Even under the red suit and hat, there was no mistaking the unruly hair and beard and especially that protruding belly which eliminated any need for padding.
Hard as it may be to believe, Rob Ryan is Lakeside Mall’s Santa Claus.
Yes, there are reports he’s up in Buffalo hanging out with his twin brother Rex watching Bills’ practice. But that’s really Ronald, the third Ryan twin.
“Who wants to be in Buffalo in December?” the fired Saints defensive coordinator said during a reindeer-feeding break. “I’m not that crazy.”
But why the Santa gig?
“Remember, after the Cowboys fired me, I said I’d be out of work for about five minutes?
“Well, this time my phone hasn’t exactly been ringing much. So I figured down the road I might be needing some extra money.”
Being Santa hasn’t kept Ryan from keeping up with the Saints in the weeks since his forced departure though.
But, in the Christmas spirit, he’s not gloating over the fact the defense hasn’t shown any improvement and instead is on course to be the worst in NFL history.
“Apparently I had a lot to do with them being in the sad shape they’re in,” he said. “And I don’t believe in kicking somebody when they’re down.
“Besides, I’d rather be giving out presents.”
That’s a great idea.
So we peaked into RR’s Santa bag to see what he has for the Saints and the rest of us in Who Datville:
For Drew Brees: Not feeling he has to take the high road after every game, better protection from his offensive line and being on a team in 2016 that gives him a shot at a second Super Bowl ring.
For Keenan Lewis: A billboard adjacent to the Crescent City Connection featuring him welcoming folks to the West Bank, captaincy of the defense in 2016 and no more sports hernias.
For Marques Colston: A long-overdue Pro Bowl berth, even if his numbers this season won’t get him there ... and at least one more touchdown pass from Drew Brees to get the No. 5 quarterback-receiver connection in NFL history to 70.
For Brandin Cooks: The consistency and maturity to succeed Colston as the team’s go-to receiver.
For Zach Strief: A place in football, either coaching, in the front office or in the broadcast booth, even though he says he’s not interested.
For Jahri Evans: Feeling appreciated after a decade of stellar play with the same team, meaning he shouldn’t have to take another pay cut to stay with them.
For Benjamin Watson: The inspiration to write another book, this one on the responsibilities of fatherhood. With five kids, he should be an expert.
For Brandon Browner: A one-way ticket out of town.
For Dennis Allen: A big bottle of mouthwash, which he then regifts to Brandon Brower.
For Kevin Williams: Being able to celebrate his 200th NFL game Sunday with a couple of sacks and another blocked kick.
For Kenny Vacarro: A continued willingness to speak his mind plus some new tattoos to discuss.
For Mark Ingram: A quick-healing rotator cuff. And two or three more Pro Bowl seasons for someone who never fails to go all out.
For Delvin Breaux: A book/movie deal to tell his great overcoming-odds story.
For Terron Armstead: Continued improvement toward being the Saints’ best offensive tackle since Willie Roaf.
For Kai Forbath: A new set of luggage as he becomes the latest in a long line of Saints kickers to be sent packing.
For C.J. Spiller: A homing device so maybe somebody can figure out how to get the ball in his hands.
For Jairus Byrd: Not having to hear how overpaid he is.
For Stephone Anthony: No more “Clemsoning” cracks after his alma mater wins the national championship.
For Michael Mauti: A big play on defense to match his blocked punt against the Falcons.
For Tim Hightower: A solid final four weeks of the season so his comeback story continues in 2016.
For Michael Hoomanawanui: Another season in New Orleans by the Hoo-Man just to remind us how much we still miss Buddy D.
For Max Unger and Mike McGlynn: Better beard trimmers.
For Brian Dixon: Twin brother Brandon being promoted from the practice squad so they can become the first set of twins on the same NFL team since the 1920s.
For Chris Owens: Somebody to explain to him why in New Orleans his name is always going to evoke giggles.
For Luke McCown: Another Verizon ad.
For Vinnie Sunseri, Davis Tull, P.J. W illia ms: Never having to spend the entire season on IR again.
For Junior Galette: Getting your life and your career back on track.
For Morten Andersen: Overcoming the voters’ bias against kickers to finally make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For Sean Payton: Some rose-colored glasses remover when it comes to Brandon Brower. And coaching where he wants to be in 2016.
For Mickey Loomis: Creative accounting to keep the Saints out of salary cap hell while figuring out what went wrong with the Pelicans.
For Jeff Ireland: Another draft as productive as 2015’s.
For Dennis Lauscha: The wisdom to successfully steer the business sides of both the Saints and Pelicans through the uncertain waters that lie ahead.
For Tom Benson: Reconciliation with his family, although things appear fractured beyond repair.
For Hokie Gajan: Smooth sailing through chemotherapy followed by years and years more in the broadcast booth.
For us all: Just like last year. Good health. The love of family and friends. Peace.
Merry Black & Gold Christmas.