This week’s SB Nation theme across our NFL sites asks the question: Which assistant coach on your team is most likely to become a head coach in the future?
For the New Orleans Saints, there are several coaches on staff that have previously held head coaching jobs: Dennis Allen (Raiders), Mike Nolan (49ers), Dan Campbell (interim Dolphins), and Curtis Johnson (Tulane). Having that collective experience in one setting certainly has benefited the Saints this season. However, it would appear that Dennis Allen could be the ‘next in line’ guy for the immediate future. But would he want to?
Prior to the game against the Washington Redskins, Allen was asked if he had a plan for dealing with buzz surrounding a head coaching job.
“We are focused on the Washington Redskins and how we are going to win this game. That is the only thing that matters. It would be frivolous and pointless to worry about anything that can happen in the future. It is really about the here and now. Let’s get this team ready to play as best we can. Let’s make sure that we as coaches, players, everybody’s focused on the task at hand and that’s really how you have success in this league. If you worry about anything other than that that’s when failure is sure to happen. Focus in on the here and now. Focus in on what you have to do to continue to get better and hopefully we’ll continue to do that and we’ll see positive results.”
That’s a pretty candid response from Allen, whose relationship with Sean Payton is similar to that of New England’s Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia. Allen is Payton’s right hand man, a guy that he trusts and has the support of his overall vision. It was clear that Rob Ryan was never that man, seen in countless sideline feuds and general confusion.
One of the things I loved seeing from my colleague Brian Pavek back in January was the fact that Allen has rebuilt the defense since taking over in late 2015. He has an aggressive scheme, as evident by how much the Saints blitz (league leading according to PFF). Through a combination of free agency and the draft (Jeff Ireland’s impact cannot be overlooked), New Orleans has been able to put together not only a competent defense, but one that has some depth and seen growth from its younger players.
The Saints defense has been one of the talks of the NFL in 2017, and it’s not by mistake. When you fix a wretched defense that was just laughable to watch during the past three 7-9 seasons, you’ll definitely turn some heads and have some interested parties.
Other thoughts: Don’t sleep on Ryan Pace (Bears GM) trying to pry away someone like Allen or offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael in the offseason. He’s said himself that he wants to copy the New Orleans blueprint, and he’s doing a pretty good job of it. And John Fox may soon be shown the door in Chicago. Another person to think of would be Dan Campbell, and learning under Payton bodes well for his future. However, at the end of it all, it’s hard to imagine the hard work the Saints have put in on their coaching staff being broken up, especially given the season they’re having.
Here’s some thoughts from the staff:
Chris Dunells: I hope it isn't so, but you'd almost have to say Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen, right? Turning around one of the perennially worst (and not just bad, but HISTORICALLY BAD) defenses into a potentially top 10 unit is remarkable. Granted, it starts with the personnel Allen has had to work with, but he's done a good job developing a scheme around his players. It might not be soon, but you'd have to imagine teams will start looking his way eventually.
Bob Rose: DA is the easy answer. But Nolan has moved around a lot. I can actually see him getting a head job before Allen.
John Sigler: Mike Nolan would be my answer too. However, Nolan is pretty far removed from his bust in SF. he's had more time to rebuild his resume than DA, and has a much better track record as a HC: he went 18-37 vs DA's 8-28.
Ellias Williams: Yeah I'd say Nolan - Though I doubt anyone gets poached this year unless the team wins a Super Bowl.
JM Di Guilio: I think Aaron Glenn is going to be a DC in the NFL before long. Dan Roushar gonna get looked at eventually too.