METAIRIE, La. Dennis Allen's Transition to the New Orleans SaintsAll accounts have been positive about the head coaching position.
“We’re such creatures of habit,” said the Saints’ former defensive coordinator, who confessed to one particular misstep from a few weeks ago. “I left the locker room and went up to my office, and I just walked up the back way and down the hall and walked into what is now [co-defensive coordinator] Ryan Nielsen’s office. And I was like, ‘Oh damn, I just walked into the wrong office.’
“He was in there, and I started up some sort of conversation and acted like I needed to talk to him. And then at the end, I was like, ‘I gotta admit something: I really just came to the wrong office.'”
Allen, to be fair, has tried to keep things as normal this offseason as possible.
The vibe has been much different than it was when Allen’s mentor, Sean Payton, first arrived in New Orleans 16 years ago and did all he could to change the culture. Payton made changes to almost everything, including the locker room signs and home game jersey colors.
Allen is proud to have helped Payton and a lot of this Saints coaching staff build a culture over five consecutive winning seasons between 2017 and 2021, before Payton decided that he was leaving the job.
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“Why would I change things just to change them?” Allen said. “We’ve done a lot of good stuff around here. So you’re gonna see a lot of the same stuff.
“Now, the way I present the message may be just a little bit different than the way Sean presented it … kind of putting my own flair on it.”
Allen is trying to achieve the same success as he did in 2012 with the less well-known Oakland Raiders. Allen's 8-28 record was a result of his coaching style.
“That’s huge, just keeping the DNA the same,” running back Mark Ingram II said. “It’s not like it’s a full rebuild here. Our team can make a lot noise and still succeed. We must improve, get better and bond as a team. But I think keeping the DNA of the team, the bloodline of the team, the culture of the team the same is huge.”
It helps that everyone — including offensive players like Ingram — has seen Allen’s results on the defensive side of the ball. Under Allen’s watch, the Saints have ranked fourth in the NFL in both yards allowed and points allowed over the past three seasons. They were the first team to be shut out last December Tom Brady In 15 years with a 9:0 win on the Road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Even though the Saints lost the playoffs at 9-8 due to injuries in their 2021 season, the NFL's 58 regular-season wins from the past five seasons rank second behind the NFL's only two. Kansas City Chiefs.
Even new players to the Saints, such as safety, can enjoy free agency Tyrann Mathieu Both the receiver and sender Jarvis Landry, spoke out about how she was attracted by New Orleans' established culture — despite the change in head coach.
“The level of consistency is nice. It’s something that you rely on. It’s something you already trust,” defensive end Cameron Jordan said. “[Allen is] Someone we trust. So when you say, ‘Hey, this is for the better of the team,’ you believe that. It’s not like a new guy coming in saying, ‘Hey, this is how we’re gonna run the team’ and you’re like, ‘Damn, do I buy in or not buy in?’
“You know what our defense is about, and that immediately brings credibility.”
The consistency is evident throughout the coaching staff. Allen retained Pete Carmichael Jr., long-time offensive coordinator, and promoted Kris Richard and Nielsen as co-defensive coordinators. The Saints' biggest staff change was rehiring former players. Buffalo Bills And Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone as offensive line coach — after Marrone previously served as Payton’s offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008.
Allen was also part of Payton’s original staff from 2006 to 2010, including the Saints’ Super Bowl-winning 2009 season, before he became the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2011 and Raiders coach in 2012. Allen returned to New Orleans as a coach in 2015.
“What we do works and what we do is effective. And let’s be honest, Dennis has been a part of developing that,” said assistant offensive line coach Zach Strief, who was a rookie when Payton and Allen first arrived in 2006. “[Allen] It was a key part of the building of the culture and structure. Sean was not the head coach. Some of it may have been a result of. [Allen's] brain.”
Players and coaches praised Allen's increased attention to detail as the most notable change. Not that Payton didn’t sweat the small stuff — he absolutely did — but Allen is approaching everything with fresh eyes, including meeting times and practice drills.
“DA’s always been about the minutiae, and it’s been interesting to see him attack with that same idea on the offensive side that everything needs to be exact,” said Jordan, who said he has so far resisted the urge to poke fun at Allen for anything — or even to complain when the now-impartial head coach doesn’t credit the defense for enough sacks in practice.
“I’m just trying not to get on his nerves,” said the often-rambunctious Jordan — who admits he may have some firsthand experience with that.
“I will fall in line and say ‘Sir, yes sir’ … for the time being.”