Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness Sports
MOBILE, Ala. – Sean Payton stood in the stands of Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium, watching Senior Bowl practice out of the corner of his eyes while speaking with reporters about replacing Dennis Allen as the team’s secondary coach.
The subtle message?
There’s more going on that Payton and the Saints organization must look at than a defensive assistant coach.
“We’ll take our time here,” Payton said. “We’ve got plenty of time with filling his position. We’ll do it like we have before.”
Meanwhile, half a stadium away, Allen already was being asked about his new job, that of defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos, a job he has had for less than a day.
But he couldn’t completely escape questions looking back on his time with New Orleans, where he spent five years and helped the organization to not only its first NFC championship game (in January 2007), but also its first Super Bowl and NFL title.
“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and there’s still a lot of great things the Saints organization is going to do,” Allen said. “It’s a hard place to leave because I think we’ve established a way of doing things there at the Saints and the expectations are maybe a lot different than what they were in the past.”
Allen, 38, has been on the fast track since coming into the NFL as an assistant coach and quality control administrator with the Falcons in 2002.
When Payton plucked him away from Atlanta while was assembling his staff prior to the 2006 season, Allen was a young lad working his way into the league.
Now he’s a young man one step closer to a head coaching position, something Payton has little doubt will happen sooner rather than later.
“I felt very early on in the process that he was going to be a coordinator and also a head coach in this league,” Payton said. “There are certain people that have a little bit of that overall picture, No. 1, of the defense. He’s well respected on the staff. Everything he says is well thought out in regards to his teachings.
“I think that impression was shared by not just me but by a lot of coaches. He has a little bit of those intangibles that I think will help him become a head coach one day.”
Allen interviewed with both Philadelphia and Denver for open defensive coordinator positions, but when asked if both offered him the job, he said only that he had a decision to make.
That he reached this point just five years after coming to New Orleans as a full-time assistant coach wasn’t necessarily the plan he had set forth. But he’s not complaining, admitting that coaching alongside both Payton and Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has helped.
“I always had goals and aspirations and I knew at some point in time this day would come,” Allen said. “I didn’t know when it would be. I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve been with a great organization and we’ve been successful.
“When you’re successful, guys on the staff get opportunities. That’s just part of the deal. I’ve been fortunate.”
Now he’ll be the man calling the plays in Denver under John Fox, the former Carolina Panthers head coach and a good friend of Payton’s. While he be calling the plays and running the defense, he said he knows he can fall back on Fox’s past experience if he gets in a bind.
In other words, he doesn’t expect Fox to lord over him but he does think Fox can help him when needed.
“The great thing for me is being a first-time coordinator, you’ve got a guy who has been through it all and he understands everything you’re going through,” Allen said. “And I think he’ll be a guy that I can bounce ideas off of and we can talk about and I’ll never turn down anybody’s experience.”