METAIRIE, La. – Henry Ellard isn’t loud. There’s rarely ever any shouting instructions or thunderous motivational calls for New Orleans Saints receivers.
It’s a 180-degree turn from the past six years, when Curtis Johnson kept a constant, audible chatter directed towards the wideouts.
There’s no mistaking when listening to the receivers., however, that Ellard’s message is getting through.
Sixteen years of impressive NFL experience will do that.
“Henry Ellard (is) a guy that played in this league at a high level for a long time (and) brings something different to the table,” Saints receiver Marques Colston said. “He definitely has a different style than C.J. but one that we welcome. Any time that you get a coach that has played the position at a high level like he did, you just want to soak up anything that he has to offer.”
Johnson left the Saints following the 2011 season to take over as head coach at Tulane University.
He left a program where he became a beloved individual and proved to be an integral part of New Orleans’ success the past six seasons. They went from 21 dropped passes in 2008 to 13 in 2011.
“Any time you have the same guy for a bunch of years you can get somewhat complacent or kind of relax in what you’re doing,” Saints receiver Lance Moore said. “But, at the same time, C.J. did a good job of making sure we never got like that.”
And yet, in comes Ellard with his 16 years of NFL playing experience and 12 years of coaching background. He was an All-Pro in 1984 and 1988 and finished his career with 13,777 receiving yards with 65 touchdowns on 814 catches.
As a coach, he helped guide Torry Holt to seven straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He also coached during Isaac Bruce’s run of five seasons with 60 or more catches. They combined for seven Pro Bowl berths under his tutelage.
“When they know you’ve got a good resume, sure enough they tend to listen because they know you’ve done it,” Ellard said. “You’ve been there time and time again.”
But you won’t hear him yelling at his players to do certain things.
“A lot of times what I’ll do is instead of standing back and yelling, I’ll go down the field and meet them halfway down the field and remind them,” Ellard said.
He’s teaching a group of players with plenty of experience. Between Colston, Moore and Devery Henderson, they’ve played 267 games, caught 916 passes and recorded 13,084 yards.
Nevertheless, there’s always something they can learn and Ellard can teach. And after watching film of the players, he spotted the small things that they could all improve on.
“The big thing when I watch tape on these guys is patience,” Ellard said. “Depth of routes. Giving Drew a chance to get the ball in their hands, especially in breaking routes, before they get to that next defender where they catch it and run with the ball rather than catch it and getting hit a lot of the times.”
And that’s something Moore said the players have picked up, Ellard’s ability to see the small things.
“He has been around the game so long, even the smallest adjustments will help us out tremendously,” Moore said. “It’s nice to have somebody that’s played.”
To help get his point across, Ellard brought Bruce in to watch and speak with his current group of receivers. The idea, Ellard said, was for them to listen to a likely future Hall of Famer.
“I just want them to hear another voice of how did it and the way he was successful and the way he went about his business,” the coach said. “And the great thing about it is, and I told these guys here when I first got here, they reminded me of the group I had in St. Louis. That’s the first thing I told them.”