Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator DeMeco Ryans

Press Conference – January 27, 2022

San Francisco 49ers

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I wanted to ask you about the third-and-11, it was the Packers last offensive play when Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw deep for Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams. One of my questions was S Talanoa Hufanga played just two snaps, why was he in on that play? Pretty good play. And also, was the fact that, obviously he started closer to the line of scrimmage, do you have a sense that Rodgers thought Davante might have been singled up on CB Dontae Johnson on the play?

“Yeah, Huf is in just because during that time, that’s the particular call that I wanted with that personnel out on the field. And as for what Rodgers was thinking at the time, I’m not sure. I’m just happy that it worked and we were able to get off the field.”

About I guess it would be Week 13, it seemed like the pass rush sort of went to a different level over the final six games. And then obviously getting five sacks in the last two playoff games. Just curious if there was something that clicked, if there was a change in emphasis or mindset with the pass rush? I know you guys emphasize it all the time, obviously, but just wondering if there was something specific and also how much DL Arik Armstead and his play over that stretch had to do with that?

“I think with the pass rush and just overall, our guys just continued to get better at working together. So when we work our stunts, our games, just collectively as a unit, guys just continue to get better. And it’s just a matter of just getting reps. And we have a lot of new guys we added to our team and it goes to [DL] Samson [Ebukam] and also [DL] Arden [Key] inside as well. So those guys just had to get more familiar, more comfortable with what we’re asking them to do. And I think now they are comfortable and you see the pass rush just being more effective now.”

Wondering about bulletin board material that once upon a time was a big thing in sports and in the NFL. I’m wondering if that was anything that you paid attention to when you were a player, whether it’s something you utilize or see the players utilizing now, or is it something from a kind of a bygone era?

“Yeah, I think now with the way there’s a continuous flow of information. So when it comes to bulletin board material, you have so many different outlets, so many different people saying different things. So I don’t know if nowadays there is some particular bulletin board material that can get guys pumped up. And I’ve always looked at bulletin board material as how long is that going to last? You’re there when the game is on the line, third, fourth quarter, nobody’s thinking about what was said throughout the week. And if you have the guys and it takes bulletin board material to get them to play harder or to do their job better, then you’ve probably got the wrong guys out there. We think for our guys, we have a great group of guys, great group of men who just love playing football. And it doesn’t matter what anyone says on the outside. There’s no bulletin board material to make us play better. We want to be our best every time we step out on the field. So what’s said it really doesn’t matter, so I think for now in this generation, maybe it helps some guys, but I feel like that’s a bygone of a past generation there.”

Obviously, you worked with LB Fred warner a lot in your previous position. When you move over to coordinator and you’ve got new responsibilities and things, how beneficial has it been for you to have a guy who not only you’ve worked with, but played the same position you played, who can kind of be your eyes and ears on the field? And how do you think that’s grown as the season has gone on?

“It’s been great to have Fred. Training him from a rookie to where he is now, I know he knows the position. He knows the ins and outs of the position, he knows the techniques that I’m asking him to do. Now it’s just been awesome to work with him. We have a really great relationship, on the field and off the field. So I love Fred. Fred is the guy that really gets our defense going. Without him, we couldn’t do a lot of the things we do just because of the communication piece. It’s huge, being that guy in the middle and he just does an awesome job of communicating to the front guys, the D-Line and also to the back end guys. He ties everything together. He ties everyone together, so without him we wouldn’t be in this position we’re in now, if it wasn’t for Fred.”

DL Jordan Willis had quite a game in Green Bay. What have you seen from him? Not that we weren’t expecting it or it’s a surprise, but it seems like he’s had a huge growth period kind leading up to that game?

“Yeah Jordan, he actually had a really great training camp. He was one of our better guys in training camp and it was just unfortunate that he had the suspension and he had to miss time. But Jordan has been doing this early on in training camp. So it’s no surprise. It’s just a matter of missing football for such an extended period of time. It’s just a matter of getting back, used to it, getting the muscle-memory back, so to speak. So Jordan just, he’s been continuously getting better and better and better each week. And what a game, Jordan won us that game because of the play that he made and I’m so happy for him. To be away from us for so long and to be here at this point in the playoffs and to come up with such a huge play for our team, I couldn’t be more excited for anyone than Jordan man. It was just huge play on a huge stage, so I’m happy he was able to get the recognition and credit that he deserves for making a big play for us.”

Fred told us that he had some words with the defense after that first drive in the Packers game. Do you count on him as the player on the field to do that?

“Yeah, I do. He got to them before I can get to them. So I was happy to hear Fred, going up and down, talking to the defensive linemen, the linebackers and the secondary. I was happy to hear him, just continue to encourage the guys and just tell them that they didn’t do anything special. We just were not on point with our execution, our technique and fundamentals during that first drive. And we allowed them to go down the field, it seems like just easily. And he knows that’s not how we play defense and that wasn’t us. So Fred did a great job of snapping the guys back very quickly and we needed that. And that’s what leadership looks like. Fred is not demeaning anyone. It wasn’t pointing fingers. It was just an encouragement from their leader and the guys responded and they responded very well.”

You and special teams coordinator Richard Hightower were on the Texans way back in the day. I think he was just a coaching assistant, maybe at the time. What do you remember about him back then and where you guys both are now? Do you ever trade stories from back in the day?

“Yeah, with me and coach Hightower, I think we came into the league together at the same time, he was helping, a defensive assistant there. A story about coach Hightower, back then we didn’t have the communication on defense at the time, so all our calls had to be hand signaled in. So I remember me and coach Hightower, we sat next to each other in the meetings and we came up with all of the defensive signals together. So it’s just so cool to fast forward from 2006 to here now, and to see where he is and just his growth as a coach and just his leadership style, the way he’s able to lead our guys, it’s phenomenal to watch him work. Just the energy that he brings every day. I’m so happy for him. It is really cool to see where he is now. And he’s just a tremendous coach and I’m happy that we have him here with the Niners, because he’s doing an excellent job for us.”

I don’t know if you know this, but there’s been a lot of kind of concern about your cornerback situation throughout the year. Like, ‘oh, this guy’s not ready, he’s going to get exposed’ or whatever. I know there’s a lot that goes into having a good secondary, pass rush and all that. But I just wanted to ask you about the fact that you’ve got DB Jimmie Ward, S Jaquiski Tartt and CB K’Waun Williams, who’ve been in this system for so long, and they’re such veterans, their communication and everything, how key have they been to some of your overall success?

“Yeah, I think that was one of the most important things for me, getting this job as a defense coordinator, to be able to sign back free agents like Tartt, K’Waun, to get [CB Emmanuel Moseley] E-Man back, that was very vital because I knew the guys, they had a core standing, a base of what I wanted to do defensively and they had done it for such a long time and they’ve done it together for a long time, so there wouldn’t be a huge communication hurdle with those guys. They’ve played a lot of ball together. That’s what’s allowed us to, guys interchange, we’ve changed guys out at the corner position, but our safeties and Kay-Kay at the nickel position those guys have been a mainstay for us at least four years. And it’s probably is the most ball that Tartt and Jimmie has played, together in a season. So it’s just for them to be healthy all throughout the year, that’s allowed us to play the way we’ve played, because the safety position is the most important piece. They’re the erasers. If anything breaks loose, they’re up front, those guys can erase. Just like Tartt man, I don’t know if he’s getting much recognition, but the play that he made for us in that Packer game, it’s what our defense is all up about. Like that effort play when the huge 70-yard pass broke out, to see Tartt and his effort on that play, that’s what our defense is all about. That’s what we thrive on. Having Tartt back there to make that play. If we don’t get that, who’s to say we’re in this position, that we’re even here this week and for Jimmie to come in and block that kick for us, it’s not only on defense, but they’re showing up on special teams as well. Those guys are very vital to the success of our team.”

Fred said yesterday, the way you’re calling plays, especially of late, is just unreal and then he talked about your calling plays, they’re executing them in clutch moments, and there’s a level of trust being built and developed between you and this defense. What is that level of trust?

“It’s a level of trust that’s just continued to grow throughout the year. I think there is a growth process with that trust, trusting that players are going to be in the position, where they’re supposed to be when you need them there most. And it’s just grown throughout the season. And not only the level of trust with me, but I know that our players trust each other, which is the most important aspect of playing defense. Guys have to trust each other. They have to know that everybody’s going to execute their job flawlessly and they’re going to be where they’re supposed to be. And they’re going to play as hard as they can. They’re going to do it as fast as they can. So that trust amongst the players, amongst the coaches, it’s all come to exactly where it needs to be right at the right moment. And I call it, but it’s not about the calls. It’s about those guys just executing the calls. That’s what matters most. It doesn’t matter what I call, they bring any call to life, just the way they play. And I’m so proud to coach these guys with the way they go out and operate every day.”