Skip to main content

Saints HC Dennis Allen Set Up for Optimal Success

Replacing a coaching icon will definitely have its challenges.  However, here's why the Saints' Dennis Allen has a chance for great success stepping in for the legendary Sean Payton.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

The NFL world and New Orleans sports community was blindsided in January when Saints head coach Sean Payton surprisingly retired after 16 seasons with the franchise. Payton brought unprecedented success to the Saints and arguably did his finest coaching job with an injury-ravaged squad in 2021.

Replacing the legendary coach is 49-year-old Dennis Allen, a defensive assistant of Payton's for 12 years.

This is Allen's second chance as a head coach. His first was with the Oakland Raiders, where he held an 8-28 record from 2012 to 2014 and was fired four games into 2014. He also took over head coaching responsibilities for Payton, who was out with Covid, in Week 15 last season. The result was a stirring 9-0 road win over the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Dec 19, 2021; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen serves as head coach in Sean Payton's absence against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY

Dec 19, 2021; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen serves as head coach in Sean Payton's absence against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY

Unlike other coaches replacing an icon, Allen's franchise has put him in a prime position for success. Sean Payton didn't exactly leave the cupboard bare for his loyal assistant.

Still on the team are perennial Pro Bowlers in DE Cam Jordan, CB Marshon Lattimore, LB Demario Davis, RB Alvin Kamara, OT Ryan Ramczyk, and WR Michael Thomas. Other budding stars remaining are C Erik McCoy, WR/KR Deonte Harty, S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, CB Paulson Adebo, LB Pete Werner, DE Marcus Davenport, and DT David Onyemata.

The Saints also had a productive offseason. They signed veteran talents like safeties Marcus Maye, Tyrann Mathieu, and WR Jarvis Landry, all among the best available free agents at their positions. New Orleans also added two first-round picks in WR Chris Olave and OT Trevor Penning, both expected to have an immediate impact.

Also, unlike other coaches replacing a potential Hall of Famer like Payton, Allen isn't taking over an aging team in decline. Davis (33), Jordan (32), and Mathieu (30) are the only projected starters over 30 years old.

Ramczyk (28), Thomas (29), Lattimore (26), and Kamara (26) have recently signed long-term contract extensions to keep them in place with the franchise. Promising players like Adebo, Werner, and DE Payton Turner are only headed into their second year.

The Saints have some crucial contract decisions to make on some key players by the end of this season. Gardner-Johnson, McCoy, Harty, and Onyemata are headed into the last year of their respective deals. However, New Orleans is perhaps the NFL's best at juggling the salary cap and keeping their talented core intact.

New Orleans Saints coach Dennis Allen calls defensive signals during a game. Credit: neworleanssaints.com

New Orleans Saints coach Dennis Allen calls defensive signals during a game. Credit: neworleanssaints.com

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Critics will point to Dennis Allen's poor record and results while with the Raiders. Allen was only 40-years old when he took the job in Oakland, his first head coaching job at any level. Bill Belichick, Mike Shanahan, and Pete Carroll also did poorly in their first stints as head coaches, but went on to have outstanding careers.

Remember that Oakland has been among the more dysfunctional and unstable franchises in any sport over the last two decades. He’ll have no such worries in New Orleans.

While once not the case, the Saints are now one of the more stable franchises in the NFL. Allen has both patience and support from the team's ownership and front office. Locker room leadership from players like Jordan, Davis, and RB Mark Ingram, is one of the strongest in the league.

Allen will also enjoy better stability at quarterback than he did in Oakland. In his 36 games with the Raiders, seven different players started behind center. With New Orleans, 28-year-old Jameis Winston enters his second year as starter. Winston has his own questions to answer, but showed great promise in seven games before going down with a knee injury last season.

The top overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston is a former 5,000 yard passer who has shown he can be a productive performer. He’ll be surrounded with as much offensive firepower as any quarterback in the NFL, along with a top-notch offensive line.

Allen's strength is on the defensive side. He’s said that he'll continue to call the defensive signals, with input from co-coordinators Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard. Nielsen and Richard are two of the highest regarded assistants in the league. New Orleans has an elite defense capable of shutting down the NFL's most prolific attacks.

The offensive play-calling will be handled by Pete Carmichael, another longtime Payton assistant. It's a unit that was ravaged by injuries and ineffectiveness last season. Expect a big bounce back with the return of Thomas, Winston, Ramczyk, G Andrus Peat and the addition of receivers Olave and Landry.

Allen will be under the microscope as the game-day decision maker. Payton was regarded as one of the best game day coaches in the league. Most of the coaching staff remains, meaning that continuity in game planning should still be strong.

Sep 17, 2017; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and head coach Sean Payton against the New England Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

Sep 17, 2017; New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and head coach Sean Payton against the New England Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY

The benchmark for coaches successfully taking over for an icon was set in 1989. San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator George Seifert stepped in for a retired Bill Walsh that season, leading the team to a 14-2 record and a second consecutive Super Bowl title.

The New Orleans Saints have possessed a legitimate championship contender for four of the last five seasons and have one of the league's most talented rosters again this year. Dennis Allen certainly has huge shoes to fill, but has the roster, front office, and experience to equal, perhaps even surpass, the success of his predecessor.

READ MORE SAINTS NEWS