New Orleans Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis isn't new to this, but there are obvious differences to selecting a new head coach in 2022 than there were in 2006.
"You go back 16 years and we were dealing with (Hurricane) Katrina and an evacuation and a city that was devastated, and a lot of questions about long-term viability," Loomis said Friday afternoon. "There were just so many other unique things about that 16 years ago that made that opening at that time so unique and such a challenge.
"Obviously, it's different now. We're not coming off anything like that; we're coming off of a long run of success. We're coming with a different (interview) process that exists even within the league rules. It's just completely different in a lot of ways, other than we're looking for a head coach."
New Orleans' most recent head coach, Sean Payton, stepped down Tuesday after leading the team on its most successful run in franchise history – a 152-89 regular-season record, and 9-8 in the playoffs including a victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
But even with eight teams already having posted vacancies ahead of New Orleans, and two having filled them, Loomis said the Saints aren't in a sprint to name their next head coach.
"I wouldn't say that I have some drop-dead date," he said. "Obviously, you want to move the process around as quickly as possible and yet, it's more important to get it right than it is to be quick. We're going to be diligent about that."
Loomis was right with Payton, and will attempt to be so again with a field of candidates that view New Orleans as a much more desirable destination than it was in '06, when it was coming off three consecutive non-winning seasons (3-13 in '05) and the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.
"There wasn't anybody ringing my phone 16 years ago," he said, smiling. "I was having to ring theirs, and it wasn't always positive when I did get ahold of someone 16 years ago. We've had a lot of outreach, a lot of people interested in coming to New Orleans. It's completely different in terms of how we're perceived."
Loomis said the current Saints aren't in build-from-the-ground-up mode.
"We don't see it as a wholesale culture change, roster change, anything like that," he said. "We've got a lot of good things here. Doesn't mean it can't be improved and built upon, but as Sean said in his press conference, he's leaving with the franchise in a much better place than when he got here."
Among the candidates that will be interviewed is current defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who returned to New Orleans in 2015 after a three-year stint as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Allen helped transform the Saints' defense from one of the league's worst (29.8 points allowed per game in '15, most in the league) to one of its best (19.7 per game allowed in '21, fourth fewest).
"He's qualified, he has experience, he understands our culture here – we just know a lot about him," Loomis said of Allen. "He's an excellent candidate. And there's some others as well."