The football world was left absolutely stunned on Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was stepping down from his role. Payton was in charge of the Saints for 15 largely successful seasons, as he built an extremely decorated resume that included a Super Bowl title won in 2009. Payton exits the Saints as the NFL’s second-longest tenured head coach behind only Bill Belichick's 20-plus year reign in New England. Owner Gayle Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis must now usher the franchise forward in the wake of Payton's shocking departure.
The Saints now become the ninth team to require a new head coach ahead of the 2022 campaign, joining the Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, and New York Giants as teams searching for solutions on the open market. The Saints are undeniably at a disadvantage given that all eight of these teams have already begun conducting interviews and establishing relationships.
It represents an unforeseen situation that could force the Saints to conduct a unique search. Benson and Loomis would be wise to begin their quest from within, where a pair of in-house coaches qualify as strong candidates.
Long-time defensive coordinator Dennis Allen has been a fan favorite of Payton's since first arriving in New Orleans as a senior defensive assistant in 2015. Allen assumed the defensive coordinator role just months later, a position he's held ever since while experiencing a resounding amount of success. Payton, an offensive-minded head coach, allowed Allen to run the defense without much interference as the two built a strong relationship based on trust and high-level communication.
Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. should also garner serious consideration. Carmichael arrived in New Orleans the same year Payton did (2006), and has held various titles in addition to his current role ranging from quarterbacks coach to passing game coach. Carmichael just completed his 15th season in New Orleans and the organization should find a way to keep him in the fold.
As far as outside candidates go, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has already been tied to the job and it's easy to understand why he may garner interest. Glenn served as New Orleans' defensive backs coach from 2016-2020. The Saints were very much interested in retaining Glenn on their staff, but the nature of Allen's stranglehold on their defensive coordinator job forced Glenn to search for promotion elsewhere. Glenn found that opportunity when New Orleans' long-time assistant head coach and tight ends coach Dan Campbell accepted the head coaching role in Detroit ahead of the 2021 campaign. Campbell swiftly presented Glenn with the opportunity he had been hoping for. Glenn qualifies as an ascending coach with strong ties to the organization and should be viewed as a legitimate candidate.
New Orleans is now preparing to enter a crucial offseason. The Saints’ salary cap issues once again loom large as they are currently a staggering $71 million above the current salary cap. Loomis will get awfully creative while somehow attempting to construct a roster that can compete with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South. Hiring a head coach takes priority. Carmichael, Allen, and Glenn qualify as strong leaders capable of overseeing and ushering in a new era.