In news that will disappoint fans of long hair, wild passion and small New Orleans dive bars everywhere, Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired Monday, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source informed of the team's decision. Coach Sean Payton confirmed the news to WWL-AM in New Orleans, the team announced.
"I'm disappointed for Rob that it didn't work out," Payton said on WWL-AM, according to The Times-Picayune. "He's a guy who's respected greatly, not only in the locker room, but by his peers and we just had to at some point look closely and begin to at least give this an option because the direction we were going wasn't good. We really struggled with substitutions, getting lined up and getting our guys the defensive call and being able to function."
Ryan, after amassing the No. 4 defense in football back in 2013, embarked on a quest to create the league's most versatile secondary. The Saints inked Jairus Byrd to a lucrative six-year, $54 million deal back in 2014 and handed Brandon Browner a three-year deal in free agency this year, adding him to the mix with first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro at safety.
What ensued, though, was a 2014 where New Orleans ended up with the league's 31st-ranked defense. In 2015, they are dead last.
Sunday's 47-14 blowout loss to the Washington Redskins appeared to be the catalyst. After giving up 324 yards and four touchdowns to Kirk Cousins, the Saints became the first team in NFL history to allow four touchdown passes and no interceptions three weeks in a row (Eli Manning, Marcus Mariota and Cousins). The Saints lost two of those three games.
Though the casual fan will immediately revert to the Rob is overrated and just riding the coattails of his brother and dad refrain, it's important to note that he did have a top-five defense in New Orleans before he was asked to compress his playbook. Ryan was coaching a scheme that was not traditionally his own with a rotating cast of injured players and certain free agents that did not necessarily fit the scheme.
Still, good defensive coordinators are versatile.
Ryan fell victim to a veteran defensive staff that, in addition to Allen, includes Joe Vitt, a long-time defensive position coach and former Saints interim head coach. With the bye week immediately following the loss to Washington, Ryan's fate was probably stamped at halftime because the transition would be relatively simple.
Allen, who had already been handling coverage-calling duties, will be tasked with stabilizing a defensive unit that is bleeding points. He worked in various defensive coaching roles with the Saints from 2006-2010 before taking over as the Broncos' defensive coordinator in 2011. He then served as head coach of the Raiders for a little more than two seasons before heading back to the Saints.
"Dennis and I have met and talked at length about what direction we want to head," Payton said. "We'll spend some time during this bye here making sure that's a priority."
Payton didn't comment on any potential personnel moves after the game Sunday but he didn't exactly rule out impending changes, either. During his Monday news conference, Payton assured the media that no decision had been made on Ryan and that he was "absolutely" still on the staff.
"In regards to any potential change, that's something we haven't even met on," Payton added. "That's not something that would be done without a lot of thought. Anything like that would be done with a lot of consideration."
After losing his job in Dallas, Ryan said that he wouldn't be out of work for more than five minutes. There is no telling how long this hiatus will be, but everyone casually watching Saints games will agree that the full hair-flowing fist pumps and slow-motion cursing will be missed by all.
Kidding aside, there are few coaches more passionate about becoming a top-tier coordinator than Ryan, which is something his brother, Rex, will back up instantly. Will he get another chance?