NEW ORLEANS — Sean Payton's 15-year run as head coach of the New Orleans Saints is coming to a halt this week as he is set to announce that he is stepping away from coaching, according to numerous reports.
It's not going to be easy to replace Payton, obviously. This is a coach who has led the Saints to nine 10-win seasons in 15 years with a 63% regular season winning percentage and a Super Bowl win. He's fourth among active coaches in wins with 152 and his win percentage is top five among active coaches.
While it's hard to imagine moving on from Payton, Locked On Saints podcast host Ross Jackson said the organization needs to get moving, and fast. There are now nine current NFL head coach job openings, and eight of them have already been interviewing candidates.
“Even if Sean Payton does only intend to step away for a year, the Saints have to undergo a full head coaching search as if they are planning on moving on without Sean Payton," Locked On Saints host Ross Jackson said.
"That’s not slight to Sean Payton at all, one of the greatest head coaches of our time," Jackson continued. "However, the Saints can’t hang around and miss out on opportunities to go out there and find coaches that could keep them competitive going into 2022. You can’t waste a year of Cam Jordan, of Demario Davis, of Malcom Jenkins, of Marshon Lattimore, all of these fantastic players that are on this roster.”
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An obvious in-house candidate for the job will be Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Allen has previous head coaching experience with the Raiders. He was with the Saints as a defensive line and secondary coach from 2006-2010 before returning in 2015 to eventually become the Saints' defensive coordinator.
On Tuesday's Locked On Today podcast, recorded before news that Payton was stepping away, Jackson noted that in the event that Payton did, Allen would get a long look.
"I think the New Orleans Saints would do well to do whatever it takes to keep Dennis Allen in the building," Jackson said. "I think because Dennis Allen has been so foundational to the success of the New Orleans Saints since 2015 when he took over as defensive coordinator. And since 2017, when the personnel of the team started to match his vision and everything started to trend toward the Saints all of a sudden turning into, in 2021, what was a defensive team. You want to keep that around especially if you’re losing a guy like Sean Payton on the way."
In addition to Dennis Allen, Jackson suggests the Saints could look at coordinators that have previous ties to the organization like Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. They'll also look into other offensive-minded young coaches out there that are being tapped for head coach interviews including Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, 49ers OC Mike McDaniel and Dallas Cowboys OC Kellen Moore.
“The next couple of weeks, the next couple of days are going to be critical to the New Orleans Saints’ future as a successful franchise," Jackson said.
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