfielder’s €120 million (£105m) release clause, according to ESPN sources.

Fernandez will move to Chelsea for a Premier League record transfer fee with a contract that runs through 2031, the sources added. The 22-year-old impressed for Argentina as they won the World Cup last year and was named the Young Player of the Tournament.

ESPN reported on Monday, that Fernandez had already agreed personal terms with Chelsea.

He becomes Chelsea’s seventh signing of a busy January transfer window, following Benoit Badiashile, David Datro Fofana, Andrey Santos, Mykhailo Mudryk, Noni Madueke and Malo Gusto into the club.

The deal breaks the previous Premier League record fee of £100m that Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish when he joined from Aston Villa in 2021.

By |2023-01-31T18:11:16-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

DeMeco Ryans, leader of 49ers' top-ranked defense and new Texans head coach

Editor’s note: This story originally ran on Jan. 18. On Tuesday, the Houston Texans agreed to terms to hire DeMeco Ryans as their next head coach.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It didn’t take long after the Texans used the No. 33 pick in the 2006 NFL draft on linebacker DeMeco Ryans for everyone in the organization to recognize something special.

As fate would have it, that Texans coaching staff included a handful of future San Francisco 49ers coaches. A young Kyle Shanahan was in charge of wide receivers; Robert Saleh, the former Niners defensive coordinator, was a defensive assistant; and Johnny Holland, the team’s linebackers coach, held the same role in Houston.

Whenever the team would practice, Shanahan was struck by how quickly Ryans took charge, barking out playcalls, lining up teammates and making plays.

“He came in and ran that defense from day one as a rookie and that always stuck out to me,” Shanahan said.

Saleh was in his first year as a full-time NFL coach and working with the linebackers when Ryans arrived. As he learned the ropes of the job, Saleh couldn’t help but believe Ryans was already working at an advanced level.

“I always felt like he would make a really good football coach because of the way he prepared for and played the game,” Saleh said.

That preparation created plenty of success on the field, as Ryans earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, a first-team All-Pro nod in 2007 and Pro Bowl berths in 2007 and 2009. From 2006 to 2009, only London Fletcher posted more tackles than Ryans’ 518. Ryans finished a 10-year career with 970 tackles, 46 passes defended, 13.5 sacks and seven interceptions in 140 games.

Saleh’s suspicions that Ryans’ approach to playing would translate to coaching have also proved true. Ryans’ rise to become one of the NFL’s hottest head-coaching candidates seems meteoric on the surface.

Ryans spent one season as the quality control coach and two coaching inside linebackers before replacing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who left to become the coach of the New York Jets, in 2021.

But Ryans’ ascent to the doorstep of the NFL’s head-coaching fraternity has actually been brewing for much longer. His grandmother predicted it when Ryans was young, he got a small taste of it after an injury in 2010 and was completely sold late in his career when he embraced a mentorship role for the player drafted to replace him.

Along the way, Ryans has figured out how to use his playing experience to relate to players while asserting himself as a coach unafraid to tell players when they aren’t meeting the standard.

Ryans led a defense that in two seasons with him as coordinator ranks second in the NFL in points (18.9) and yards per game allowed (305.3), fourth in ESPN’s defensive efficiency (60.7) and yards per play (5.04) and fifth in defensive EPA (67.02). His performance earned him interview requests from the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Texans — every team with an opening for their vacant head-coaching positions. He agreed to terms to coach the Texans.

It’s also garnered unanimous praise from those who play for him.

“Just the way he is as a coach and a leader, he’s the best coach I’ve been around,” defensive end Nick Bosa said.


ASK THOSE WHO have been around Ryans what he’s like and you’ll inevitably hear words like positive, calm and even-keeled. Ryans likes to tell players that “energy vampires” aren’t allowed, meaning nobody with a negative attitude is permitted in his meeting rooms.

It’s a character trait Ryans attributes to his mother, affectionately known in his hometown of Bessemer, Alabama, as “Miss Martha.” To support Ryans and his three older siblings, Miss Martha worked at a manufacturing plant in town during the day and a cleaning service in the evening, often returning home long after her kids had gone to bed.

“I think my mom is really quiet and low key,” Ryans said. “She can be just fine sitting in the house or being around everybody and not say much and just feel everything that’s going on. Everybody had tough situations, but she was always just steady through it all. And I think I just get that calming demeanor from her.”

Never did that trait come in handy more than Oct. 17, 2010, when Ryans tore his left Achilles tendon just before halftime of a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The following spring, as Ryans was rehabilitating the injury in Birmingham because of the NFL lockout, he caught up with former Alabama teammate Dennis Alexander.

Alexander had become the coach of Ryans’ alma mater, Bessemer City High, and asked Ryans if he was interested in helping out as defensive coordinator during spring football. Ryans first figured he’d pop over to Bessemer in the afternoons and be home a few hours later.

Instead, Ryans found himself sitting in his house until 9 or 10 p.m., drawing up schemes for a team that had only one spring game to play against an opponent.

It was Ryans’ first taste of coaching, though it had been foretold to him long before that it would someday be his passion.

“My grandmother always told me like, you’ll probably be a coach one day,” Ryans said. As it turned out, that one game, which Bessemer City won, was all it took for Ryans to see what a difference his football knowledge could make.

“To see how excited, how elated those kids were to see the looks on their faces from like being a part of it and just coaching them and putting them in position to make plays, I was like ‘Wow, that was cool.’ That always stuck in my mind.”


FOLLOWING SIX SEASONS with the Texans, Ryans landed with the Philadelphia Eagles after a 2012 trade. When the Eagles hired coach Chip Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis in 2013, that duo leaned on Ryans to lead the way.

After installing his defense in the spring, Davis said the Eagles were about halfway through training camp when he realized Ryans was learning the defense quickly. By the end of the season, Davis was ready to ask more of Ryans than any player he’d ever coached, with the exception of Hall of Famer Sam Mills.

On a given play, Davis would relay two calls — one if the quarterback was under center and one if he was in shotgun — with multiple fronts and coverages to Ryans. It was up to Ryans to identify the formation, keep an eye on any shifts, motions or potential checks and get his teammates lined up correctly to match the call.

“I look back at some of my game plans, I’m like, I wouldn’t even think about doing that right now,” said Davis, who spent 2022 as the Cardinals linebackers coach. “But it was because I had DeMeco that I could.”

As Ryans neared the end of his career in 2015, the Eagles spent a third-round pick on linebacker Jordan Hicks, with the idea of making him Ryans’ replacement. Ryans never shied away from helping younger players but was staring his football mortality in the face for the first time.

Ryans didn’t hesitate to show Hicks the way. The pair was so inseparable from the day that Hicks was drafted that Kelly dubbed Ryans “Mufasa” and Hicks “Simba,” a nod to the movie “The Lion King,” where Mufasa is the wise old lion teaching the young cub how to lead.

Hicks observed Ryans closely, noting everything from how he took notes to how he spoke. And while he recognized how much Ryans helped him in the moment, it wasn’t until more recently he realized the true impact of Ryans’ leadership.

In 2021, the Cardinals drafted Zaven Collins to replace Hicks. Hicks was so turned off by the move that he initially requested a trade but said after reflecting, he couldn’t help but think back to his time learning from Ryans.

“He was as good of a leader as he could possibly be,” said Hicks, who currently plays for the Vikings. “I really channeled that a lot. … I’ve tried to take that into every scenario, every situation, every year … and tried to share that light and spread as much knowledge as possible.”


AFTER ANOTHER ACHILLES tear in 2014, Ryans began plotting his post-football career. During his final season in 2015, former Eagles running back Duce Staley was on Kelly’s staff. He and Ryans began talking about the pros and cons of coaching.

Ryans had heard the negatives — long hours and the constant possibility of moving your family. Ryans also realized that all those who talked bad about the profession were those who aren’t in it.

Staley, who is now the assistant head coach of the Detroit Lions, offered the positives and told Ryans to get into it as soon as possible while he’s still known around the league. About a year after his retirement, Ryans and his family had just moved into a new home in Houston when the phone rang.

It was Saleh, the new 49ers defensive coordinator under Shanahan, asking if Ryans was interested in coaching. He was, but any uncertainty he had was alleviated by Holland, just named the Niners linebackers coach, who told Ryans to give it a try to see how he likes it.

“I know he made some money as a player, so I never knew if we could get him out of Houston and have him come be here quality control here in California,” Shanahan said. “But he really was passionate about coaching and loved football and once he decided to do that, it was about halfway through the year that we realized he wasn’t going to be at quality control very long.”

That realization coincided with an important lesson Ryans learned from Saleh. Saleh says the transition from playing to coaching is usually difficult but Ryans had a “relentless mindset and passion to do it right.”

In theory, Ryans knew all there was to know about playing linebacker. He soon learned that didn’t mean much when it comes to coaching. Every player comes from a different background and takes coaching in different ways.

As Davis told Ryans, he needed to have an answer for every question every player could ask. Holland told Ryans he needed to understand the teaching process that would take a player from a 100-level class to their Ph.D. That wouldn’t happen overnight, and every player learned at their own pace.

“We knew he was going to be special when he asked questions about linebacker play and realized that he couldn’t coach the players the same way that he played the game,” Saleh said. “He took the time to relearn the linebacker position in a way that was teachable at the base level and how to teach different players different things that allow them to be successful in this league.”


BY THE SPRING of 2018, Ryans was still settling into his new life as an NFL coach.

After one season as the defensive quality control coach, Shanahan promoted Ryans to lead the inside linebackers. Ryans still had plenty to learn as he adjusted to his new role, but if there was one thing he knew he had to impart on talented if uncertain rookie Fred Warner, it’s that when you speak to your team, you must do it with conviction.

So, when Warner, who was playing middle linebacker for the first time, stepped into the huddle after an organized team activity and meekly mumbled out a playcall, Ryans stopped the proceedings immediately.

“He grabbed me and he was mad,” Warner said. “He made sure that I knew that as the MIKE ‘backer I say it with authority every time you go out there. I need to take command of the huddle.”

While that was the day Warner found his voice as a middle linebacker, the same might be said for Ryans as a coach.

When Saleh departed for the Jets, there was plenty of speculation about outside candidates to replace him. Shanahan barely considered anyone else, recognizing early on that Ryans had what it took to be the coordinator and, eventually, a head coach.

For Ryans, the biggest adjustment was spreading his attention to the entire defense. The linebackers had been his sole focus for so long, he often had to remind himself to bounce between meeting rooms to make sure he could get time with the defensive backs and defensive linemen.

Those efforts have paid off as Ryans earns rave reviews from every level of the defense.

Defensive lineman Kerry Hyder Jr. lauds Ryans’ ability to treat his players like men while also getting his message across when someone isn’t doing his job. Linebackers Warner and Dre Greenlaw point to Ryans’ ability to eliminate gray area for every player’s assignment from play to play. Defensive back Jimmie Ward says Ryans can easily talk about everything that goes with being in the NFL.

“I think he’s taken the same approach he had as a player into being a coach in terms of just the thirst for knowledge,” Warner said. “He already came into this thing with so much to give because he played at such a high level playing the position. And not all players can go on and be great coaches and translate that knowledge that they have into being a good teacher. But he’s the most amazing teacher ever.”

In some ways, the 49ers were lucky to have Ryans for even a second year as coordinator. He was a strong candidate for the Minnesota Vikings job in 2021 but declined a second interview to remain in San Francisco.

Looking back, Ryans says he didn’t believe the timing was right for him and his family to make the move. This time, Ryans makes it clear he’s not going to jump at an opportunity just because it’s out there. He wants a head-coaching job to be the right match geographically and a fit with ownership and organizational philosophy for him and his family.

And if the right landing spot doesn’t come along this offseason, it won’t be because Ryans isn’t ready. In many ways, both on purpose and not, he’s actually been preparing for this his whole life.

“For me, with the head-coaching thing it’s like, ‘Are you ready man?'” Ryans said. “Yeah, I’m ready to go do it. … It’ll be the first time. But I figured out everything else. I’m pretty sure I’ll figure that out, too.”

— ESPN reporters Rich Cimini and Kevin Seifert contributed to this report

By |2023-01-31T17:56:04-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

Sources: Texans hire 49ers' Ryans as new coach

HOUSTON — The Texans agreed to terms to hire San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their new head coach Tuesday, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Texans and Ryans agreed to a six-year contract, sources told ESPN, to become the franchise’s sixth full-time coach.

The Texans become the first team in NFL history to hire three straight Black coaches.

Ryans had his first interview with the Texans on Jan. 20 and met again with the franchise on Tuesday. Other NFL teams that had requested permission to talk with Ryans about their head-coaching vacancies included the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.

Ryans’ hiring ends a three-week coaching search since the Texans fired Lovie Smith on Jan. 8. Ryans, a former Texans standout linebacker, will be the fourth coach in Houston in four years after Smith and David Culley were each fired after one season.

Former coach and general manager Bill O’Brien was fired after starting the 2020 season 0-4. O’Brien led the Texans for six full seasons before that, and his 52-48 record (.520) leaves him as the only Texans coach over .500.

The franchise hired Nick Caserio as its GM in 2021. Caserio hired Culley (4-13) in 2021 and promoted Smith (3-13-1) from defensive coordinator in 2022.

Now Caserio has hired Ryans, who took over the 49ers’ defensive unit in 2021.

In his first season, the 49ers allowed the third-fewest yards per game (310), and in 2022, San Francisco allowed the fewest points (16.8) and yards (300.6) per game. Ryans’ unit also tied for the second-most takeaways (30).

Ryans’ defense helped lift the 49ers to a 13-4 record in the regular season before they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 31-7 in the NFC Championship Game as the No. 2 seed.

Before becoming a coach, Ryans had a 10-year career with the Texans and Eagles. He was a second-round pick out of Alabama by the Texans in 2006 and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after finishing second in league tackles (156). His 126 solo tackles were second most for a rookie in NFL history.

The following season, Ryans earned second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. The two-time Pro Bowler played for the Texans for six seasons and is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles (479).

Ryans, 38, has spent the past six years coaching; his first role was a defensive quality control coach for the 49ers in 2017 under coach Kyle Shanahan. In 2018, he became the inside linebackers coach, and was elevated to defensive coordinator when Robert Saleh left to become the New York Jets’ head coach in 2021.

One of the biggest tasks for Ryans will be fixing the league’s worst rush defense, which allowed 170.2 yards per game. No team has allowed over 170 rushing yards since the 0-16 Lions (172.1) in 2008. The Texans also have finished 27th in points allowed per game three seasons in a row.

The pass defense was a bright spot for a team that allowed the third-most total yards per game (379.5). The Texans finished 10th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (209.3) and had more interceptions (16) than touchdowns allowed (15).

The team’s 16 interceptions were tied for fourth, and the 15 touchdowns allowed were tied for the fewest.

Beyond fixing the defense’s woes, Ryans must fix the Texans’ offensive struggles and find an answer at quarterback.

The unit averaged 17 points per game (30th), and the Texans’ 19 interceptions were second most. Opening-day starting quarterback Davis Mills had 15 of those in 15 games and was tied for the league high, and Kyle Allen, who started when Mills was benched, threw the other four in two games.

The Texans have two first-round draft picks (No. 2 and No. 12 overall) in the 2023 NFL draft and could use one of those picks on a quarterback. They also could address the position via trade or free agency. The NFL informed teams on Monday that the salary cap will increase to $224.8 million for the 2023 league year. The Texans are estimated to currently have about $40 million in cap space.

By |2023-01-31T17:26:00-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|

Sources: Texans hire 49ers' Ryans as new coach

HOUSTON — The Texans agreed to terms to hire San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as their new head coach Tuesday, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Texans and Ryans agreed to a six-year contract, sources told ESPN, to become the franchise’s sixth full-time coach.

The Texans become the first team in NFL history to hire three straight Black coaches.

Ryans’ hiring ends a three-week long coaching search since the Texans fired Lovie Smith on Jan. 8. Ryans, a former Texans standout linebacker, will be the fourth coach in Houston in four years after Smith and David Culley were each fired after one season.

Former coach and general manager Bill O’Brien was fired after starting the 2020 season 0-4. O’Brien led the Texans for six full seasons before that, and his 52-48 record (.520) leaves him as the only Texans coach over .500.

The franchise hired Nick Caserio as its GM in 2021. Caserio hired Culley (4-13) in 2021 and promoted Smith (3-13-1) from defensive coordinator in 2022.

Now Caserio has hired Ryans, who took over the 49ers defensive unit in 2021.

In his first season, the 49ers allowed the third-fewest yards per game (310), and in 2022, San Francisco allowed the fewest points (16.8) and yards (300.6) per game. Ryans’ unit also tied for the second-most takeaways (30).

Ryans’ defense helped lift the 49ers to a 13-4 record in the regular season before they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 31-7 in the NFC Championship Game as the No. 2 seed.

Before becoming a coach, Ryans had a 10-year career with the Texans and Eagles. He was a second-round pick out of Alabama by the Texans in 2006 and was named Defensive Rookie of the Year after finishing second in league tackles (156). His 126 solo tackles were second-most for a rookie ever.

The following season, Ryans earned second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors. The two-time Pro Bowler played for the Texans for six seasons and is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in tackles (479).

Ryans, 38, has spent the last six years coaching after starting as a defensive quality control coach for the 49ers in 2017 under coach Kyle Shanahan. In 2018, he became the inside linebacker coach and was elevated to defensive coordinator when Robert Saleh left to become the New York Jets’ head coach in 2021.

One of the biggest tasks for Ryans will be fixing the league’s worst rush defense, which allowed 170.2 yards per game. No team has allowed over 170 rushing yards since the 0-16 Lions (172.1) in 2008. The Texans also have finished 27th in points allowed per game three seasons in a row.

The pass defense was a bright spot for a team that allowed the third-most total yards per game (379.5). The Texans finished 10th in passing yards allowed per game (209.3) and had more interceptions (16) than touchdowns allowed (15).

The team’s 16 interceptions were tied for fourth, and the 15 touchdowns allowed were tied for the fewest.

Beyond fixing the defense’s woes, Ryans must fix the Texans’ offensive struggles and find an answer at the quarterback position.

The unit averaged 17 points per game (30th), and the Texans’ 19 interceptions were second most. Opening-day starting quarterback Davis Mills had 15 of those in 15 games and was tied for the league high, and Kyle Allen, who started when Mills was benched, threw the other four in two games.

The Texans have two first-round draft picks (No. 2 and No. 12 overall) in the 2023 NFL draft and could use one of those picks on a quarterback. They also could address the position via trade or free agency. The NFL informed teams that the salary cap will increase to $224.8 million for the 2023 league year. The Texans are estimated to currently have about $40 million in cap space.

By |2023-01-31T16:41:19-05:00January 31st, 2023|News|
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