A brutally honest take on the Dennis Allen hire

According to multiple reports, the Saints informed Dennis Allen on Monday that they’re hiring him as the franchise’s 11th full-time head coach.

Allen takes over for Sean Payton after serving as the Saints’ defensive coordinator from 2015-2021, a period that saw the unit improve from 31st in points per game and 27th in yards per game to 4th and 7th, respectively, in 2021.

Allen was also an assistant on Payton’s staff from 2006-2010, the Denver Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2011, and the head coach of the then-Oakland Raiders from 2012-2014, during which time he posted a disastrous 8-28 record.

Aside from lifting the defense from the depths of despair, perhaps the most notable bullet on Allen’s resume is serving as the team’s interim head coach for one game in 2021 when Payton was on the COVID-19 list, a game that the Saints won on the road, shutting out Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 9-0.  In fact, the Saints went 4-0 against Brady’s Bucs in the regular season and the future Hall of Fame QB was shut out of the endzone in both home games against Dennis Allen’s defenses. Glorious.

The move comes 12 years to the day after the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, in Super Bowl XLIV.

Saints owner Gayle Benson, GM Mickey Loomis and team president Dennis Lauscha certainly did their due diligence in searching for Payton’s replacement.  They interviewed Allen, current Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, former Saints secondary coach and current Lions DC Aaron Glenn, Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, former Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and Chiefs offensive coordinator (and New Orleans native) Eric Bieniemy, who reportedly met with the team for 8 (!) hours.

Allen seemed like the favorite to land the job from the beginning and his tenure as the Saints defensive coordinator has been impressive.  Ostensibly, he will preserve and possibly build upon the locker room culture built by Payton and Loomis over the last 16 years, and could keep together the team’s current roster and staff of high-profile assistants.

Having said all that…I have mixed feelings about the hire. It’s exciting and seems like the smart move, but it’s also terrifying.

Part of that is due to the fact that the team is replacing the man who will probably go down as the greatest coach in franchise history. Dennis Allen has massive shoes to fill and let’s be real – it’s more likely than not that he won’t be as successful as Payton.

And while Allen’s steady hand will probably keep the team’s elite defense intact, there are questions abound on the offensive side of the ball.  The Saints may lose their starting left tackle, their guard play was extremely lackluster in 2021, running back Alvin Kamara just got arrested in Las Vegas, and the team lacks depth behind star receiver Michael Thomas.

Oh, and they don’t have a franchise quarterback.  Jameis Winston is a free agent, Taysom Hill has a bad foot, Ian Book is an unknown commodity, and the greatest QB whisperer to ever don the black and gold just stepped away from the team.  In the arms race to acquire a disgruntled superstar QB like Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, the team’s greatest recruiter just walked out of the door.

Dennis Allen is a good hire but there is still much work to be done.  Can offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. lure a great QB to New Orleans?  Can he develop a young arm acquired through the draft?  Or does the team need to find a hot young offensive mind to shake things up?

Bieniemy’s contract with Chiefs expires this offseason, so could the Saints poach him from Kansas City for a year or two before he bolts to be a head coach somewhere else?  That would be a dream scenario.

Making the Allen hire official is a solid first step in maintaining the success the Saints have enjoyed since 2006.  But that’s all it is – a first step.

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