When first-year Texans coach DeMeco Ryans looked at his team prior to the season, he really had no idea what the record would be after six games.
His process wouldn’t let him think of the progress in terms of record, so the impressive 3-3 start the Texans sit at coming out the bye-week never entered Ryans’ thoughts.
“My thoughts are just one week at a time, so I don’t look at it in totality like that. Like, ‘Oh six weeks in, where will we be?’ We are where we deserve to be,” Ryans said. “We’ve won some tough games as it’s been said, and we’ve lost some close ones that probably looking back we should’ve won. But it doesn’t matter. We are exactly where we should be at this time.”
The early thought process is that the rebuilding Texans are ahead of schedule. The Texans, coming off an impressive 20-13 win over the New Orleans Saints heading into last week’s bye-week, have notched victories over playoff contenders Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.
They currently sit in second place in the AFC South and have already equaled their win total of a season ago with 11 games remaining.
Much of the Texans’ impressive start, which includes wins in three of their last four games, has been credited to rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and Ryans. But that may be oversimplifying things quite a bit.
Ryans and his always positive demeanor have seemed to revive the energy and culture around the franchise in ways his last two predecessors David Culley and Lovie Smith could not in their first and only seasons on the job.
“I wasn’t here last year, so I don’t know,” said Stroud, who the Texans took No.2 overall in last spring’s NFL Draft. “But, when I came in, I just knew this dude loves us. He really understands what it is to be a player. He understands practicing, building that callus in August and September, so in November and December, when you’re playing to go to the playoffs and big things like that, those games are won back in August or September. That’s the vibe I got.”
Texans general manager Nick Caserio, who was around the last couple of seasons, has definitely seen a big difference in the coaching style of Ryans.
“I think DeMeco and the coaching staff deserve a tremendous amount of credit for what we’ve done and where we are,” Caserio said. “I’d say just specifically DeMeco, he’s everything that I think we hoped and thought he would be. As good of a coach as he is, he’s a better person and human being. Players love playing for him. Players want to be here.”
Ryans is certainly pleased with where his team is at this point but understands there is much work to be done.
“I’m feeling good about our team and where we are,” Ryans said. “Learning who we are as a team as we continue to grow and work together, we’re learning who we are. Our strengths, our weaknesses, what we do well, and things we need to lean into more. Opportunities [where] we need to give more guys some opportunities, guys earn their right [to play], so we continue to work through that and see where we are, but I like where our team is headed.”
What also can’t be overlooked has been the smart player personnel decisions the Caserio-Ryans tandem have made. The additions of veteran players like safety Jimmie Ward, linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Shaquill Griffin have been huge for the team.
But the Caserio-Ryans duo made its biggest impact in the recent draft based on early production, where there were no mistakes made. Rookie defensive end Will Anderson Jr., who the Texans boldly traded up to take right after Stroud at No.3, is showing star capabilities.
Then there is Stroud, who is already garnering Rookie of the Year conversation. The rookie out of Ohio State to this point has been the brightest star of any of his contemporaries, including quarterback Bryce Young, who the Carolina Panthers selected over Stroud at No.1.
Stroud and Young will go head-to-head on Sunday when the Texans travel to take on the 0-6 Panthers.
“I’d say his work ethic, his confidence, his demeanor, his belief,” Caserio said when asked about the reason for Stroud’s early success. “I think DeMeco has talked about this quite a bit in terms of your belief in yourself, belief in your teammates, belief in what you’re capable of doing.”