Todd Grantham wasn't out of football last season by any stretch of the imagination, but he probably wasn't in the game the way he wanted to be.
As a defensive analyst at the University of Alabama, the 33-year coaching veteran wasn't as hands-on as he likes.
"Basically, I worked with (Alabama) Coach (Nick) Saban and the defensive coordinator, Pete Golding," Grantham said. "Worked with defense and kind of had projects during the preseason as far as self-scouting or maybe looking at people we were going to play. And then once we got into the season, it was really just being a part of the game planning."
This year, Grantham will begin his 12th NFL season as the new defensive line coach for the New Orleans Saints. He previously has been a defensive coordinator at Florida (2018-21), Mississippi State (2017), Louisville (2014-16) and Georgia (2010-13) in college, and a defensive line coach for Dallas (2008-09), Houston (2002-04) and Indianapolis (1999-2001) in the NFL.
"This is where I want to be, this is what I want to do," Grantham said. "I like the relationship you have with players, I enjoy coaching players, I enjoy watching players develop and have success and just seeing guys grow.
"There's nothing like the experience of going into the locker room after a win, with all the time and effort and work that you put into it for that week. To go in and celebrate a victory is really something you can't put into words unless you've experienced it."
The chance to experience it with the Saints opened when co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen was hired to become Atlanta's defensive coordinator.
"I'm excited," Grantham said. "First of all, a lot of tradition here. Really good fan base – I've been on the other side of that stadium when it's rocking and being loud, so I certainly look to be on the right side of that now. Excited to be a part of (Coach) Dennis Allen's staff. They've played some good defense here, and I look to be a part of that and continue the tradition, and work to win our division and move on from there."
Grantham's goal for the position group is simple.
"It always starts with your physicality up front, your ability to play physical and be stout at the point of attack," he said. "Securing your area. And then ultimately, getting to the guy with the ball, as far as tackling and finishing off plays.
"The other aspect of that is once you have stopped the run with your physical presence, then it's all about getting after the quarterback and affecting him and finding ways to be disruptive to get him off the spot, to make it to where he's uncomfortable in the pocket. And really try to affect his decision and timing.
"I mean, sacks are great and you're always looking for sacks, but the other thing about that is looking to be disruptive and finding ways to affect the quarterback from throwing the ball down the field. Because in this league, you do have to stop the run and once you've stopped the run, you've earned the right to rush the passer and then you've got to find ways to affect him."
Allen said one of the appealing aspects of adding Grantham to his staff was Grantham's experience defending the run-pass option offenses that have become commonplace in college, and have increased in usage in the NFL.
"The game has changed," Grantham said. "Obviously nowadays, offenses are a little bit more open, there's run-pass options with the RPOs. Defensively, whether you're 4-3 or 3-4, you really play multiple fronts and you find ways to get your players in one-on-one positions to win those battles. So you really end up being multiple in your fronts, multiple in your coverages.
The New Orleans Saints hired five new coaches for the 2023 season. The new hires are Joe Woods (defensive coordinator), Clancy Barone (tight ends coach), Marcus Robertson (secondary coach), Todd Grantham (defensive line coach), and Kevin Carberry (assistant offensive line coach).
"I would say that's the biggest thing that's changed, is the multiplicity in defenses, being multiple in your fronts and multiple in your personnel. The run-pass option on offense, the ability of the quarterbacks in the way that they can get the ball down the field, has made it to where defensively, you like to multiple in what you're doing and you've kind of become a little specialized in a sense of early downs, you're playing this package or these people and then passing situations or third down, you're kind of adjusting who you play."
Grantham has been evaluating his position group, knowing that several Saints players are entering free agency.
"I've watched all of our players up front, with the free agency coming up," he said. "I'm excited to reach out to those guys, get to know them and I've really been impressed with the way that they've played. Obviously, with (defensive end) Cameron (Jordan) being a guy that's had a lot of success here, and I'm looking forward to that continued success with him. Really, the group in general, I like the guys that we had here last year and just continue to develop those guys and work to make our team better."