The New Orleans Saints announced today that they have let go of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and secondary coach Ken Flajole. The move should not come as a surprise to any as the Saints had the worst defense in NFL history giving up a record 7,042 yards of offense.
It appears that head coach Sean Payton wasted no time in getting back to work and the firing of Spagnuolo indicates that the status of the Saints’ defense is at the top of his priorities. I thought that Payton might give Spagnuolo another season to get the defense back on track but Payton was swift to fire him.
The Saints will now employ a 3-4 defensive scheme as opposed to the 4-3 that they ran under Spagnuolo. The Saints ran a 3-4 defensive alignment in the past under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The Saints’ defense was clearly better under the 3-4 alignment than the 4-3 and Payton wants to get back to that system.
There is no word yet on possible replacements for Spagnuolo but off the top of my head I could see Payton promoting linebackers coach Joe Vitt to defensive coordinator. However, this is all speculation and I do think Payton might already have somebody in mind.
With the firings of Spagnuolo and Flajole the Saints have now lost four coaching staff members. Former offensive line coach Aaron Kromer and former special teams assistant Mike Mallory both left for other teams that offered career advancement.
Payton will now have to fill the voids left by the departures of these four coaches but he definitely sent a clear message with the firings. It is evident that Payton wants to see improvement in the defense and he made the right decision by firing Spagnuolo. Saints’ fans must be happy having Payton back because he is already stepping up and showing why he is one of the best coaches in the NFL.
Sometimes coaches have to make these decisions but they do it for the good of the team and Spagnuolo was not working out so Payton had to let him go. The Saints’ defense will be going through a “makeover” for the second consecutive season and hopefully they will get it right the second time around. Whomever Payton gets to become the new defensive coordinator they will have their work cut out for them as they hope to improve a historically bad defense.