New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Wednesday morning he expects to wrap up his search for a new defensive coordinator “within a week.”
Payton said he’ll bring in between two and four candidates to be interviewed for the opening created when he fired Steve Spagnuolo after just one season on Jan. 24.
It was reported late Tuesday night the Saints will have Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in for an interview Thursday, while former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was fired on Jan. 8, will interview on Friday.
“I think we’ll know in a week,” Payton said. “I know much has been reported about Rob Ryan … he’s going to come in here and interview here again this week.”
Grantham wouldn’t talk about the Saints’ job Wednesday during a National Signing Day news conference in Athens, Ga.
“Right now, I’m the defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia,” he said. “I’m certainly looking forward to coaching those guys.”
Last year, the 46-year-old Grantham was mentioned as a candidate for a job with the Atlanta Falcons and last month his name was linked to the Philadelphia Eagles’ defensive coordinator opening.
“I know a lot of people. … I get a lot of inquiries all the time,” he said. “There’s no way I’m going to comment on any particular one because if I did I couldn’t do my job.”
Another name that has been floated since Spagnuolo was relieved of his duties is Romeo Crennel, a long-time NFL defensive coordinator who was fired by the Kansas City Chiefs last month.
The new defensive coordinator will be in charge of transitioning the Saints to a 3-4 scheme from the 4-3 front after they set an NFL single-season record in allowing 7,042 total yards last season.
If Payton has someone in place within a week, it would give the new coach about a week to evaluate the players on last year’s team before heading to the NFL Scouting Combine workouts to be held Feb. 20-26.
Payton announced the Saints would be making the change to the 3-4, which gets more athletic players on the field, when he fired Spagnuolo.
Speaking on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning show Wednesday, Payton talked about the difficulty in trying to fill such an important position on his staff.
“One of the challenges in our league is trying to get — even position coaches — from other teams to interview,” he said. “You have to get permission.
“The other team, just because it’s a promotion, it’s not a given they would grant that permission,” Payton said. “There’s a couple of those requests out there to other teams in regards to positions coaches we would have interest in interviewing as a coordinator. I think within a week we’ll have a firm decision on that.”
That was illustrated later in the day when NFL Network and NFL.com reported the San Francisco 49ers blocked the Saints’ request to talk with secondary coach Ed Donatell.
Because Donatell is under contract, the 49ers made the decision not to grant the interview.
After firing Spagnuolo, Payton said he would take his time to find the right person for the job after the Saints finished last in total yards allowed (440.1 yards per game) and rushing defense (147.6) and were 31st against the pass (292.6) and in scoring defense (28.4 points per game).
Payton also has four other openings on his staff to fill. He needs an offensive line coach and secondary coach as well as a special teams assistant and defensive line assistant.
Offensive line coach/running game coordinator Aaron Kromer left to become the Chicago Bears’ offensive coordinator, while secondary coach Ken Flajole was fired with Spagnuolo.
Special teams assistant Mike Mallory was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars as their special teams coordinator and defensive line assistant Travis Jones joined the Seattle Seahawks as their defensive line coach.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.