*New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton *
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Can you talk about what went into the coaching staff changes?
"I think from the minute the season ended we talked with our team and coaching staff. Mickey (Loomis) and I spent a lot of time, really trying to look closely at what we have to correct. We knew there would be some change with regards to hiring some coaches, obviously the notable one being Dennis Allen returning. He is someone that we've had a long history with. He was on our original staff in 2006. He coached our secondary during the Super Bowl run and then had a chance to be a coordinator and go on to be a head coach. I think a lot of people are (have questions about it), (but) it is not a normal situation where you are able to bring in a coach like that and say you (Allen) and Rob (Ryan) are going to work together but it works because both Rob and Dennis are guys that are passionate about it and really understand that this is something that benefits both of them and the team. But I have been asked that question a lot. We probably spent a week just going through the dynamics of the room. Here is Dennis who has experience at this and certainly Rob's role is as the defensive coordinator and he will be the guy calling our defense on gameday, but I think Dennis gives him another veteran set of eyes that can help him (Ryan), our defensive staff and our team.
"It is about winning and it is about us finding opportunities to improve on our team, our roster, and our coaching staff anywhere we can in the building.
"We have some other additions on offense. We have a new running backs coach (Joel Thomas), (and) Dan Roushar moved to tight ends. He (Roushar) has coached pretty much all those inside positions. He has been an offensive line coach, a tight ends coach, a running backs coach and an offensive coordinator, so he gave us some flexibility and that is a position he was anxious to work with. Then we hired Joel from Arkansas and he had come in last Monday.
"We had four or five new coaches come in last week and he is one of them. (Wide receivers coach) John Morton was in the week before. Some of these guys grabbed their Indy (NFL Scouting Combine) bags and were flying here right away. We also were able to hire James Willis to be an assistant linebacker coach. He is someone that I am familiar with when he was a player with the Philadelphia Eagles. Joe Vitt coached him when he was a player with the Eagles. He is a young, talented football coach. And then we lost some coaching assistants and guys that maybe the fans or the people who aren't as familiar with, a guy like Carter Sheridan who has done a tremendous job for us for 10 years and he was working here before I got here. He is someone that was outstanding. He received an opportunity to go with Curtis (Johnson) at Tulane so he will be the receivers coach there. Then Frank Smith who had been with us the last five years accepted a position with the Chicago Bears coaching the tight ends. So Brendan Nugent comes in and Kyle DeVan comes in, these are some younger coaches, guys with some experience. Kyle DeVan played right here at Indianapolis during their Super Bowl run (in 2009). There's a lot of stuff going on and a lot of moving pieces and yet clearly identifying the chain of command is important and making sure these guys get on the same page very quickly. They are all here and we really have not had our first staff meeting. A lot them just got in Monday."
When you change up the staff does it give you fresh ideas or a fresh set of eyes?
"I think it can and it is no different than the roster. (With the) The roster, there is a change that takes place every year. I think we have to look closely at how we as coaches can improve because obviously it is important when you come off a season that we just had to first look in the mirror and say alright, this wasn't good enough. I know Mickey (Loomis) and I have talked a lot about it. We've talked with the staff and you will see some changes the same way with our roster that takes place every year. To just turn the page and go back to what you were doing would be silly."
How critical is the combine/draft to free agency? Do you address needs in free agency and then go to the draft and address other needs?
"We have always been fairly judicious with regards to (the) signing of a free agent player. There has to be a fit and yet we are not afraid to do that. I do think you pay attention to the depth as it pertains to the draft class and you would say hey, this is a draft class that is deeper at this position. We think we can find this player in the draft as opposed to free agency. We will look closely at the free agent market and a lot of times it will be that second wave of free agents that we pay attention to, and then also our own roster. That is one of the big challenges this time of the year because there is that constant change and there are some tough discussions that have to be dealt with and taken place. That kind of comes up every year."
How far along are you guys in the 20-part offseason plan Mickey Loomis has mentioned?
"It is listed. It is clear. He and I (Loomis), as recent as last night were going through a few of these moves and yet we are still sitting here before the gates have opened (for free agency and the draft). Free agency hasn't started yet we are (also) preparing for the draft. I think all of that hopefully can be accomplished in the next three or four months."
Is it difficult to gauge what you guys can do or want to do with Mark Ingram?
"He had a fantastic season. He is a player that we look at and have a value for and he is our draft pick. He stayed healthy this year. I couldn't be more excited to see him have this success because you see the work behind the scenes. You see the preparation by him. You see the professionalism by him and he is a football guy. He was at Alabama and he was in high school. It is good to see him have that type of success especially a guy that you brought into the program. Now it is just asserting or figuring out where is that number going to be for him. I am sure if you are Mark and you are Mark's agent you are looking closely at it and hopefully he is someone that is back in the Black and Gold because he has been a big part of our success offensively."
How much can you find out from interviews at the combine?
"I think it is the one thing, it is 15 minutes long and we really kind of changed how we handle that 15 minutes. We spend two or three minutes on getting to know the player and then very quickly with about 11 minutes left we are into football and the hardest thing for us to gauge is throw away the test scores and the grade point averages. How smart is this guy football-wise? There have been some really really smart players that we've coached that maybe had a low test score and didn't test well or didn't spend the time on it. Conversely we've had some real great (academic) students, fantastic, straight-A students that really struggled with football. We are trying to spend as much time on finding out who are the players that really jump out at you with football intelligence and then who are the players that really struggle."
Associated Press photos from the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday, February 19, 2015 in Indianapolis, IN.