Saints’ Head Coaching Search Shifting Into High Gear This Week

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By Wednesday or Thursday, the New Orleans Saints are expected to have five interviews done for their vacant head coaching job after the retirement of coach Sean Payton last week.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis and others interviewed Doug Pederson, the former coach of the Philadelphia Eagles who won Super Bowl LII, on Sunday, according to multiple reports, and are scheduled to interview former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores on Tuesday.

Flores is in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl, which tends to be an NFL coaching job fair.

The Saints are then expected to interview Detroit defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, a former Saints defensive backs coach from 2016-20, on Wednesday and current Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen on Wednesday or Thursday. Another interview slated for this week is that of Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi.

Allen, who was previously head coach of the Oakland Raiders but went 4-12 in 2012 and ’13 before getting fired after an 0-4 start in 2014, is considered in some circles to be a favorite, as Loomis may be leaning to keep a successful staff together.

The Saints were one of the NFL’s winningest teams over the last five years under Payton with four consecutive NFC South titles from 2017-20 with 11-5, 13-3, 13-3 and 12-4 records. There was an NFC title game appearance in the 2018 season. The Saints dropped to 9-8 in 2021 and narrowly missed the playoffs amid a rash of injuries that included quarterback Jameis Winston. And NFL top receiver Michael Thomas missed the entire season injured.

“I think our circumstances are different,” Loomis said in reference to the other NFL head coach openings at Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota and Houston. “We had our coach retire with a lot of really good things in place already. We don’t see it as a wholesale culture change.”

That was the case when Loomis hired Payton after a 3-13 season in 2005 under coach Jim Haslett — who had only two winning seasons, with one of those 9-7 — from 2000-05. With the exception of original coach Tom Fears in 1967, the other eight head coaching hires – J.D. Roberts, John North, Hank Stram, Dick Nolan, Bum Phillips, Jim Mora, Mike Ditka and Haslett -came after or during disastrous seasons.

“Look, we have a lot of really good things here,” Loomis said. “That doesn’t mean that it can’t be improved and built upon, but as Sean said, he’s leaving this franchise in a much better place than when he got here.”

The Saints reached the NFC Championship Game in Payton’s first season in 2006 and won Super Bowl XLIV in the 2009 season. They also reached the playoffs in the 2010, ’11 and ’13 seasons.

“We want to go through the full process,” Loomis said. “That’s the fair thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for the New Orleans Saints. I wouldn’t say that I have some drop-dead date. It’s more important to get it right than it is to be quick. We’re going to be diligent.”

When asked about Allen, who has had some of the NFL’s best defenses since becoming coordinator in 2016, Loomis said, “Well, look, he’s qualified. He has experience. He understands our culture here. We just know a lot about him.”

Allen is also 1-0 as a Saints interim coach as he took over when Payton had COVID-19 and sat out the Tampa Bay game on Dec. 19. The Saints won 9-0 and sacked quarterback Tom Brady four times with seven hits.

“He’s an excellent candidate,” Loomis said. “And there are some others as well.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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