During his news conference at the end of the season, Sean Payton stood at a microphone and let it be known he wasn’t going to accept the status quo.
He used the word change repeatedly. His team just finished a 7-9 season and he was well aware the standard operating procedure was no longer working. On Wednesday, when the team announced a handful of coaching changes, we finally got a look at what change means for the coaching staff.
While there have been leaks about hirings and firings over the last month, the team officially announced that Rob Ryan will return as the defensive coordinator with former Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen serving as a senior defensive assistant.
The team also announced that John Morton will serve as wide receiver coach, Joel Thomas will work with the running backs, and former running backs coach Dan Roushar will move over to work with the tight ends.
Other newcomers are James Willis (defensive assistant/linebackers), Kyle DeVan (offensive assistant), Greg Lewis (offensive assistant) and Brendan Nugent (coaching assistant).
Former defensive assistant Brian Young is now listed as outside linebackers coach.
As part of the shakeup, the Saints have parted ways with wide receivers coach Henry Ellard, tight ends coach Terry Malone, and assistant secondary coach Andre Curtis. Offensive assistant Carter Sheridan left the staff to become Tulane’s wide receivers coach. Frank Smith, also an offensive assistant, left to become the Chicago Bears tight ends coach.
Payton now has 23 coaches working beneath him, which makes for a large staff. The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers both have 15 men working under their head coach. The Seattle Seahawks also have 23 men listed underneath coach Pete Carroll.
Allen spent five seasons with the Saints before signing on as Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2011, and then taking over as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2012. He was fired in September.
It’s not immediately all that his role will entail with the Saints, though at the time of his hiring it was reported he would work closely with Ryan, whose defense finished ranked 31st in the NFL last season.
Allen has working with the coaching staff at the team’s Metairie facility in recent days.
Morton also returns to the staff after serving as offensive assistant on Payton’s staff in 2006. He left to become the University of Southern California’s wide receivers coach in 2007, and then served as offensive coordinator from 2009-2011. He took over as San Francisco’s wide receivers coach beginning in 2011.
Morton replaces Ellard, who served as New Orleans’ wide receivers coach from 2012-2014.
Thomas joins the Saints after spending the last two seasons as the University of Arkansas’ running backs coach. Under his tutelage, Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins were the only pair of FBS teammates to rush for more than 1,000 yards. Thomas worked as a training-camp intern for the Saints in 2012.
New Orleans finished 13th in the NFL with 1,818 rushing yards last season. Its 4.5 yards per carry placed it sixth.
Thomas replaces Roushar, who will move over to coach the tight ends. He joined the Saints in 2013 after a stint at Michigan State. In his final two seasons there, he served as the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. Roushar also coached the tight ends at Illinois in 1996.
Willis joints the Saints after spending the last two seasons as the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. Under his guidance, the Ragin’ Cajuns were able to win consecutive R&L Carries New Orleans Bowls.
Willis also spent two years as the defensive coordinator of the Virginia Destroyers in the United Football League and was the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech in 2010. He was also an associate linebackers coach at Alabama in 2009.
He spent seven years playing in the NFL with Green Bay, Philadelphia, and Seattle, and also was the XFL’s defensive MVP in 2001 playing for the Birmingham Thunderbolts.
DeVan spent last season at the University of South California as a graduate assistant on offense. A former NFL offensive lineman, he spent five seasons playing with Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Tennessee.
Lewis joins the Saints after serving as the wide receivers coach at the University of Pittsburgh (2014), San Jose State (2013), and the University of San Diego (2012). He played eight seasons in the NFL with Philadelphia and Minnesota.
Nugent spent the last two seasons as an offensive quality control coach for the Chicago Bears. He previously coached with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes and at the University of Iowa.