On Tuesday, the Texans announced Ryans was coming aboard after two seasons as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator to become Houston’s head coach.
Ryans becomes the seventh former Alabama player to serve as the head coach of an NFL team. The Crimson Tide alumni who preceded Kitchens in leading NFL teams were Harry Gilmer, Ray Perkins, Mike Riley, Bart Starr, Richard Williamson and Freddie Kitchens.
None has a winning career record as an NFL coach.
Gilmer compiled a 10-16-2 record with the Detroit Lions in 1965 and 1966. Three of those losses came against the Green Bay Packers, who were on their way to NFL championships in those seasons with Starr at quarterback.
Gilmer played halfback at Alabama from 1944 through 1947 and left the Tide as the No. 1 selection in the 1948 NFL Draft. Gilmer finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1945 and 1947 and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
After helping the Packers win five NFL championships, including the first two Super Bowls, on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Starr returned to try to restore Green Bay’s fortunes seven seasons after the retirement of coach Vince Lombardi.
Starr coached the Packers from 1975 through 1983 to a 52-76-3 regular-season record. Green Bay qualified for the playoffs in 1982 and went 1-1.
The former Sidney Lanier High School standout played at Alabama from 1952 through 1955.
Perkins coached the New York Giants from 1979 through 1982. He and Starr squared off twice across NFL fields. The Giants defeated the Packers 27-21 on Nov. 16, 1980, and Green Bay defeated New York 27-14 on Oct. 4, 1981.
Perkins had a 23-34 regular-season record with the Giants and went 1-1 in the playoffs in 1981.
Perkins left New York to replace Paul “Bear” Bryant as Alabama’s coach after the icon retired following the 1982 season.
Perkins led the Tide for four seasons before returning to the NFL to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs fired Perkins with three games left in his fourth season. He had a 19-41 record with Tampa Bay and a 42-75 overall NFL coaching mark.
Williamson replaced Perkins for the final three games of the 1990 season as the Bucs’ coach. He’d been the team’s offensive coordinator. Tampa Bay retained Williamson as the head coach for the 1991 season, and the Bucs went 3-13 to complete his head-coaching career with a 4-15 record.
Williamson and Perkins were ends at Alabama. Williamson played for the Tide in the 1961 and 1962 seasons, and Perkins played from 1964 through 1965.
Riley played defensive back at Alabama from 1971 through 1974.
He coached the San Diego Chargers from 1999 through 2001, compiling a 14-34 record.
Kitchens shared the quarterback duties at Alabama with Brian Burgdorf in 1995 before taking over full-time under center for the Crimson Tide in the 1996 and 1997 seasons.
In his 13th season as an NFL assistant, Kitchens was elevated from running-backs coach to offensive coordinator when the Cleveland Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson and Todd Haley halfway through the 2018 campaign. With defensive coordinator Gregg Williams serving as interim head coach, the Browns went 5-3 after having a 3-36-1 record under Jackson.
The performance of quarterback Baker Mayfield, the 2018 No. 1 pick, in the second half of his rookie season under Kitchens led to former Tide signal-caller moving from offensive coordinator to head coach in 2019. But Kitchens wasn’t brought back after Cleveland posted a 6-10 record.
Ryans earned unanimous All-American recognition, won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year Award and received the Lott IMPACT Trophy for the 2005 season as a senior at Alabama. He capped his college career as the Defensive MVP of the 2006 Cotton Bowl in Alabama’s 13-10 victory over Texas Tech.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.