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New Orleans Saints bolster coaching staff with Kris Richard hire

From Pike Street to Poydras, Richard bring stellar track record as new Saints defensive backs coach

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have hired former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator and Dallas Cowboys assistant coach Kris Richard as their new defensive backs coach. He will replace the highly regarded Aaron Glenn who is now the Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator.

The Saints coaching staff has been plucked quite a bit this offseason. Assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell is now the head coach of the Lions, taking Aaron Glenn with him. Former quarterbacks coach Joe Lombardi is now the offensive coordinator in Los Angeles with the Chargers. Though not a coaching staff member, the Saints also lost Terry Fontenot to Atlanta’s GM position. The attention isn’t diminishing either as newly-promoted defensive line coach and assistant head coach Ryan Nielsen is being interviewed for the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator position.

Despite all this, though, the Saints continue to do the work they need to remain competitive next year. A big part of that was filling the role vacated by Aaron Glenn. Doing so with Kris Richard is a big win for New Orleans as the former six-year NFL player brings an outstanding track record despite some recent misconstrued blemishes.

After playing in the NFL from 2002 to 2007 Richard started his coaching career as the Seattle Seahawks’ assistant defensive backs coach after being a graduate assistant with USC.

In 2011, he was then moved to cornerbacks coach before taking on coaching responsibilities for the defensive backs room from 2012 to 2014. During that time, Richard was a pivotal part in cultivating the dreaded and famous “Legion of Boom” defensive unit. The unit’s secondary included Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, Earl Thomas, and the outstanding Kam Chancellor. All of whom, with the exception of Browner, were 2010 or 2011 draft selections. He was a major part of their development and reign as the best defense in the NFL for years.

All quickly leading to two Super Bowl appearances and a dominating win to seal a championship for the 2013 season. The 2014 repeat was foiled not by a defensive play call, but an unfortunate offensive one.

Mac Engel: Cowboys defense has been average and their secondary is brutal Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Richard helped to create one of the most dominant secondaries in modern football and because of that, he earned another step up in 2015, when he moved into the defensive coordinator spot in place of Dan Quinn.

In 2015, Richard’s defense ranked second in passing yard allowed and second in total defense. He maintained that success a bit in 2016 ranking eighth in passing and fifth in total defense. But in 2017, the drop was a little more present for a defense decimated by injuries. That season, Richard’s defense still managed to finish 11th in total defense and sixth in passing, though. He was then let go as defensive coordinator and a lot of curiosity still remains as to why. Allegedly, Carroll wanted different leadership for a defense that was growing out of the Legion of Boom days, with Richard being one of the last remaining relics.

But there was nothing really out of the ordinary for Richard’s fit with the staff. He didn’t blitz more than usual, didn’t force the defense into man coverage, wasn’t too aggressive by any means.

In 2017, the defense dropped to 13th in points allowed. That doesn’t seem like much, but after being first in the NFL from 2012 - 2015 and third in 2016, it probably felt like a steep drop-off for Seattle. There were some big injuries that year for the Seahawks including Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, and others. It wasn’t a big surprise the defense struggled without it’s Pro Bowl-caliber players on the field and healthy. After that season, Richard and the Seahawks parted ways.

It wasn’t long before he landed on his feet in Texas hired as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator where he helped lead the defenses in 2018 and 2019.

In 2018, Dallas ranked seventh in total defense, 13th in passing yards allowed, and sixth in points allowed. Overall, a top-ten defense. The next year, Byron Jones and the gang fell two spots in total dense to ninth, improved to 10th in passing, fell to 11th in points allowed. Not a bad sophomore year. But unfortunately for Richard, the coaching staff was practically purged once Jason Garrett was let go.

Richard has been an innovative assistant coach and coordinator since coming back to the NFL. His two departures should be of little to no concern for Saints fans. Contextually, they’re hardly indictments of his work. The end of an era in Seattle, the ousting of a regime in Dallas. Honestly, it’s a little surprising to see him as a positional coach as opposed to landing elsewhere as a coordinator. But perhaps that opportunity opens up later with all the attention Dennis Allen has gotten in recent offseasons.

But that’s a win for New Orleans who was looking to replace an integral piece on their staff.

Richard took 2020 off of football and has now returned to a talented secondary that was a part of the NFL’s fourth-ranked total defense, which was fifth in both scoring and passing yardage allowed.

Seeing the new coach mention that New Orleans is the “best place for [his] family and [him]” carries a lot of weight. Culture has such a great emphasis in the Saints organization and when big-ticket free agents and hot coaching candidates choose to land in MSY and take the trip down Airline Dr. to the training facility, it speaks volumes of what they’ve created.

If you listen to Sean Payton’s appearance on Steve Wyche and Jim Trotter’s Huddle and Flow Podcast, there’s no doubt that Payton and the Saints have put an emphasis on opportunity in the NFL. Richard might have just gotten his, one he deserves.

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