MOBILE, Ala. — Rick Reiprish sat in the stands at Fairhope Stadium, alone, wearing a black hat pulled down to his eyes, a pair of dark sunglasses, and a turtleneck with a small Saints logo on the left neck.
Just hours earlier, he had been the New Orleans Saints director of college scouting. He was piecing together a plan to see all the hopefuls at the Senior Bowl, and seemingly felt secure in his job.
Less than 24 hours before he took his seat in the stands, he stood in a Mobile, Alabama, hotel lobby and told The Advocate he would “absolutely” be interesting in replacing Ryan Pace, who left to become the general manager of the Chicago Bears, as the Saints’ director of player personnel.
But there he sat, jobless, after being fired by the Saints on Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s a little bit of a surprise, since we’re down here at the Senior Bowl,” Reiprish said. “A little bit.”
The news comes after reports swirled earlier in the day linking New Orleans to former Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland. One report said he already accepted a position to become New Orleans’ college scout, but Ireland told reporters he only met with the Saints and hopes to land the job.
As far as other changes to the staff go, on Tuesday morning ESPN reported the Saints hired Dennis Allen to serve as a senior coaching assistant on defense.
Those changes might come as a relief to those who have lambasted the Saints for their recent draft results and the inept performance on defense during last season. But for the victims, it came as a bit of a shock.
Reiprish was still fulfilling the duties of his job and attended Tuesday morning’s weigh-in as a member of the scouting staff. After the event ended, he quickly exited a downtown convention center with General Manager Mickey Loomis, and they left the building together.
Later in the morning, Loomis arrived to a morning practice session with director of pro scouting Terry Fontenot and other members of the scouting staff at Land Peebles Stadium. Reiprish was not with the crew and said he was let go earlier in the morning. He then called his wife and learned of the reports involving Ireland’s name.
Reiprish attended afternoon practice by himself and said he will likely stick around the Senior Bowl for one more day before heading home.
While he said he was proud of the work he’s done in New Orleans, Reiprish said he was not ready to talk about his departure from the team.
“Let me absorb it for a couple days, take the body shots, and see how you come back from it,” Reiprish said.
Loomis declined an interview request.
Reiprish, who joined the Saints in 2004 after spending several seasons as the Jacksonville Jaguars director of player personnel, becomes the third member of the scouting staff to leave the Saints after director Pace and Josh Lucas left to join the Chicago Bears.
The news comes on the heels of a somewhat disappointing rookie class for the Saints. First-round pick Brandin Cooks put together a solid season, catching 53 passes for 550 yards, but the rest of the class underwhelmed.
Cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a second-round pick, logged only eight snaps on defense throughout the regular season, while fourth-round linebacker Khairi Fortt and sixth-round offensive lineman Tavon Rooks are no longer with the team.
As for Allen, he will join a coaching staff that watched over a Saints defense that finished as one of the worst units in the NFL.
Allen worked with the Saints from 2006-10 serving first as an assistant defensive line coach and then taking over the secondary. He left the team in 2011 to become the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator, and then became the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2012.
He was fired by the Raiders in September after an 0-4 start. He went 8-28 over three seasons.
New Orleans finished 31st in total defense last season after placing in the top five in 2013, Ryan’s first season with the team.
There was speculation throughout the season that Ryan could be fired, but multiple sources told The Advocate he would be brought back for another season. It is not clear how Allen’s hiring will impact or change Ryan’s role with the team — if at all.
The Saints have made a handful of changes to their coaching staff this offseason, firing tight ends coach Terry Malone, receivers coach Henry Ellard and secondary coach Andre Curtis.