MOBILE, Ala. — Ryan Pace’s departure to become the general manager of the Chicago Bears created an opportunity for the New Orleans Saints to change their procedures.
The old way wasn’t broken, and continuity is valued among NFL types, but sometimes change is needed, and that’s the determination Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis came to earlier this month. So with Pace gone, he decided to part ways with director of college scouting Rick Reiprish this week and hired former Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland.
It’s not entirely clear what Ireland’s job title will be, but Loomis said he will oversee the college scouting and assist in other areas of the organization.
“I felt like we needed to add some experience, an evaluator, from outside the building,” Loomis said. “We also felt like it would be good for us to get some fresh ideas, meld those with the things we’ve done, so I’m looking forward to having him in the building.”
Ireland brings a depth of experience to the position after serving as a scout with the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys from 1997-2004, and then as the general manager of the Dolphins from 2008-’13. He stayed busy last year by working with the Seattle Seahawks as a draft consultant.
He also has experience working with Saints coach Sean Payton, who was in Dallas from 2003-’05, and assistant head coach Joe Vitt when they overlapped one another in Kansas City for one season.
But it wasn’t just the familiarity with some members of the organization that swayed Loomis into making a change. He is also impressed with Ireland’s “pedigree.”
“I think the overall body of work for him — I’m not sure there’s one thing,” Loomis said. “He’s got great skill, great evaluation talent. I like his experience both as a general manager and player personnel director. He’s trained a lot of good people who ... went to higher positions. I think that speaks well of him.”
It sounds like Ireland will assume some of the responsibilities covered by Pace last year, and director of pro scouting Terry Fontenot continues to solidify his standing as one of Loomis’ more valuable lieutenants. The two men flanked Loomis in the stands during Wednesday’s Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
And more changes are yet to come. The Saints still need to replace Josh Lucas, who left to become Pace’s director of player personnel in Chicago. Loomis said he will consult with Ireland before determining how to fill that void.
But more than anything, Loomis is excited about getting some fresh eyes in the building.
“I think when you get some new ideas and fresh looks at things — sometimes you get a little too comfortable, and that includes me,” Loomis said. “There’s nothing wrong with being uncomfortable, right? ... I think it definitely reinvigorates you.”
In the near future, Ireland will sit with Loomis and the Saints’ scouting staff and begin to compare notes and indoctrinate one another on how they go about their business. There will be some give and take in this regard until a best practice is determined.
While the job remains the same from city to city, each location has a unique scouting vernacular. In this regard, Loomis said there will be a learning curve for all parties involved.
“Jeff has done things differently than the way we’ve done it,” Loomis said. “So we’ve got to meld those two together and understand — look, we’re all coming to the same conclusions, or trained to reach the same conclusions. The process may be a little different, the language may be a little different, the emphasis on certain things may be a little different.
“It will take a little time to get on point with that. But he’s the guy that has to get on point with what information we’ve collected and gathered. He’ll do that quickly.”
How the overhaul in the scouting department turns out will depend on how well that melding process goes.