Why Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro is happy to return to his role as defense's chess piece _lowres

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan speaks with strong safety Kenny Vaccaro. Ryan has drawn criticism for the Saints defense's poor performance this season.

Just because everything is quiet around Rob Ryan, it does not mean he is safe.

Given the opportunity to give the defensive coordinator a vote of confidence at a news conference Tuesday, New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis instead danced around questions about Ryan’s future with the team, which gave up the second-most yards in the NFL in 2014 and missed the playoffs after a 7-9 finish.

“We’re in the very beginning of the evaluation process, and look, when we get our decisions completely made, we’ll make announcements at the appropriate time,” Loomis said.

So it appears the decisions regarding the coaching staff have not been finished, though the team did part ways with tight ends coach Terry Malone, wide receivers coach Henry Ellard, and defensive backs coach Andre Curtis last week.

Is there a time frame for when a other coaching decisions will be made?

“I don’t know that I have a time or date for that,” Loomis said. “Obviously (coach Sean Payton) is heavily involved in that. It’s his staff. We discuss every aspect of our football operation, he and I. We’re just at the beginning of that process. We don’t put deadlines on that.”

Loomis added that the team would examine whether it was properly scouting defensive players and the way it was reaching personnel decisions on that side of the ball after giving up the most yards in NFL history in 2012 (under former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) and surrendering what it did this past season. Those two campaigns have made Ryan’s first season with the Saints in 2013, in which New Orleans held opponents to the fourth-fewest yards and points in the league, a distant memory.

“It’s something we have to take a look at very seriously,” Loomis said. “We have to make sure we are giving our coaches what they require, what they need to be successful. So everything is open for discussion, and that’s one of them.”

Ready to be GM

If Saints Director of Player Personnel Ryan Pace wants to leave for a more prominent job elsewhere in the NFL, New Orleans won’t get in his way, Loomis said Tuesday.

“He’s ready for a general manager’s job,” Loomis said.

The Saints know what Pace intends to do, but Loomis wouldn’t say. And he didn’t confirm or deny a recent NFL Network report that it was unlikely Pace would accept any interviews to leave his position with the Saints for a general manager vacancy at other NFL franchises.

“I think that’s a better question for him than for me,” said Loomis, who said that other clubs in the league had inquired about Pace. “I’ll leave it up to him.”

Asked if Pace could be made available for comment, Loomis laughed and said, “Good question,” and moved on.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport not long ago reported the Chicago Bears and New York Jets had requested permission to speak with Pace about GM openings. But Rapoport followed up Monday morning by saying that Pace is most likely not going anywhere as he gets promoted within the Saints’ organization and Loomis handles more duties with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

New Orleans billionaire Tom Benson owns both the Pelicans and the Saints, who were 7-9 and missed the playoffs this year. In fact, Rapoport reported, Pace shouldered more day-to-day Saints responsibilities in 2014 as Loomis did more than usual with the Pelicans.

Loomis seemed to sort of dispute that notion, explaining Pace had already been promoted during the 2013 NFL year and that his own role within the Pelicans has been “a little overblown.”

“The Saints have my full attention,” Loomis said. “They always have. And if I felt like my role with the Pelicans interfered with that, then I’d step away from the Pelicans.”

Pace is in his 13th year of employment with the Saints, and it’s his second as the player personnel director in charge of pro and college scouting. He played football as a defensive end from 1995 to 1999 at Eastern Illinois, which is Payton’s alma mater.

Payton credits Pace frequently in news conferences whenever veteran free agents arrive and make a positive impact, and Loomis has said it’s inevitable other NFL teams would attempt to poach him, given his value to the Saints.

“He’s talented,” said Loomis, who trotted out an oft-repeated phrase that it’s a good thing when teams are interested in one’s own front-office personnel. “I would expect to lose him at some point.”

Without referring to any specific position in the NFL, while giving an interview at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in January 2014, Pace indicated that not just any job would tempt him to leave the Saints. He cited the close relationship between the Saints scouting department and coaching staff as the primary reason for that, and he said such a situation doesn’t exist just anywhere in the league.

The Dolphins last year tried to interview Pace for a general manager job but weren’t able to. Pace’s contract is reportedly due to expire this year, so the Saints couldn’t block any interviews he’d want to happen.


“Training camp is about learning; it’s about recovery and taking care of bodies; it’s about evaluating your team. And look, I felt like the things that we expected in West Virginia (training camp in 2014) and why we went there all came to fruition. I really did. I thought that was a good experience. That’s not the reason we were 7-9.”

-- Loomis, before confirming the Saints had every intention of holding their 2015 training camp in the mild climate of The Greenbrier luxury golf resort in the Allegheny Mountains of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, even if their could be some changes to the team’s daily routines there.