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Intro to Saints Special Teams and Strength and Conditioning Coaching Staff

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The final installment of an in-depth look at the entire Saints coaching staff.

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Welcome to Part III of my introduction to the 2016 Saints Coaching Staff. Today, we take a closer look at Special Teams along with Strength and Conditioning. I truly enjoyed learning more about all the coaches. Compiling the coaching trees proved incredibly interesting as it became clear that to last as a coach in the NFL, it’s not always what you know, but who you know. So without further ado, let’s begin with one of Sean Payton’s oldest friends.

Greg McMahon - Special Teams Coordinator

Coaching Tree:

Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints 2006-2016

Greg McMahon and Sean Payton’s football friendship extends back to their days playing together at Eastern Illinois. When Payton became head coach in 2006, he brought in several friends as assistants, thus beginning McMahon’s ten year stand coaching special teams.

McMahon loves identifying players for the special teams units and has enjoyed sprinklings of success in this area. In 2014, he coached Jalen Saunders into a late season return dynamo. Since being drafted in 2009, Thomas Morstead has steadily averaged punts between 45 and 50 yards. Paired with Morstead’s strong leg, the Saints punt return coverage units have ranked in the top 5 for several years. On the other hand, the Saints punt and kick return units have been incredibly mediocre with Marcus Murphy returning the first punt for a touchdown since Reggie Bush in 2008. The kick return unit has faired no better, but I did notice that Travaris Cadet has been the best contributor of 20-plus yards averages over the past four years. He served the Saints well towards the end of last season and was recently resigned.

The most glaring failure of McMahon’s career has to be his inability to establish a reliable long term field goal kicker. Garret Hartley’s career started off strong but wavered towards the end as he was often more accurate from 40 plus yards than he was at chip shot distances. Shane Graham served as a short-term band-aid, but didn’t possess the leg strength to allow the Saints to try kicks from 40 plus yards. Last season, McMahon supposedly toiled through a painstaking revue between kickers Dustin Hopkins and Zack Hocker. I don't how how painstaking a revue of kickers can be when they each only kick a couple attempts at practices and games, but McMahon clearly picked the wrong kicker for the Saints squad. Hocker started well but then quickly began struggling and was replaced mid-season by an equally mediocre Kai Forbath who will compete this offseason with incoming veteran Josh Scobee. At the same time, Hopkins went on to post excellent kicking percentages for the Redskins. While Payton seems to get the blame for never being able to stick with a kicker, shouldn’t the finger be pointed at McMahon?

Stan Kwan - Special Teams Assistant

Coaching Tree:

Dan Henning - San Diego Chargers 1991

Bobby Ross - San Diego Chargers 1992-1996, Detroit Lions 1997-2000

Dave McGinnis - Arizona Cardinals 2001-2003

Steve Mariucci - Detroit Lions - 2004-2005

Dick Jauron - Detroit Lions - 2005

Rod Marinelli - Detroit Lions 2006-2008

Jim Schwartz - Detroit Lions - 2009

Chan Gailey - Buffalo Bills 2010-2012

Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints 2013-2016

Stan Kwan enters his third year with the Saints serving as special teams assistant. He has coached in the NFL for 25 years and has achieved consistent success with both the Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills special teams units. CJ Spiller, for one, enjoyed his greatest season as a kick returner under Kwan’s tutelage. Maybe Kwan can squeeze some of that production out of a healthier Spiller this season.

A bright spot for the Saints special teams has been the kick return coverage team. Throughout Kwan’s coaching history, this seems to be a constant theme. Hopefully that success can trickle down to the punt return coverage team who has been more of a liability in recent years. As mentioned above, the biggest concern this season is who will be kicking field goals. Josh Scobee recently signed a year long deal, but will have to win the job in training camp. He has an extremely strong leg and has only played for teams with outdoor stadiums, so kicking in a dome may rejuvenate his career after fully recovering from a lingering quad injury that hampered him last year in Pittsburgh.

Dan Dalrymple - Head Strength and Conditioning

Coaching Tree:

Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints 2006-2016

Dan Dalrmple begins his 11th season as head strength and conditioning coach. After a successful college career at Miami Ohio, Dalrymple tried out for the Seattle Seahawks, but did not make the team, and then returned to his alma mater to begin his coaching career. He holds two certifications from USA Weightlifting and another from National Strength and Conditioning Association. In 2009, the Saints overall performance helped him receive two separate accolades for superior coaching in strength and conditioning. Over the past few seasons, the Saints have remained in the top half of the league with regards to injuries, meaning more than half of the 32 teams had more injuries over a season than the Saints.

As an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer since 2007, I find this position of our coaching staff the most interesting. It puzzles me that the Saints players’ health and well being rests in the hands of someone who is severely out of shape. How would Dalrymple know what it takes to play professional football for four quarters when he couldn’t make a squad himself? I wouldn’t want to train with an obese trainer, and we have 53 professional athletes training with one right now. Take one look at his picture and tell me, would you want to train with this guy?

Charles Byrd - Strength and Conditioning Assistant

Coaching Tree:

Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints 2008-2016

After serving as strength and conditioning coach at Miami Ohio, Charles Byrd jumped to the NFL, by obvious way of Dan Dalrymple who also coached there prior to joining the Saints staff. After failing to land on an NFL roster like Dalrymple, Byrd at least passes the initial eye test as he appears to still be in playing shape. Byrd’s duties include implementing the offseason training program so he is hard at work from April through December. Byrd brings strong leadership qualities to the staff as he did the same as a defensive back and kick returner at Morehead State.

Rob Wenning - Strength and Conditioning Assistant

Coaching Tree:

Sean Payton - New Orleans Saints 2010-2016

While serving his main roll of implementing the strength and conditioning programs for players, Rob Wenning begins his sixth season as a Saints assistant. Oddly, Wenning too played his collegiate career in Ohio, but for the University of Findlay instead of Miami like the other two strength coaches. After college, he interned at Ohio State as a strength and conditioning assistant before earning his masters in sports management from LSU; while also serving as a strength coach for the swim, diving, tennis, football and baseball programs. As a firm believer in cross training across multiple sports, Wenning’s experience is both welcome and exciting.