Who will be the new Saints head coach?
The New Orleans Saints go into Senior Bowl week with a slate full of interviews to replace Sean Payton, and finding that it is not so easy to replace him
The search has begun in earnest down in the Big Easy for the top job in the state. Not the mayor, not the governor, not even a senator, but the head coach for the New Orleans Saints. Replacing an offensive genius may prove more tricky than Gayle Benson could ever imagine.
The Top Candidates
As we roll into Senior Bowl week, the Saints are having meetings with some familiar faces, and a few surprise participants. As news of Sean Payton’s retirement broke, rumors circulated that the Saints may look to an internal promotion, with Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen an early favorite.
Naming Allen to the job would be a big step toward maintaining some continuity with the current regime since his Saints defense has been the backbone of the franchise in recent years. Under his tutelage, they went from worst in the NFL to one of the best. Allen is not at all a shoe-in for the position, though, facing some stiff competition from all around the league.
Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reportedly met with the Saints on Sunday. He has genuine bona-fides as a Super Bowl winner and definitely knows how to focus a talented group toward a title game.
Surprisingly, the Saints met with Brian Flores on Tuesday, after his shock dismissal from Miami. Apparently, the Saints were not put off by the move, which seems to be less about what he did on the field and more about behind the scenes personality clashes. Flores’ lodging a class action lawsuit against the NFL on Wednesday seems not to faze them either. His impressive mid-season turnaround that he conducted with the Dolphins may be enough to trump all other considerations.
Detroit Lions Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn is reportedly meeting with the Saints on Wednesday in what would be a further Payton continuity bid. Before accepting the job last year in Detroit, Glenn spent five years as the Saints Defensive Backs coach under Dennis Allen.
New Orleans Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi is reportedly meeting with the organization this week and can also bring a large dose of Payton to the table. And perhaps even more profoundly, Rizzi is part of the same Bill Parcells coaching tree that produced Sean Payton. If, perhaps, the Saints are looking not simply to continue Payton’s work but to actually recreate a new Sean Payton, then Darren Rizzi is the sort of clay that they might just be looking for.
With the not-so-surprising retirement of Tom Brady finally confirmed, it is perhaps no shock that Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich is reportedly having a meeting with the Saints as well. Highly regarded by Bruce Arians and Tom Brady, a New Orleans rebuild may offer more satisfaction for Leftwich than trying to repeat the Buccaneers’ success without your key playmaker. The Jaguars are reportedly salivating over him, too, so there could be some drama to unfold in this story. One big winner if Leftwich is brought in could be Jameis Winston. Leftwich is a huge fan of the former Heisman trophy winner and could plump for offering Winston a shiny new contract.