On Tuesday, the NFL world was shocked when Sean Payton announced his retirement from the New Orleans Saints. However, If the Saints want to remain competitive they have to act fast. That being said, here are the top five coaching candidates to replace Sean Payton.
5. Kellen Moore (Offensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys)
Nearly 16 years ago, the Saints took a chance on a first-time head coach from the Dallas Cowboys. Could the Saints do the same with Kellen Moore? The Dallas offensive coordinator has done a fantastic job with the Cowboys’ offense and fits the modern archetype of a young, innovative coach.
Moore seems to be well-liked in Dallas and seems primed to make a splash in the coaching market in the near future. Taking a risk on Moore would be a gamble, but after all, the Saints are used to taking gambles. Despite being just 33 years of age, Moore is certainly a guy who is quickly rising through the coaching ranks and is a strong candidate for any job. Moore might be a guy who could reinvigorate a struggling Saints offense.
4. Eric Bieniemy (Offensive Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs)
Eric Bieniemy remains a big name in the coaching market, and it’s not to anyone’s surprise. Bieniemy has been the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs since 2018, and in his tenure, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense have been among the best in the league. This past year, Bieniemy interviewed for various coaching jobs. However, he hasn’t landed a head coaching position.
It’s only a matter of time before Bieniemy finds himself leading a team. There are many fans across the NFL who would certainly be happy to see Bieniemy leading the charge for various teams. The Saints’ have struggled more and more on offense in recent years, and hiring Bieniemy might elevate their play on offense. His work with Patrick Mahomes is solid proof of his qualifications.
3. Pete Carmichael Jr. (Offensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints)
Since 2009, Pete Carmichael Jr. has been Sean Payton’s right-hand man as offensive coordinator. Carmichael Jr. called plays against Tampa Bay in Payton’s absence and was the Saints’ play-caller during the 2012 season when Sean Payton was suspended for that year. Sean Payton has also spoken highly of Carmichael Jr, who has played a significant role in the Saints’ offensive planning.
Handing the keys from Payton to Carmichael Jr. would allow the Saints to have a smooth transition on offense, keeping continuity on being an offensive-focused team. Based upon Payton’s prior remarks about Carmichael Jr, it’s clear that the offensive coordinator has played a crucial role in the success of the Saints. Would Carmichael Jr. be ready to make the jump to Head Coach?
2. Brian Flores (Former Head Coach, Miami Dolphins)
Brian Flores seems like an obvious candidate to coach the New Orleans Saints. Despite leading the Dolphins to a winning record after a 1-7 start to the year, Flores was fired after a reported rift between him and members of the Dolphins’ front office. Flores took a squandering Dolphins team and found respectable results. Flores started his tenure in Miami going 5-11, but since then, has a combined 19-14 record. It was the most impressive stretch that any Miami coach has had in years.
Understandably, many fans of teams in the coaching market were clamoring for their franchise to target Flores. You have to wonder what Flores could do with a much more talented squad. If Flores found results in Miami, it seems likely that he could find lots of success in New Orleans. For now, Flores remains a strong candidate for the Saints’ job.
1. Dennis Allen (Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints)
For many, Dennis Allen seems to be the leading candidate to replace Sean Payton, and for good reason. Allen has been a massive part of New Orleans’ success on defense, establishing one of the most consistent defensive squads in the NFL. Allen, who received lots of praise in Payton’s retirement press conference, could keep continuity in the team, making the transition from Payton’s leadership more smooth.
Allen does have prior head-coaching experience with the Oakland Raiders. That tenure may have ended in an 8-28 record, but looking at Allen’s recent accomplishments paints a different picture. The Saints have the 2nd most wins out of any franchise since 2017, and that is, in large part, due to Allen. Since taking over the Saints’ defense in 2017, Allen has found great success. However, the most impressive performance from Allen came during this past season. When Sean Payton was out for a week due to a coronavirus outbreak, Allen filled Payton’s shoes, helping the Saints pitch a shut out against Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. Such a performance is noteworthy.
Allen seems to be well-liked by the organization and the players. Hiring Allen would be a step away from the offensive identity that New Orleans usually possesses, but in recent years, the defense has been New Orleans’ strength. Hiring Allen seems like a no-brainer, and if the Saints go that direction, it shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Photo: Brian Blanco/AP