The move the 49ers were expecting a year ago has finally occurred: DeMeco Ryans is leaving to be a head coach.

Ryans, who turned a strong 49ers defense in 2021 into the NFL’s top unit in 2022, will take over the Texans, a team that selected him with the first pick of the second round in the 2006 draft. His wife also is from the Houston area.

The NFL wants to see more minority candidates in top coaching or executive positions and two years ago it began an incentive program to that effect. As a result, the 49ers will get an additional third-round pick in each of the next three drafts after Ryans was hired by the Texans and the Titans made Ran Carthon their new general manager.

Ryans’ hiring also means Kyle Shanahan must pick a replacement from a group of candidates familiar with the system the 49ers have run since 2017 as well as the so-called Vic Fangio system that many of San Francisco’s opponents — including the Eagles — ran in 2022.


Vic Fangio, free agent

The team’s fans will remember Fangio’s dominant defenses from a decade ago, especially the 2011 version that finished with 23 interceptions and set an NFL record for fewest rushing touchdowns — three — surrendered in a 16-game regular season. Ten teams used at least a version of Fangio’s defense over this season, one of the reasons cited for why scoring was down at the start of the year.

There’s been some question as to how Fangio would utilize Nick Bosa since Fangio’s edge rushers typically have been stand-up linebackers. Bosa has made it clear he prefers rushing from a three-point stance as a defensive end. Fangio’s nickel units in San Francisco, however, looked a lot like the 49ers’ current defense — two defensive ends and two defensive tackles — which suggests he wouldn’t have to change much as far as the way the 49ers use their defensive front.

Last week there was a report that Fangio, 64, had a deal in place with the Dolphins, which makes sense because he has a home in Florida. Fangio, however, has said that nothing is finalized. Until it is, he remains the top candidate on this list.


Ejiro Evero, Broncos defensive coordinator

Evero, 42, is one of the current coordinators who have worked under Fangio in the past. He’s also spent time working with veteran coordinators like Dom Capers, Monte Kiffin, Wade Phillips and Raheem Morris. The former UC Davis safety got his NFL coaching start with the 49ers in 2011 and remained with the team through the 2015 season.

Evero turned down a chance to be the Broncos’ interim head coach when the team fired Nathaniel Hacket on Dec. 26. He’s since been interviewed by the Broncos, Colts and Panthers for their head coaching positions. He remains under contract with the Broncos, who also could retain him as defensive