According to NFL.com's Gil Brandt, Payton is close to deciding on Spagnuolo's replacement.
I'm hearing Rob Ryan and Romeo Crennel are @Saints top DC choices to run 3-4.- Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 5, 2013
After firing Spagnuolo, Payton said in a statement that the Saints were switching to a 3-4 alignment. Rob Ryan ran the 3-4 during his two-season run as defensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys. His fondness for the scheme reportedly played a part in the end of his short-term marriage with the St. Louis Rams, who run a 4-3.
Whoever gets the job has a lot of work to do. Though the defense improved as a whole in the second half of the 2012 campaign, the Saints set the NFL record for most yards allowed this season with 7,042. The unit was 31st in scoring defense, giving up 28.4 points per game.
UPDATE: Ryan has emerged as the favorite for the Saints job, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access."
According to Rapoport, Crennel's candidacy never quite got going once Ryan became available.
That meshes with the latest update on the Saints' search from The Times-Picayune's Larry Holder. Holder reported Tuesday night that the Saints have two interviews lined up; University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is set to interview on Thursday, while Ryan will interview Friday.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.