Pete Carmichael out as Saints OC after 18 seasons: Five Potential Candidates for a Successor

Saints’ former offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael Jr; CREDIT:

Saints staff members returned to the facility on airline drive on Tuesday morning with an extremely notable absence that was immediately acknowledged.

As I have written time and time this season and as early as week four this season, the Saints have needed to make this move since last offseason. Carmicahel has been a cornerstone part of the staff through this golden era of Saints football these past two decades, but it is clear that as a play caller/schemer the game has passed him by in terms of what works for modern NFL offenses. This is no knock on Carmichael’s character or football acumen, however being a coordinator at one place for 18 years is unprecedented in the NFL as it should be. There is no reason for any one to hold that position in one place for so long because coordinators are the prime targets in NFL coaching searches, if your guy isn’t getting any looks from teams after nearly two decades, it is clear that a change is needed.

The team also let go of two more staff members this morning, which is another aspect that could hint at where they are looking to go with this hire.

Another name that will not be returning to the staff is running backs coach Joel Thomas who was poached by the New York Giants Tuesday afternoon.

At this point, Loomis and company should target younger guys outside of the organization. On the following list, I will have one in house name, but an outside hire would be the most ideal in this case. New ideas, energy and youth should be a priority in filling this position. Targeting high level staff members on teams who have paced the league in offensive EPA (Expected Points Added), which measures team efficiency from down to down relative to their expectation – deeper explanation here. Also targeting guys who have spent a few years under names like McVay, Reid and Shannahan is also always a smart place to start in these searches. Here are five names that should be at the top of the list of Mickey Loomis’s search.

Shane Waldron, OC, Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ offensive coordinator, Shane Waldron with quarterback Geno Smith; CREDIT:

This was a name I became familiar with throughout this past season because Seattle was constantly catching my eye with their play designs and personnel alignment.

Waldron popularized alignments with unbalanced backfields where two players were on the same side of the quarterback. For example, in the play above, the Seahawks run inside zone to the left with the two tight ends to the right of Drew Lock simulating a “split zone” action where a blocker picks up the backside end opposite of the direction of the zone. The second tight end holds the slot defender simulating a flat or “arrow” route when Lock carries out the bootleg. The flow of the linebackers opens up a cut back lane for Kenneth Walker and the tight end becomes a lead blocker with a receiver already there, giving them numbers en route to a score.

This is the sort of creativity that makes Waldron an extremely attractive option for this role. He is 44, and the Seahawks hired him from the Rams in 2021 after spending years on Sean McVay’s staff in various positions. He has been the offensive coordinator/play caller under Pete Carrol the last two years where Seattle ranked 9th and 11th in points per drive and can be credited for Geno Smith’s career resurgence.

The recent parting of ways between Pete Carrol and the Seahawks means he could be interested in taking the same role with a new organization. The Chicago Bears have been rumored to be interested in him after letting go of Luke Getsy following the season.

Darrell Bevell, QBs/Passing game coordinator, Miami Dolphins

Dolphins’ quarterback coach, Darrell Bevell with quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa; CREDIT:

This hire makes a lot of sense circumstantially for both sides. Bevell has spent two years in Miami on Mike McDaniel’s staff as the quarterbacks coach after having been in offensive coordinator at multiple locations throughout the 2010s. He was OC for the Vikings from 2006-2010 (yes that includes the 2009 NFC championship in the Dome), then with the Seahawks from 2011-2017 (legion of boom era), then the Lions 2019-20 (Stafford’s last year) and most recently Jaguars in 2021 under the Urban Meyer disaster before joining McDaniel’s staff in 2022.

He is 54 years old, which goes against the criteria I believe should be used in this hire, but his past success and pedigree combined with his time with Mike McDaniel the last two seasons makes him an enticing option for this role. There is a possibility that he could be uninterested in taking another coordinator job after he has bounced around so much, but he has had success everywhere he’s gone essentially and should be given another opportunity to show he’s adapted to the modern NFL schematics after being responsible for the most prolific passing game in the NFL in 2023 that had Tua Tagovailoa lead the NFL in yards and completion percentage in 2023 and passer rating and yards per attempt in 2022.

If he shows interest in taking another position, McDaniel will have a very tough time keeping him on staff and his combination of experience and time in the most nuanced offense in the NFL makes him an intriguing for this opening.

Jerrod Johnson, QBs, Houston Texans

Texans’ quarterback coach, Jerrod Johnson with quarterback C.J. Stroud; CREDIT;

This option checks the youth box at 35 years old, and his work this past year with phenom rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud and surefire head coach candidate in Texans OC Bobby Slowik could garner some attention from teams with an OC vacancy.

2023 marked his fourth year as an NFL coach, he spent 2020 and 2021 as the Colts offensive quality control manager, 2022 with the Vikings as an assistant quarterbacks coach and 2023 as a quarterback coach with the Texans. That sort of quick rise is extremely significant and should make him a hot commodity in itself. Working with Kevin O’Connell in Minnesota, a McVay disciple, and Slowik in Houston, a Kyle Shannahan disciple is another very intriguing part of his resume.

His work with C.J. Stroud in turning him into a superstar by injecting him with confidence is extremely impressive. Stroud was criticized as a prospect for being too one-read oriented and lacking poise to create and manage plays off script. Not only has this not been a problem, but it has been a strength for stroud when watching him and some credit can be attributed for Johnson – a former QB himself.

One potential issue is Derek Carr is just a couple of years younger than Johnson, but that could potentially be a great change for him in having a play caller who is close to him in age after years of having older play callers in Jon Gruden, Greg Olsen, Josh McDaniels and Carmicahael most recently in his career.

Zac Robinson, QBs/Passing game coordinator, Los Angelas Rams

Rams’ quarterback coach, Zac Robinson; CREDIT:

The pattern here should be clear in where the Saints should look with this hire, and Robinson checks every box. He is 37 years old and has spent the last two years on Sean McVay’s staff as the quarterback coach and passing game coordinator after spending the previous three as an assistant quarterback and receiving coach from 2019-2021. He has no prior NFL coaching experience, but being a high level member of the Rams’ staff these past few years definitely warrants attention.

This is another option that isn’t even in his 40s, but the modern way in the NFL is you have to be the one who finds the gems, not wait have to wait for them to prove themselves and garner more interest around the league. Hiring young guys off of these elite offensive staffs has proven to be a strong practice the last few years in the pros.

It doesn’t all have to be on the talent of a Chris Olave or Alvin Kamara in the passing game, using new wave pre-snap motions – such as the “cheetah” motion seen above – can create a ton of problems for a defense and major advantages for receivers.

Puka Nacua was the 177th overall pick this past year, and he became the NFL’s all time rookie reception and receiving yards leader for a rookie season not because of his overwhelming talent – but because of the creative vision that the offensive staff had for him. Despite back to back 1000 yard seasons to begin his career, everyone that is associated with the Saints understands that Chris Olave hasn’t come close to reaching his potential so far. The next play caller for the Saints should have a creative and nuanced vision of what they want to do with an offense that has been desperately missing a vision/identity since Sean Payton left.

Ronald Curry, QBs/Passing game coordinator, New Orleans Saints

Saints’ quarterback coach, Ronald Curry; CREDIT:

Stop me if you’ve heard this word used by Saints officials before, “continuity.” This is the in-house hire I was referring too previously. It is not the choice I would prefer, but he was the guy many were calling for during the season when addressing a possible change at play caller. Curry is 44-years-old and has been with the Saints since 2016 where he has held the title of receiving coach, quarterback coach and passing game coordinator. He had one previous NFL stint on the 49ers coaching staff where he was a receiver coach from 2013-2015.

The highlight of his resume is being receiver coach when Michael Thomas set the NFL single season receptions record (149) in 2019, but there isn’t much more than that to go off of. Not to say he is by any means a “bad” candidate, but he is less proven/intriguing than the outside hire options.

These are the sort of hires that can jumpstart the ascension of franchises because of how crucial play calling is in the NFL, and this is especially true when you have a defensive coach like Dennis Allen. Curry is unquestionably in the running, but it would be the boring hire in this case and another example of the annoying emphasis on “continuity” in the post Payton-Brees era.

Another name that has surfaced this offseason as pertains to this position is Jon Gruden, who I previously tallied as an “obvious” potential replacement for Carmichael, seems to more be interested in the role of joining as a member of the staff rather than a potential offensive coordinator – per Jeff Duncan. It makes sense to not want such a high member of your staff to be in the middle of a lawsuit with the league, but adding Gruden remains a definite positive because of his past success with Derek Carr and in the league in general.

As seen above, senior offensive assistant, Bob Bicknell was also let go Tuesday morning, and a role with that title seems to fit Gruden perfectly.

Letting go of receiver coach, Kodi Burns, was one that left many scratching their heads – however it could potentially have to do with who the team is interested in to fill Carmichael’s position. Ronald Curry, having previously worked as a receiver coach with both the 49ers and Saints in his NFL career could mean a raise and maneuver back to that position if Curry doesn’t get the OC job.

These are the type of creative hoops the Saints should be willing to jump through in order to find their guy in a search that could set a positive tone for this offseason. It is one of the most significant areas the team needed to address. They completed the first part in parting ways with Carmichael, now they absolutely must make the right hire to fill the spot.

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