The Carolina Panthers reportedly plan to interview San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans for their head coaching vacancy.
Joe Person of The Athletic reported the Panthers requested permission from the 49ers to conduct the interview Thursday. The Denver Broncos and Houston Texans have also sought permission to interview the rising assistant.
Ryans, 38, has been a defensive assistant on the 49ers staff since 2017. He's served as their defensive coordinator each of the last two seasons, leading the top-ranked defense in scoring and yards allowed in 2022.
A two-time Pro Bowler during his playing career, Ryans has used his experience to relate to players and coaches with a consistently positive mindset.
"The game of football is fun. I want guys having fun out there, flying around and most importantly, our guys have to be confident," Ryans told reporters in November. "And you're confident when the energy is high. Everybody's smiling, everybody's having fun. If we're making plays right, that enthusiasm is going to be high, the energy is going to be high and that's when turnovers happen. That's when big hits happen, that's when big plays start to happen when everybody is just bought in and playing for each other."
The Panthers are seeking a full-time replacement for Matt Rhule, who was fired five games into the 2022 season. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks took over on an interim basis, going 6-6. Wilks, who previously served as the Arizona Cardinals coach for one season in 2018, is expected to receive significant consideration for the full-time job.
If the Panthers go in a different direction, it wouldn't be a surprise if they landed on a young, first-time head coach. Carolina's roster is riddled with issues, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, and is likely at least two years away from serious contention. The general weakness of the NFC South provides an easier pathway to making the playoffs, but the Panthers have one of the league's worst quarterback rooms and no high-level skill position players after trading Christian McCaffrey.
Ryans is respected around the NFL enough he could probably land a better job than this in his first go-around.