NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Even as Saints general manager Mickey Loomis spoke highly of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen on Friday as a candidate to replace retired coach Sean Payton, he also emphasized his desire to thoroughly consider candidates from outside the club.
Allen is “qualified. He has experience. He understands our culture here. We just know a lot about him. He’s an excellent candidate," Loomis said.
The Saints GM did not mention other coaches he intends to consider, but under NFL rules, he is certain to interview minority candidates before hiring a new head coach. Higher profile minority candidates could include Brian Flores, who was recently fired as Miami's head coach and also was an assistant with New England's past three championship squads. Another would be Aaron Glenn, who spent last season as Detroit's defensive coordinator following five seasons as a secondary coach for the Saints.
“We do have great candidates from within the building and yet we also recognize that there's great candidates outside the building," Loomis said. "We want to go trough the full process. That’s the fair thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for the New Orleans Saints.”
Loomis was not concerned by the timing of Payton's resignation this week, which came after eight other NFL teams — Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, the New York Giants and Houston — already had begun their search.
Two of those clubs have hired new coaches: The Broncos tapped Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and the Bears selected Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
“I don’t see it as a significant factor," Loomis said. "A couple guys have been hired already but I'm not overly concerned with that.
“Our circumstances are different. Those eight teams, they let go a head coach and I think their situation is different than ours when you have a head coach retire and you have a lot of really good things in place already.”
Loomis went on to mention that the Saints are looking to preserve some degree of continuity on both the roster and throughout the organization, given the club's relative success since Payton was hired in 2006. During the past 16 years, the Saints have made nine playoff appearances, won seven NFC South titles, made three NFC title game appearances and won one Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.
Some coaches who were on the Super Bowl staff are with the organization now. Many more staff and some current core players were with the Saints' NFC South title teams in four straight recent seasons from 2017 to 2020. Allen was with the Saints when they won the Super Bowl, left to become Denver's defensive coordinator and later the Oakland Raiders' head coach before returning to the Saints in 2015.
Loomis said it is “correct to assume” the Saints don’t view their impending hiring of a new head coach “as a wholesale culture change, roster change, anything like that.”
“We’ve got a lot of good things here,” Loomis said. “As Sean said in his press conference: He’s leaving with franchise in much better place than when he got here.”
When Loomis hired Payton as a rookie head coach in 2006, the Saints' head coaching job arguably was the least attractive in the NFL. Not only had New Orleans gone 3-13 in 2005, but the city remained devastated from Hurricane Katrina.
Loomis noted there were “a lot of questions" about the long-term viability of an NFL franchise in the rebuilding community.
"There were just so many other unique things about that 16 years ago made that opening and that time so unique and such a challenge,” Loomis said.
“There wasn’t anybody ringing my phone 16 years ago," the general manager said, referring to head coaching candidates or their agents. “I was having to ring theirs and it wasn’t always positive when I did get hold of someone.”
This time, Loomis said, there are ”a lot of people interested in coming to New Orleans and it's completely different in terms of how we're perceived."
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL