By Max Harper
DeMeco Ryans loved his time in Philly as an Eagles linebacker, and the fans loved him too.
He spent four years with the Eagles, the final four years of his 10-year playing career.
“It was great,” Ryans, the Niners defensive coordinator, told reporters in Santa Clara Thursday.
“Really good team, great guys, great teammates there in Philly. It was a great time there. Made the playoffs one year there in Philly (in 2013) under Chip Kelly, was under two great head coaches, Chip Kelly, Andy Reid, guys I learned a lot from, so a really good time there in Philly.”
Ryans made two Pro Bowls with the Texans and although he never made one here, he should have in 2013, when he had two interceptions, seven pass knockdowns, four sacks, nine tackles for loss, five quarterback hits and 127 tackles.
Fletcher Cox was a rookie in 2012, Ryans’ first year with the Eagles, and said Ryans had a significant impact on him as a young player.
“A natural leader,” he said. “When I first got here and in the locker room with him, I watched him and just a natural leader. Playing with DeMeco taught me a lot. Taught me a lot about how to be a pro, how to approach things, and DeMeco was always one of those guys, if I had problems, I would go to him. If I had problems at home, I would go to him to lead me in the right direction because I feel like that’s the type of guy he was.
“He wanted better for everybody. Didn’t matter who it was, rookie, could be a vet, he always wanted the best for whoever. I always looked at him as a natural leader.”
Brandon Graham, who was also here for Ryans’ entire four-year stay, said the same attributes that made Ryans a terrific player make him a terrific coach.
“Smart,” Graham said. “He knew what plays were coming. He’d call out plays behind us, just saying, ‘Hey watch out for this.’ I see the 49ers have the same type of thing. When I saw them play against the Cowboys they were checking to certain stuff because of certain looks and certain things they knew were coming. That’s DeMeco all day.”
Ryans, Graham and Cox will all be at the Linc Sunday for what should be a tremendous NFC Championship Game between an Eagles team that’s 15-1 under Jalen Hurts vs. a 49ers team that hasn’t lost since mid-October.
Graham and Cox rank No. 4 and 5 in Eagles regular-season history with 70 and 65 sacks. Graham moved ahead of Reggie White, Hugh Douglas and Derrick Burgess Saturday night against the Giants with 4 ½ career postseason sacks. Cox picked up his second.
“Fletcher and Brandon have always been playmakers,” Ryans said Thursday. “They’ve always played on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
“I know Fletcher, when he first came in as a rookie, you saw it right away. The talent that he had, the strength that he had. He separated himself, so he’s been a playmaker for over 10 years in the league and he’s been consistent throughout his career.
“And then Brandon Graham on the edge, they probably tried to get rid of him a few times, but he still finds a way to stick on there and still is able to get after the quarterback, so it’s impressive to see what B.G. has done for his entire career there in Philly. A guy who’s been very disruptive.
“Fletcher and B.G., they don’t change. They’re still getting after it, getting after the quarterback, making plays.”