In 2014, no unit for the New Orleans Saints was more disappointing than the defensive line. The talent is in place, talent that had found some success, admittedly under Johnson in 2013, talent like Akiem Hicks, John Jenkins, and Cameron Jordan. The problem is that the Saints have been underachieving at defensive line for nearly 15 years, and Johnson has not made enough of an impact over the last six seasons to turn this problem around. With Rob Ryan all but assured job security in the 2015 season, the Saints need to start re-evaluating the stagnant defensive assistant coaching staff.
Bill Johnson, a Monroe native, was brought in to New Orleans as defensive line coach in 2009, as part of the post-Gary Gibbs defensive coaching staff overhaul. Johnson had been the Atlanta Falcons' defensive line coach from 2001-2006 and coached the Denver Broncos' defensive line from 2007-2008. Just before arriving in New Orleans, his Broncos defense ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per game.
Here's a look at the Saints' defensive rankings with Johnson on the staff:
2009 - 25th in yards allowed / 13th in sacks
2010 - 4th in yards allowed / 19th in sacks
2011 - 24th in yards allowed / 20th in sacks
2012 - 32nd in yards allowed / 26th in sacks
2013 - 4th in yards allowed / 4th in sacks
2014 - 31st in yards allowed / 25th in sacks
When you average 20th in yards allowed, and 18th in sacks over six seasons, with the benefit of an outlier season in 2013, you're just not getting the job done. Johnson, from an outside perspective, seems like the quintessential players coach, the type of guy that seems as comfortable sharing a cold beer with his d-line as he would going over game film with them. I would certainly imagine that Johnson is one of the coaches that the Saints defense confided in and gravitated to during the toxic Spagnuolo disaster of 2012. His seemingly jovial nature, respect from his players, and 14 year NFL experience have likely kept him in his position as long as he has been. Despite all of this, results are results, and these results are flat-out bad.
The Saints have raw talent along the defensive line that is still relatively young enough to be molded into smarter, more efficient players, before bad habits and complacency root themselves. The Saints need this change, as this franchise hasn't had a dependable pass rushing, run stopping defensive line since the 2000 season. With the dire situations at linebacker and cornerback, this is the one defensive unit that the Saints can lean on their talent and not make drastic moves in personnel. It's coaching that will make the most difference here.
With coaching staff changes slowly starting to develop early this offseason, this change is a no-brainer. It's time for a new perspective and a new voice along the Saints' defensive front. The very definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over, and to expect different results. The results are definitive in this matter, Bill Johnson may very well be a good guy, but he is no longer the guy that should be coaching the Saints defensive line in 2015.