The New Orleans Saints made the playoffs nine times under Sean Payton, winning the Super Bowl once and reaching the NFC Championship Game twice. With head coach Dennis Allen failing to meet expectations, it’s time to start evaluating Saints coaching candidates for 2024.
Allen, the Las Vegas Raiders coach from 2012-’14, excelled as the Saints’ defensive coordinator. When Payton retired and New Orleans needed a new head coach, Allen came out on top of the Saints coaching search. It seemed like an iffy decision at the time and the franchise has been a sub-.500 team ever since.
- Dennis Allen coaching record: 22-46, 14-17 with New Orleans Saints
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Let’s dive into our top Saints coaching candidates for 2024.
2024 New Orleans Saints coaching candidates
Aaron Glenn, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator
If the previous Saints coaching search is any guide, the franchise places some value on familiarity. It’s why two of our Saints coaching candidates, starting with Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, have ties to the organization and New Orleans.
Glenn, the 12th overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, played for the Saints in 2008 before retiring. A few years later, he joined Payton’s staff in New Orleans as a defensive backs coach. During his time in New Orleans, Glenn oversaw the development of the Saints’ secondary and was very well-liked as a teacher and leader.
“His ability to really fine-tune how I need to play each game based off the strategy is something that has helped me be more engaged and make more plays doing things outside of my comfort zone. like to think I know a lot about the game, but Aaron finds ways to improve my game, teaches me areas I can work on and teaches me new things, which is rare. I appreciate that.”Former New Orleans Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins on Aaron Glenn (H/T The Athletic)
Glenn has already interviewed for multiple NFL head-coaching vacancies in recent years and many around the league believe he’s a future head coach. Known best as a leader, communicator and smart defensive mind, Glenn could be an appealing candidate for a return to New Orleans.
Brian Callahan, Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator
Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan generated a little head-coaching buzz in 2023, but he ultimately wasn’t chosen. Considering teams thought Eric Bieniemy’s success as an offensive coordinator was due to his quarterback, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the same knock hung over Callahan.
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In a chaotic 2023 NFL season that has wiped out numerous star quarterbacks, Callahan has proven he doesn’t need Joe Burrow to run a successful Bengals offense. While backup quarterback Jake Browning has only started four games to this point, the numbers are even better than Cincinnati’s offense in 2022.
- Cincinnati Bengals offense (2022): 25.7 PPG, 353.8 total yards per game, 5.4 yards per play, 46.91 percent third-down conversion rate, 68.15 percent completion rate, 99.2 team QB rating
- Bengals’ offense (with Jake Browning): 27.7 PPG, 369 total ypg, 6.2 yards per play, 75.97 percent completion rate, 109.3 QB rating
Endorsements matter in the NFL, especially when they’re coming from beloved figures from hometown heroes. Peyton Manning, a New Orleans native, has an excellent relationship with Callahan. Burrow will also give his stamp of approval for Callahan, another voice that matters in Louisiana.
While there will always be an unknown with hiring a first-year head coach, Callahan checks off a lot of boxes. New Orleans has some factors working against it among the best NFL head-coaching vacancies, but Callahan should be among the Saints coaching candidates.
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Bill Belichick, New England Patriots head coach
Years of the Saints kicking salary-cap hits down the road, sacrificing the future for competing in the short-term, suggests New Orleans would want a win-now coach. Bill Belichick is leaving the New England Patriots and while he might only have a few seasons left as a head coach, he’s an intriguing fit.
With the Saints, Belichick could help elevate a defense that has arguably been a top-10 unit in 2023 into one of the best defenses in football next season. He’s also a great situational coach and game-planner, which would make a massive difference in comparison to Dennis Allen.
Belichick would likely hire Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator, which is an improvement over Pete Carmichael Jr. As far as roster construction goes, Belichick and general manager Mickey Loomis could work together, with Belichick focused primarily on the defense with Loomis’ track record finding skill players on offense creating a well-rounded roster in the future.
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Frank Smith, Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator
Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith isn’t the play-caller for one of the league’s elite offenses, but he’s the right-hand man for Mike McDaniel. Smith also has a resume with success at multiple spots, helping improve offensive lines and rushing attacks. Both of those are areas for the Saints to improve next season and beyond.
We previously mentioned highlighting Saints coaching candidates with ties to New Orleans or the franchise itself. Smith was the Saints’ assistant offensive line coach from 2010-’14. During those respective seasons, the Saints ranked 10th (2010 & 2012), seventh (2011), and sixth (2013) in Pro Football Focus’ Pass Blocking Efficiency.
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“He has a thorough understanding of the game and is a great teacher, which is really what coaching is all about. He also has a unique ability to anticipate problems before they arise, be that on the field or in administrative-type things related to schedules, questions that will come up with players or coaches, etc. He operates on a daily basis with a passion, positivity and humility that is rare and sets him apart.”Mike McDaniel on Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith (H/T Jeff Howe of The Athletic)
A return to New Orleans could be the best thing for everyone. Smith has long been one of the rising assistants in the NFL and his work in Miami over the past two seasons warrants head-coaching interviews. If the Saints want a quality leader with a personality that will come off well in press conferences, all with improvements offensively, Smith could be a quality option.