Saints defensive coordinator search kicks into high gear



New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton wasted no time in getting back to work after being reinstated, firing defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and second coach Ken Flajole a day after meeting up with his staff at the Senior Bowl.

This is Payton’s second week back with the team and he appears to be getting closer to hiring Spagnuolo’s replacement.

Reports have Payton set to interview a pair of coaches this week, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Grantham, who is set to interview on Thursday, has led the Bulldogs defense since 2009 and has NFL experience. Grantham was the Cleveland Brown defensive coordinator from 2005-2007 and also coached the defensive lines in Dallas, Houston and Indianapolis.

ESPN dot com's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday evening that the Saints planned on hiring Ryan.

Ryan is the brother of Jets head coach Rex Ryan. The demonstrative Ryan and his long gray hair recently patrolled the Cowboys sidelines as their defensive coordinator a job he had for two seasons before being let go this year.

At the time he was fired from Dallas Ryan famously made the comment, “I’ll be out of work for like five minutes.” The St. Louis Rams and Ryan appeared to have a deal to have him head up head coach Jeff Fisher’s defense but after attending several staff meetings, they failed to see eye to eye on the direction of the Rams defense.

Ryan was also the defensive coordinator for Cleveland for two seasons and the Raiders for five.

The Saints defense gave up a record 7,042 yards of total offense this past season an NFL record. Payton the day he fired Spaguolo said that the Saints would also be switching from the 4-3 to 3-4 defense. It is a defense that Ryan and Grantham run.

Romeo Crennel and Eric Magini have been two names mentioned in other reports the last week or so as possible candidates but interviews for the former defensive coordinators and head coaches has not been reported.


Grantham began coaching in 1990 as the defensive end and inside linebackers coach for Virginia Tech. In 1992 Grantham coach the defensive tackles, a year later the defensive line. From 1996-1998 he coached the defensive line at Michigan State before coaching the defensive line for the Indianapolis Colts between 1999-2001. Grantham then coached the defensive line for the Houston Texans between 2002-2004 before becoming the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2005. Grantham then went to Dallas for a season to coach the defensive line before joining Georgia as the defensive coordinator.

Clearly you can see why Payton would be interested in talking to Grantham with his extensive coaching of a position group that has had little success for the Saints. This past season the Saints started four former first-round players on the defensive line and yet failed to pressure the quarterback consistently much less get sacks.

Grantham while in Indianapolis helped the Colts go from 3-13 to 13-3 as his defense totaled 56 sacks in two years. While with the Cowboys, Grantham helped the Cowboys defense improve from 13th in 2007 to 2nd in the NFL in 2009 in points allowed.

The Georgia Bulldogs since he has become the defensive coordinator have been a solid defense. In 2009, the Bulldogs ranked 118th nationally in turnover margin while a year later would jump to 18th. Georgia would finish the 2011 season ranked 3rd nationally in total defense thanks to finishing 7th in pass defense and 9th in run defense. The Bulldogs 34 sacks was 2nd in the SEC that season. 2012 the Bulldogs defense finished 27th but were considered one of the best units in college football as Georgia finished 12-2

Ryan is the son of former defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan and the twin brother of Rex from the Jets. Ryan has had his moments as defensive coordinator including beating the Saints as the Browns D-play caller in the dome a few seasons back. I’m leary of his personality however. Ryan’s it wasn’t my fault act after being fired from Dallas scares me considering that just two seasons ago you sort of had a similar coach in Gregg Williams.

I can understand wanting to bring in a fiery individual to motivate the Saints defense. I prefer to have a coach in that position. The Saints are in desperate need of getting coached up and being better at fundamentals. Angles of attack, coverage skills, positioning, tackling and awareness are all need improving. The Dallas Cowboys defense the last few seasons isn’t exactly a defense you point to for text book defensive play.

Grantham has had extensive work working with the defensive line and linebackers.

There is one other reason I would pass on Ryan. No Ryan led defense has ever qualified for the postseason.


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