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John DeShazier: Saints add 'experienced, talented evaluator' in Jeff Ireland

Former Dolphins GM will be part of football operations staff

Mobile, Ala. – New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis vowed that in the wake of the team's 7-9 record this season, a deep evaluation would be conducted as to how the team is preparing and performing on all levels.

A partial result of that inspection has led to the Saints injecting a fresh perspective and new set of ideas into the franchise, in the form of Jeff Ireland, most recently a draft consultant for the Seahawks but prior to that, the general manager of the Dolphins from 2008-13.

Ireland will be a part of the football operations staff. He joins the Saints amid three departures within the past week.

Ryan Pace, the Saints' director of player personnel the last two seasons and 13-year member of the team's player personnel department, was hired to be general manager of the Chicago Bears. Pace has been joined in Chicago by Josh Lucas, who spent three years as New Orleans' Southern Regional scout and now is the Bears' director of player personnel.

Rick Reiprish, the Saints' director of college scouting and a member of the player personnel department since 2004, was relieved of his duties Tuesday.

"I'm excited about (hiring Ireland), excited about his experience and his pedigree and the things that he's done in the league," Loomis said Wednesday from Mobile, Ala., where he, his staff and the team's scouts are attending Senior Bowl practices and conducting player interviews. "It was tough to let Rick go. He did a lot of great things for us and was a big part and a big contributor to the success that we've had, including helping to put together the roster for the team that won the Super Bowl.

"I felt like we needed to, when we lost Ryan to Chicago, I felt like we needed to add some experience, an evaluator from outside the building. And I also felt like it would be good for us to get some fresh ideas, meld those with the things that we've done. So I'm looking forward to having him in the building."

Loomis said he has known Ireland for a "good period of time," since Ireland was a scout for the Chiefs from 1997-2000.

"And obviously (I) knew him and about him in his role with Dallas (as national scout and vice president of college and pro scouting from 2001-07), and then when he became general manager of the Miami Dolphins," Loomis said.

"(The Saints) have guys who have worked with him in the past, (linebackers coach) Joe Vitt in Kansas City and (Coach) Sean (Payton) in Dallas. So we've got some guys in our building that had first-hand experience with him. And look, Jeff's made a lot of great decisions in terms of personnel, in terms of the draft and free agents. And so I like his pedigree."

Loomis said the Saints first looked in-house to replace the talent they'd lost in Pace, but ultimately chose to go outside the organization to help fill the void.

"I felt like we needed to add an experienced, talented evaluator," he said. "And then once you make that decision, obviously you're looking at the pool of people who are out there.

"And when you have an opportunity to get a guy like Jeff, who's got a lot of experience, who's been in the general manager's seat and can be a great resource in areas other than just the evaluation area, you want to seize that opportunity. So we spoke and it became a good fit, and that's where we're at."

Ireland's arrival coincides with Reiprish's departure. Among the player additions that were made during Reiprish's tenure were defensive end Will Smith, safety Roman Harper, guard Jahri Evans and defensive end Cam Jordan, four of the nine Pro Bowlers who were drafted during that time.

"Well look, there's never a good time for that, never," Loomis said of the decision to part ways with Reiprish. "But look, that's a process. Coming to those conclusions, those decisions, that's a process that I had to get through. It just took a little time."

He also said that the transition in the personnel department did not have an adverse effect on the Saints' draft preparations. Much of the evaluation process already has taken place.

Meanwhile, the organizational evaluation process will continue.

"We've gotta look at ourselves and the way we're doing things," Loomis said. "Look, there's nothing wrong with having some fresh ideas, especially from someone that has a lot of experience, he's worked with (Hall of Fame coach) Bill Parcells and a lot of great people that he's worked with and learned from in the past. So I feel like we're expanding our knowledge exponentially."

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