Summer 2024

Guided by faith in Jesus, DeMeco Ryans has stout 49ers defense primed for playoff run

It’ll be one of the league’s best defenses staring across the way at arguably the league’s best offense when the San Francisco 49ers face the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC wild-card round on Sunday.

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The 49ers (10-7) enter the game third in the NFL in fewest yards allowed (310.0 per game) and 10th in the league in fewest points allowed (21.5). On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys (12-5) enter the game No. 1 in both yards (407.0) and points per game (31.2).

With his team coming in hot after winning seven of its last nine games, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans hopes his No. 6-seeded squad is able to force the third-seeded Cowboys to blink first.

“No matter who we’re playing, I know Dallas, they have a lot of playmakers, every position,” Ryans said on Thursday. “They’re loaded with talent all across the board, from the offensive line out to the receivers, quarterback, everybody; they have talented players. But for us, it’s not about who we’re playing. It’s just about us and our technique, our fundamentals, owning those things and doing them to the best of our ability, playing as fast as we can possibly play, as hard as we can possibly play.”

After starting off the season 2-4, reporters were questioning head coach Kyle Shanahan about Ryans’s effectiveness as the defensive coordinator. Now, in just his first season as defensive coordinator, Ryans is seeing his name pop up for potential head-coach openings, just as Shanahan predicted last year.

“Really, at the end of the day, I don’t pay much attention to it,” Ryans said Thursday of the job rumors. “It really doesn’t matter to me. It’s just about the guys in this locker room and what do we put together, game-plan-wise. How are guys going out and executing and what do they think? That’s the most important thing to me.

“When it comes to the job, who thinks it’s good, who doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. It’s about our guys in this building.”

Ryans, 37, has risen quickly through the coaching ranks. After playing for 10 years in the NFL, he retired in 2015 and joined San Francisco’s staff as a defensive quality control coach in 2017. He was promoted to inside linebackers coach in 2018.

His faith in Jesus has guided him throughout his coaching journey. He’s active in coaches’ Bible studies and knows that staying grounded in God’s Word will keep him focused in his job.

“It just reminds you that you got to keep the main thing the main thing,” Ryans told Sports Spectrum in 2020 about the Bible study. “That’s why we’re all here, and that’s by the grace of God. Why are we in the position that we’re in? Why are we able to do what we do? That’s by God blessing us with this awesome opportunity to reach back and teach these young men, help these young men, but we have to stay grounded in the Word. We can get caught up in our work, a lot of long hours, a lot of long days, but you can’t forget what sustains us, and that’s Jesus Christ.”

Ryans credited his mother for instilling in him the importance of faith when he was a child, and as he got older he realized it needed be the most important thing.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m so happy for my mom instilling that into me at a young age,” Ryans told Sports Spectrum, “because now as I continue to grow older and older, that’s the only thing that truly matters. That’s the only thing, our relationship with Jesus Christ.”

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