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Is Coaching Personnel as important for Saints’ Championship Window as Player Personnel?

The successful Saints boast at least three future head coaching candidates from within their staff, but one of the keys to ongoing success may be keeping them here as long as possible.

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New Orleans Saints v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

You hear people talking about it and worrying how long it may last. A team’s championship window can last one season or ten. It’s reliant on several factors and that window can close prematurely at any time if any of those factors suffer a loss that’s insurmountable.

Player personnel is obviously the most important factor because the players on the field most directly determine the quality of play and final outcome. They are the ones maintaining their health and availability while executing the plays they are given. Accumulating excellent and durable players on valuable contracts is paramount to keeping a team’s championship window open.

Yet there’s a reason fear has stricken NFC South teams not named the Buccaneers. Multiple masterminds need to install offenses and defenses, dissect film, game plan, and call the plays each player must know and execute each week.

Tampa Bay’s hiring of Bruce Arians is a huge shift of offensive power in the division. If he can’t make Jameis Winston a great quarterback, no one can. DeSean Jackson better call the Bucs back and rescind that trade request, because he could join Mike Evans next season in having career years under Arians’ direction.

That’s the kind of impact a coach can have on nearly the same roster as a year prior. And it’s not just the head coach that makes an impact. Great coaching at all levels is hard for a professional franchise to maintain because good coaches are continuously getting poached by other teams.

A good linebackers coach for one team may get offered the defensive coordinator position for another team. Then they may impress there for a few seasons until they are considered for a head coaching position, either there or someplace else. The cycle continues as coaches get fired, hired, promoted, and demoted throughout the league in an annual game of musical chairs.

That’s why Saints fans should be ecstatic that none of their stellar assistant coaches have been snatched up quite yet. Tight ends and assistant head coach, Dan Campbell, has interviewed for the head coaching vacancies in Green Bay, Cleveland, and Arizona.

The Packers chose former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. Arizona chose former Texas Tech and USC coach Kliff Kinsbury, and it appears Campbell is not a remaining top candidate for the position in Cleveland. Campbell served as interim head coach for the Dolphins in 2015 and led the hapless team to a 5-7 record. During that time, Campbell showcased his ability to connect with the players and fire them up on any given Sunday.

Defensive coordinator, Dennis Allen, also has former head coaching experience. Even though his stint with the Raiders didn’t last that long or end that well, Allen has steadily built his reputation back up while working with the Saints. Upon his arrival three seasons ago, the Saints defense ranked 31st in the league and is now ranked 14th under Allen’s tutelage.

Allen is among at least seven head coaching candidates for the Miami Dolphins and though the competition is steep, he has a decent shot at landing the gig. Because Allen has been a head coach before, we know he has the desire and ego for such a scrutiny-inducing post.

Offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael, Jr., however, is quite the anomaly to one’s average NFL coach. Seemingly egoless, Carmichael joined the Saints as a quarterbacks coach in 2006 and became offensive coordinator and later Super Bowl Champion in 2009. A Saints offense under Carmichael has never finished worse than eighth in total offense.

His youngest daughter started preschool when he took this job and she’s graduating from high school this year. That kind of job stability in the NFL is rare; and even rarer is the fact that Carmichael has worked with Drew Brees for pretty much his entire career dating back to 2002 with the Chargers.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I’ve been with Pete Carmichael now for 17 years,” Brees said. “He is by far the longest tenured coach that I’ve had a chance to be with for that length of time. Starting as really an offensive assistant to becoming the quarterback coach to then the offensive coordinator.

“He’s been in a position where on many occasions he’s had to call the plays for us. He’s always done a phenomenal job. There’s no guy that works harder on the job on a daily basis than Pete Carmichael and on a weekly basis. I just have so much trust and confidence in him.

“Really, he’s a comforting face for me to see every time I walk into that building and just the relationship we’ve been able to build over the last 17 years is pretty amazing when you look at it.”

Is it possible that Pete Carmichael is just as important to Brees’ success as Sean Payton? It’s worth pondering, but perhaps we’ll never know unless Carmichael does leave the Saints before Brees retires. But besides being a quarterback whisperer, what else does Carmichael really do week to week?

Tight end Ben Watson broke it down for The Athletic. “He’s the one who primarily guides the offense in understanding what’s going on each week for each opponent. If there’s something that needs to be changed, he’ll come down to the tight end room and say, ‘We’re going to run this play this way.’ He’s the OC, and I would agree a lot of people don’t know him.

“But he’s as important as anybody.”

“He’s always in the lab cooking up something special for us,” running back Mark Ingram said. “He has such a great knowledge of our offense and getting players in position to have the most success and how plays work off one another. From the run to the play action to the all goes, he’s just a special mind and a special guy. Behind the scenes, we might not be as special as we have been without Pete.”

“He’s an extremely smart guy,” Sean Payton said. “I’d say just as talented as he is when it comes to the football part of it, the Xs and Os, the quarterback position, all the things that are necessary to playing good offense, he’s actually that talented as a staff guy. He’s one of those guys that when he talks, people listen. He’s experienced a lot and he’s been with some real good offenses before he even arrived here. He’s very good in the meetings and his organizational skills are outstanding.”

The working relationship among Brees, Payton, and Carmichael is more than a decade in the making. Over that period of time something intangibly important has grown among them. Trust. “I trust him about as much as anyone,” Payton said.

The Saints have been good without Dan Campbell and Dennis Allen, but they don’t know success during the Payton/Brees era without Pete Carmichael, Jr. After getting passed over for the Packers head coaching vacancy, it appears Carmichael might stick around for at least one more year.

With the hopeful retentions of Campbell, Allen, and Carmichael, maybe the Saints championship window can last a little longer. At least, that is, until Brees hangs it up, or until the 2021 offseason when the Saints will have half a dozen studs on rookie scale contracts all needing extensions at the same time…


How important is it that the Saints retain their current assistant coaching staff as is?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Not important-life will go on
    (2 votes)
  • 41%
    Somewhat important-coaching matters
    (48 votes)
  • 57%
    Extremely important-the Saints would be shells of themselves without key assistant coaches
    (67 votes)
117 votes total Vote Now