New era begins as Dennis Allen is named Saints’ head coach

Jude Papillion, Sports Editor

The New Orleans Saints have announced the hiring of Dennis Allen as the team’s head coach. Allen was promoted from his role as Saints’ defensive coordinator, a position he has held since 2015. (Matthew Tate)

At an afternoon press conference on Feb. 8, the New Orleans Saints named Dennis Allen as their next head coach, replacing Sean Payton, who was by far the winningest coach in Saints history.

A new era has begun in New Orleans as Allen was named the 17th head coach in Saints history, including six interim head coaches. Allen was promoted from his role of defensive coordinator, a job he held since 2015.  

Allen’s new position with the Saints is his second as head coach after previously serving as head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2012-2014. Allen was fired by the Raiders after compiling an 8-28 record and starting the 2014 season with four straight losses. 

Following his departure from Oakland, Allen was hired by the Saints as a defensive assistant in January 2015 and was later promoted to defensive coordinator after the Saints fired Rob Ryan in November 2015. 

Several names were bounced around during the Saints’ hiring process, and the team interviewed former head coaches Brian Flores and Doug Pederson, Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and their own special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi for the job. However, Allen’s experience under Sean Payton and the stout defense he has worked to build since coming back to the Crescent City in 2015 made him the best candidate for the Saints’ job. 

Allen is no stranger to New Orleans. He first came to the Saints in 2006 as an assistant defensive line coach and a member of Payton’s first staff. He then became the Saints’ secondary coach from 2008-2010 and was on the coaching staff when the Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 Super Bowl. After the 2010 season, Allen left the Saints to become the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator for one season before going to Oakland. 

Allen has a tall task ahead of him. Payton is leaving New Orleans as the winningest coach in Saints history and matching what he has done for both the team and city will be no easy feat. However, due to Allen’s high level of experience coaching under Payton and Allen’s understanding of the team and city’s culture, he is in a great position to excel in his new role. 

Since becoming defensive coordinator in 2015, Allen and the Saints have seen a 10-point drop in points allowed per game, from the most-allowed in the league at 29.8 points in 2015, to the fourth-fewest points allowed in the NFL at 19.7 in 2021. 

Allen served as the Saints’ interim head coach in the team’s second matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last December. Behind Allen’s coaching and a strong performance from the Saints’ defense, the Black and Gold beat Tampa 9-0 and the shutout was the first time a Tom Brady offense has been held scoreless since 2006.

With stars such as Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis and Marshon Lattimore on defense, it seems hard to believe that the Saints will see a drop in defensive production regardless of who the defensive mastermind Allen hires as his coordinator on that side of the ball.

There are more looming questions when it comes to the offense, especially with questions remaining at the quarterback position and with the recent arrest of Pro Bowl running back Alvin Kamara. Attention will now shift to who the Saints will hire as offensive coordinator. While Payton handled offensive play-calling duties as head coach, the Saints could bring back Pete Carmichael, who has served as offensive coordinator since 2009. 

The Saints have been exploring other options including Scottie Montgomery of the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Prince, the Cowboys’ wide-receivers coach who was interviewed by the Saints despite being hired by Jerry Jones’ front office just days ago.

Former New Orleans offensive assistant Joe Brady is another option. Brady revolutionized LSU’s offense in 2019 with Joe Burrow, winning a national championship before leaving to become the Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator. Brady is now the Buffalo Bills’ quarterbacks coach after being let go by Carolina.  

Other potential choices could include Kansas City’s Bieniemy and Raider’s offensive coordinator Greg Olson. Whatever direction Allen and the Saints choose to go, expect little to change under Allen’s leadership. Payton left the Saints in great shape, and the team went through an extensive coaching search before deciding on a coach that knows more about the team and its culture than anyone else. 

“We selected Dennis Allen, and we selected him because of his leadership skills, because of his teaching skills, because of his football acumen, and frankly he’s just a damned good football coach,” said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis after hiring Allen. “We interviewed [Allen] for six hours last week, but the truth is we’ve been interviewing him for 12 of the last 16 years,” Loomis said. “He has been instrumental in all of the success that we’ve had over the last 16 years.”

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