MAN WITH A PLAN

DeMeco Ryans has big plans for the Houston Texans

DeMeco Ryans has big plans for the Houston Texans
DeMeco's presser was electric. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans hit a home run with the hiring of DeMeco Ryans to be the franchise’s next head coach.

For the first time in a long time, there is a sense of optimism with the organization. Ryans’ introductory press conference only solidified that.

Ryans said it was a “no-brainer” to choose the Texans over any other head coaching gig in the league. It is a homecoming for the former linebacker that was selected by Houston in the 2006 draft. This is his dream job, and his level of commitment to rebuild the team to prominence is infectious.

When general manager Nick Caserio and owner Cal McNair met him during their Zoom interview a few weeks back, they both caught the Ryans fever. It was one of the most impressive interviews they’ve ever had, Caserio told reporters on Thursday.

Even though San Francisco was just a few days away from playing the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs, Ryans knew where he wanted to be for the 2023 season and beyond.

“I want to come home. This is my dream job. Let’s make this thing happen,” were the parting words Ryans told McNair and Caserio at the end of their meeting.

From that point on, it was a matter of waiting.

Since then, it appears a majority of the city has caught the Ryans fever too. Fans and followers of the Texans almost unanimously approve of the move. Even former players have it as well. NRG Stadium was filled with notable former Texans, including Andre Johnson and Brian Cushing, on Thursday. Numerous current players also showed up.

Now the real work begins

Houston has a lot of work to do with numerous resources to help. With two first-round draft picks and a plethora of draft capital and cap space over the coming years to go along with it, Ryans will be tasked with helping lead the team back to relevance.

He will not do it alone. One of the biggest lessons he’s learned in his young coaching career is that it is all about collaboration with the front office, Ryans said. It is something that must be music to Caserio’s ears.

Ryans and Caserio will be looking for players that play with precision, effort, and physicality. Ryans, who has starred as a defensive coordinator in his young coaching career, even has a vision for the Texans’ offense too.

Ryans want to own the line of scrimmage. He wants the team to establish the run game first, but he also wants to be balanced and be able to operate with play action and be efficient.

When it comes to coaching, Ryans knows he needs to be adaptable. That goes for everyone he brings into the organization. He wants a diverse coaching staff, and what he means by that is having coaches with different levels of experience. He wants coaches that are great teachers. He wants guys that are positive and that can connect with players.

Ultimately, a reason why a lot of people have the Ryans fever is because for the first time in a long time, it seems like the Texans have a plan. They have a specific vision. Above all else, Ryans wants to be here just as much as Houston supporters want him to succeed.

“We want to bring a winning team,” Ryans said. “That is what we want to bring to Houston. We want to bring you guys a team that you’re going to be proud of as fans. We want to fill up NRG Stadium and we want you guys to truly make this a home field advantage for us again.”

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against the A's. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

The Astros need to whip up on the Oakland A’s this weekend in California as they did in sweeping four from them last week at Minute Maid Park. That was the start of a homestand which ended up with seven wins in 10 games. That goes down as a successful homestand, especially since it felt like the Astros’ prior winning homestand came while Donald Trump was President (it actually started in late July). Still, 7-3 doesn’t feel like a smashing success with it ending by dropping two of three games to the lowly Los Angeles Angels.

It is not exactly with bated breath that anyone should be waiting on Jose Abreu’s return to the lineup, but it’s coming. It should not be on this road trip. After the three games with the A’s the Astros move up the coast for a big four game set with American League West leading Seattle. The M's start all right-handed pitchers. That is no time to sit Jon Singleton to see if Abreu has managed to pump a few drops of gas into his tank while spending the better part of this month at the Astros’ minor league complex. It’s not as if Singleton has been stellar since Abreu’s departure, but by comparison, he’s been Lou Gehrig-esque. The series with the Mariners isn’t make or break but the Astros are strongly advised to get at least a split. That it should be Framber Valdez starting the opener Monday night doesn’t breed tremendous confidence, coming off his meltdown outing against the Angels. Another start, another opportunity.

The Mariners are at the Nationals this weekend, starting it a mere four and a half games ahead of the Astros. In four of the five other divisions the Astros' 22-28 record would have them at least 10 games off the lead.

One step forward, two steps back

Speaking of washed-up first basemen, Joey Votto should be a future Hall of Famer. The 40-year-old Canadian is trying to make it back to the big leagues via the minor leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays. Votto was an absolutely tremendous player with the Cincinnati Reds. As the Beastie Boys said, “Ch-check it out.” Over Jeff Bagwell’s first ten seasons with the Astros he hit .305 with a .417 on-base percentage and .552 slugging percentage, yielding a phenomenal .970 OPS. Over Votto’s first ten full seasons with the Reds: .313/.429/.540 for an exactly phenomenal .970 OPS. Where am I going with this? Read on!

Votto had phenomenal strike zone and bat control. He turned 30 during the 2013 season. That year Votto had 581 at bats. He popped out to an infielder once the entire season. Alex Bregman turned 30 the third day of this season. Bregman popped out to the shortstop four times in the Angels series. So much for Bregman’s “knob past the ball” epiphany that saw him hit three home runs over two games last week. Going into the weekend Bregman has one hit in his last 23 at bats. His season stats continue to be pitiful: a .209 batting average and .607 OPS. Bregman has only struck out once in the 23 at bats of his latest deep freeze. It’s that so much of his contract is feeble. There is a lot of season left for Bregman to build up to decent numbers, but one-third of the regular season will be complete after the Astros play the Mariners Monday night.

While Bregman’s season to date has basically been one long slump, Jose Altuve is in a funk of his own. Since blasting a homer Monday, Altuve is hitless in 12 at bats. Mini-slumps happen to everybody but Altuve’s woes trace back farther. Over his last 15 games, Altuve is batting .175. He last had more than one hit in a game May 5. He’s also drawn just two walks over those 15 games. It’s tough to ever sit Altuve, but he’s probably playing a little too much. Altuve turned 34 earlier this month. He has started 48 of the Astros 50 games at second base. Mauricio Dubon should be getting a start per week at second (and probably another at third given Bregman’s level of play). Over a full season not playing the field once per week still means 135 starts. Altuve should mix in some more at designated hitter (he has just one DH game so far this season). Wear and tear is a real thing, players don’t grow less susceptible to it as they get to their mid-30s.

King Tuck

On the flip side, Kyle Tucker! So far this season, he’s making himself as much money as Bregman is costing himself. Only Shohei Ohtani (1.069) starts the weekend action with an OPS higher than Tucker’s 1.060. The law of averages dictates that Tucker won’t finish as high as 1.060, but if he does, it would be the greatest full-length season offensive performance in Astros’ history. Jeff Bagwell posted an absurd 1.201 OPS in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. Yordan Alvarez came in at 1.067 in his 87 games played rookie season of 2019. Lance Berkman’s 2001 was a monster. Enron Field was more hitter-friendly then than Minute Maid Park is now, but Berkman’s numbers were “Oh My Gosh!” spectacular. .331 batting average, 55 doubles (second in franchise history to Craig Biggio's 56 in 1999), 34 homers, .430 on-base percentage, .620 slugging percentage, and 1.051 OPS. And that was just Berkman’s second full season in the majors. Lance finished fifth in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting. Giant-headed Barry Bonds won MVP with his 73 home runs among other sicko stats.

* Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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