Photos: Saints look for big win against undefeated Panthers Sunday in Superdome _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, right, signals a play during a Dec. 6 game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans.

Sean Payton gave Dennis Allen something of an endorsement during his Wednesday news conference, although the Saints coach said he has not yet made a decision on whether the defensive coordinator will return next season.

And that goes for all members of the coaching staff, though Payton did say there is a “likelihood” Allen will return as defensive coordinator next season.

“I’m going to visit with Dennis specifically, and I think that in all likelihood that will be the case,” Payton said. “It’s just a little bit ahead of the game. I just spent 10 minutes with the staff.

“He was real good coming in in a tough position. I thought he was organized, detailed. I think there are a few pieces that we have to help him with that can help our team and I think being charge of it for the course of the offseason (will help). There were a lot of good things he did.”

Allen took over for Rob Ryan, who was fired after a Week 10 loss at Washington, and presided over the final six games of the season.

Under Ryan, the defense allowed an average of 424.3 yards per game. That figure dropped to 396.2 yards with Allen overseeing the defense. The points also dropped from 31.5 points per game to 26.8 from Ryan to Allen.

Payton said he will evaluate all members of the staff in the coming weeks and months but it was too soon to announce who will be back next season.

No ‘Hard Knocks’

The Saints could end up being featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” during training camp, whether they like it or not.

And chances are they wouldn’t be too happy about it. Payton joked that he would put on his “happy face” if the team were selected for the show, then added, “Who are we kidding?”

In other words, Payton wouldn’t be happy about being on the show.

That might not matter. New Orleans can be selected for the program because it did not make the playoffs the past two seasons and has retained their head coach.

Seven other teams are also eligible: Buffalo, Jacksonville, San Diego, Chicago, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Oakland.

Payton’s biggest beef with the show, outside of the invasion of privacy, is that he made a personal pledge at the beginning of his career.

“I’ll never be videotaped releasing a player,” Payton said.

That might be an issue since the show typically builds up to player releases each season.

Staff change

Payton will reportedly have at least one change on his coaching staff.

But not of his accord.

Quarterbacks coach Mike Neu, who has spent the last two seasons with the Saints, has been hired as the head coach at Ball State, according to a report by Fox Sports.

For Neu, a former Ball State quarterback and a native of Indianapolis, the move represents a chance to leave his second home for his first. Neu had spent more than a decade in New Orleans, coaching the AFL’s Voodoo for four years, spending three seasons with the Saints as a scout and then two more as an assistant coach at Tulane.

Now, Neu will get a chance to run his own program.