Now that it’s happened, you could see it coming, couldn’t you? DeMeco Ryans, once the undisputed leader of the Texans defense, is gone, shipped to Philadelphia.

DeMeco is easily in the top three of most well-liked and well-respected Texans of all time. From the moment he stepped into Reliant Stadium he’s been a leader and a gentleman.

His Pro Bowl season of 2009 helped the Texans go 9-7 and make a big jump to 13th in the defensive rankings. His absence, after rupturing his Achilles tendon in week six of 2010, was a huge reason the team went 2-8 down the stretch.

Enter Wade Phillips and the world around him changed. Brian Cushing would be the every down linebacker with Ryans conspicuously on the sideline during most passing downs. Players like Conner Barwin and J.J. Watt exploded onto the scene.

A year earlier it was unthinkable that the Texans would have their greatest moments without Mario Williams and Ryans playing major roles. But that’s just what happened.

DeMeco in the 3-4 was like an Indy Car in a NASCAR race. It wasn’t a fit.

In Philly, he can be the terrorizing middle linebacker he was meant to be.

It’s a bizarre off season when you see Mario sign elsewhere and the defensive captain get traded but it clearly shows a new era has gotten started.

It’s all about Barwin, Cushing, Watt and Brooks Reed now. They are a tight group that enjoys each other’s company as much as they enjoy their work.

This group will have the locker room nailed down as leaders. Cody and Antonio Smith will keep it light. Ryans will be missed. Still, the defense is younger and better than it has ever been.

Plus, the draft could (and better) yield more interesting contributors who will challenge for snaps. That is what makes the good teams who they are.

But the departure of DeMeco Ryans reminds us that pro football is not only a brutally tough game on the field but often a cold business off of it.