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New Orleans Saints name Kris Richard and Ryan Nielsen co-defensive coordinators, per reports

While we were wondering if it would work, the Saints were busy making it happen. Division of labor will be key to success.

New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

According to various reports, the New Orleans Saints have named defensive backs coach Kris Richard and defensive line/assistant head coach Ryan Nielsen co-defensive coordinators ahead of the 2022 NFL season.

This rounds out the Saints largest coaching position changes with Pete Carmichael staying on as offensive coordinator and Dennis Allen being promoted to head coach.

The Saints’ focus over the course of the offseason thus far has been continuity and cohesion. After retaining both Allen and Carmichael, the New Orleans now keeps hold of two highly-regarding coaching personnel members who will gain expanded roles beginning this upcoming season.

Whether or not Richard and Nielsen will hold on to their positional coaching responsibilities remains to be seen. However, there is precedent that they could thanks to the Minnesota Vikings of 2020 and 2021 who employed co-defensive coordinators Andre Patterson and Adam Zimmer. They continued to coach the defensive line and linebackers respectively.

That Vikings experiment also serves as a cautionary tale for the potential pitfalls the structure can bring and that the Saints will hope to avoid. With a stronger culture, better personnel, and clearly define roles, this coaching staff should have better production under this approach.

One job that may end up shifting could be Nielsen’s assistant head coaching role. If that’s the case, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi would be an excellent candidate. Rizzi interviewed for the Saints’ head coach opening before Allen was elevated.

If head coach Dennis Allen does end up holding on to defensive playcalling responsibilities, the division of labor between Richard and Nielsen will be very important. It could be as simple as one taking over game planning for the passing game while the other prepares the run game. Akin to a passing game coordinator/run game coordinator structure.

There could be some situation responsibilities that are divided as well. Dennis Allen spoke highly of what Kris Richard brought to the Saints during his first year with the team in 2021. A large part of his praise centered around Richard’s impact on the redzone defense, which was one of the best in the NFL in last season.

Clearly defined roles will be imperative for the success of the structure. But if it works with the very talented defense already assembled on the player personnel side, the familiarity could lead to bright days ahead for the Saints defense.


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