Sean Payton steps away from Saints: Candidates for New Orleans as it begins head coaching search

It’s the end of an era in New Orleans. On Tuesday, news came down that Sean Payton is stepping away as head coach of the Saints, ending his 15-year tenure that included a Super Bowl XLIV title. Rumors of this possibility had been floating around for quite a while, but New Orleans will now officially be looking for a new person to lead the franchise. Given that Payton has been considered one of the best coaches in the entire NFL over his run with the Saints and arguably the best play-caller in the league, this is a massive void that the organization now needs to fill. 

Who will take the baton from Payton? Below, you will find a handful of candidates who could make sense for New Orleans as it begins this new chapter in the franchise’s history.

Dennis Allen

Current position: New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator

In the aftermath of this Payton news, Allen has already been identified as a possible replacement for the Saints. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network even noted that he is considered the leading candidate for the job, so he certainly garners our attention. 

Allen first joined the Saints organization back in 2006 as an assistant defensive line coach and eventually ascended to secondary coach from 2008-2010. He departed the organization following that season to become the defensive coordinator for the Broncos in 2011, and then went on to become the head coach of the then-Oakland Raiders from 2012 to 2014. After being fired from that post, he returned to New Orleans as a defensive assistant in 2015 and was quickly promoted to defensive coordinator, a role he has held ever since. 

Under Allen, the Saints have routinely had one of the top defenses in the entire NFL. In 2021, they were the No. 3 ranked unit in the NFL in DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and allowed just 19.7 points per game (fourth-fewest in the league).  

Aaron Glenn

Current position: Detroit Lions defensive coordinator

Glenn is another familiar name in New Orleans who is expected to get an interview for the job, per Rapoport. The 49-year-old was with the Saints as their defensive backs coach from 2016 to 2020 before taking the defensive coordinator position with the Detroit Lions in 2021. The former three-time Pro Bowl cornerback also played his final year in the NFL with the Saints in 2008. 

Glenn has already garnered some head coaching interest around the league, interviewing with the Denver Broncos on Jan. 13. Similar to Allen, Glenn’s ties to the Saints organization make this a logical pairing.

Brian Daboll

Current position: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator

The Saints would need to work fast if they want to make a run at Daboll, as he is seemingly in the driver’s seat for a number of different head coaching jobs around the NFL, including with the New York Giants. That said, if New Orleans is looking to bring in someone with more of an offensive mindset, there’s arguably no better option than Daboll, who has helped turn the Bills offense into a juggernaut. Given how well Josh Allen has developed, Daboll may also make sense if the Saints want to bring in a young quarterback and build around him. 

This past season, the Bills had the 10th-ranked offense in the NFL in DVOA. They were a top-five unit in total yards per game and averaged 28.4 points per game (third-most in the NFL). 

Eric Bieniemy

Current position: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator

Similar to Daboll, if the Saints are looking for an offensive-minded coach, they may not be able to do much better than taking a look at Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. He has long been due for a head coaching job and could become the latest from the Andy Reid coaching tree to get a shot at leading his own club. Of course, you can tell by how the Chiefs offense hums under Patrick Mahomes how savvy of a coordinator Bieniemy is. Kansas City was the fourth-highest scoring team in the NFL this season, averaging 28.2 points per game. They also averaged 396.8 yards of total offense, which was the third-most in the league. 

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