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Saints 2022 Coaching Staff Grades

By Bob Rose,


A look back at Dennis Allen and the entire New Orleans coaching staff in their first year after replacing Sean Payton.

Nobody knew what to expect when New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton unexpectedly resigned at the end of the 2021 season. Payton had steered the team to 152 regular season wins over 15 years, nine playoff appearances, three trips to the NFC Championship Game, and the franchise's lone Super Bowl.

The Saints hoped to keep the successful formula that Payton put in place. Long-time defensive coordinator Dennis Allen was promoted to head coach, while New Orleans assistants Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard were promoted to co-defensive coordinator. Keeping with continuity, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael was also retained.

With nearly all of Payton's staff kept on board, here's how Dennis Allen fared in his second stint as an NFL head coach, along with the rest of the staff.

Saints 2022 Coaching Grades
Jan 8, 2023; New Orleans Saints coach Dennis Allen looks on against the Carolina Panthers. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The 50-year-old Allen had been a defensive assistant with the Saints for 12 years. He was getting his second chance as a head coach after going 8-28 from 2012 to 2014 with the Oakland Raiders.

Allen's shortcomings with the Raiders were largely blamed on the dysfunction and lack of talent in the Oakland organization. However, many of those same issues were apparent in his first year with the Saints.

New Orleans suffered came up short and blew leads in the fourth quarter of five different losses this season. They looked unprepared and unmotivated in several other games. Undisciplined play resulted in the Saints being among the league's most penalized teams and having an atrocious minus-11 turnover differential, 31st in the NFL.

The players on the field certainly have to take responsibility for those failings, but it's also a major indictment on the entire coaching staff. New Orleans was helpless to make in-game adjustments against several opponents throughout the year and often seemed unorganized when games were on the line.

After a 7-10 finish, Allen now has a 15-38 record as a head coach. Allen is one of the NFL's finest defensive coaches. Probably with that in mind, the Saints front office decided to bring him back for a second season. He'll have to do it with some new assistants in 2023.

Defensive Staff
Oct 20, 2022; New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen against the Arizona Cardinals. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Saints ranked fifth in total defense and second against the pass. However, a once-vaunted run defense from 2018 to 2021 was porous, ranking a lowly 24th in the league.

Allen continued to call the defensive signals, despite having two coordinators in place. Even with the lofty ranking against the pass, the New Orleans secondary and pass rush both had crucial letdowns in critical situations this season. The run defense was a liability all season. Both the defensive tackle and safety positions struggled throughout the year.

Despite this, the Saints allowed an average of just 14.5 points over their last ten games. They held their last six opponents to under 20 points, tying a franchise record that matched only the famed Dome Patrol units of the early 1990s. In spite of that outstanding defensive effort, the Saints were just 5-5 over that stretch.

Early in this offseason, the Saints have already lost co-defensive coordinators Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard along with secondary coach Cory Robinson.  Nielsen left to become defensive coordinator for the rival Atlanta Falcons, while the team simply parted ways with Richard and Robinson.

New Orleans has hired Joe Woods to be the new defensive coordinator and respected college coach Todd Grantham to serve a yet undefined role among the defensive coaches. As of this article, highly regarded LB coach Michael Hodges and Pass Rush Coordinator Brian Young remains on staff.

One of the league's better defenses has already made three changes to their staff. The same cannot be said of the other side of the ball for a unit that had much bigger issues.

Offensive Coaches
Oct 16, 2022; New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael looks on against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans ranked 28th in total offense and dead last in passing production during Payton's last season in 2021. Much of that was attributed to an injury-ravaged offensive line and season-ending injuries to WR Michael Thomas and QB Jameis Winston that left the team with severe talent deficiencies.

With that in mind, the Saints brought back OC Pete Carmichael and the entire staff. Carmichael had arrived with Payton in 2006 and had been the offensive coordinator since 2009. The trio of Payton, Carmichael, and QB Drew Brees had resulted in some of the most productive offenses in NFL history.

New Orleans also came into the year having spent two first-round picks on WR Chris Olave and OT Trevor Penning, expecting to get Thomas and Winston back, and signing five-time Pro Bowl WR Jarvis Landry. However, the Saints were hit hard by injuries again in 2022.

Thomas was lost for the year after three games. The offensive line was battered by injuries all year. Landry also missed time and was a shadow of his Pro Bowl form. Winston dealt with severe back and foot injuries, but was not given his job back from Andy Dalton once medically cleared.

Still, the Saints had talent with RB Alvin Kamara, all-purpose threat Taysom Hill, C Erik McCoy, and RT Ryan Ramczyk. Offensive assistants Ronald Curry, Doug Marrone, and Kodi Burns must also get credit for developing Olave, TE Juwan Johnson, G Cesar Ruiz, and especially undrafted rookie WR Rashid Shaheed.

New Orleans ranked 22nd in points scored and 19th in total offensive yards in 2022. Both the running game and passing attack were around middle of the pack, but the team committed 25 turnovers--27th in the NFL. Over the last six games while the defense was allowing just 13 points per game, their offense averaged a meager 13.5 points.

The pathetic offensive display is certainly on the shoulders of the players and poor execution. However, they were done no favors by an awful coaching job.

On several third and short yardage situations throughout the year, either Kamara or Hill weren't even on the field. Kamara, the league's most versatile back, was often an afterthought in the passing game. The Saints were arguably the league's best team on screen passes, yet ran the fewest in the NFL this past season.
November 27, 2022; New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen against the San Francisco 49ers. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches seemed helpless to adjust to opposing defenses. Game plans were often listless and unimaginative. Too often, the offense became infuriatingly conservative when up by just one score midway through games.

The team has already announced that Carmichael would be back next season. Dennis Allen will apparently continue calling the defensive signals. Odd choices for a coaching staff that did its poorest job since Sean Payton's arrival in 2006.

Coaching Grade = F

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