NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Speaking with local reporters for the first time since dismissing defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and promoting Dennis Allen to the position, Saints head coach Sean Payton talked about the decision-making process and what he hopes to see from his team moving forward.
Below is a copy of Payton's Wednesday morning teleconference with the media, as transcribed by the New Orleans Saints:
What went into the decision to let go of Rob Ryan?
"I think a couple things. Obviously you hate to be making a decision like that especially in the middle of the season and it got to a point where something needed to change and having a chance to go look at the film (changes were needed). Obviously there were earlier reports. I really hand't had a chance to speak with Mickey (Loomis) or Rob to really visit with him properly and I just felt in my gut that we needed something different and I said this the other day.
I hate to see that he wasn't't successful, but man there were a ton of consistent things that were happening that weren't getting better and I think a lot of them culminated in the Washington game and that being said there is a big part of every one of us that has to be better. We didn't convert some short yardage situations and stay on the field long enough. We have to do a better job of protecting the football. There are a handful of things that all go hand in hand to playing good football offensively and defensively, but there were far too many things to just ignore."
Has the transition to Dennis Allen been pretty smooth and, with Dennis, are you looking for more philosophical changes or physical changes?
"Well I think a little bit of each. I mean anytime there is someone new overseeing the process there's bound to be some change, but I think there are a handful of things that Dennis and I visited about after the fact during this bye and then moving forward that he wanted to implement. There are some things that aren't really scheme related that need to be cleaned up, but there is going to be a flavor for certain things that might be a little different than what has been the last few weeks or last half of the season. I don't think you can at this point toss everything out so there are certain things that we're going to do, but it might be how we are doing them and who we are doing them with."
There was a report that Dennis was involved in the third down package would that be accurate?
"Yes, I think for the most part. Rob gave guys great latitude to put together plans and so one of Dennis's assignments was the third down packages and putting together those plans going into each week. Of course they meet on them and I have sat in on those meetings and they decide this is what we want to do, maybe this is not what we want to do, but it is fairly common to split maybe a little of the workload up before you present it together."
It seemed like you've have disguised blitzes well on third downs how has that benefited you on third downs?
"Well, I think that we have had some good game some third down wise, but then there have been some games that have been (bad). I said this to you earlier there have been games where they have appeared good and yet there have been three or four key third down penalties that were converted that don't appear on the books, but I don't think you can draw the analogy that what we saw on third down will be more like what would could expect to see on every down. It's not like we went into the season with a third down coordinator and then a regular coordinator.
You have a defensive coordinator no different than what we put together offensively. Guys will have assignments and certainly DA (Dennis Allen) is a veteran and sharp coach and I think a real bright guy and so he's done a very good job on the nickel and third down packages, much better than we were a year ago. Last year was awful on that down and distance. So that was going to be a change on how we game planned that down and distance. Now I think along those lines he's going to take the same approach when it comes to the defense in its entirety. I think there are a handful of things that will be different."
Did you go into the season if things did not change that this could be an option and what is it about Dennis that made you so confident this would be the right move?
"Well you wouldn't approach the season with I need a contingency plan and I mean if that were the case you would execute the contingency plan to begin with. The point I'm making is Rob is a talented coach and there is no one more than me that wanted to see him have success and yet for us to be able to hire Dennis we go all the way back to 2006. We felt he was a valuable assistant to us and someone that brings clarity and organizational skills. He's very thorough, very meticulous. He's got great command and respect in the building.
I mean, that hire was an easy one in regards to just knowing the coach and yet back to as you head into the season I think that shoot if I knew that this would happen I would have done it in the offseason. There was that part of me in regards to looking at our team that felt like hey we have a chance to get this turned around and look it didn't happen. It's hard to be 32nd in the league in anything and generally there are a lot of dirty hands that are involved in it."
You came into the season wanting to simplify the defensive playbook; was that your vision for the defense and does Dennis have the option to expand that playbook?
"There were a few things that you looked at from a year ago when you said look, we can't have X number of snaps with not the right number of guys on the field. You can't burn timeouts every other week because we cannot get the right personnel on the field. We can't have guys looking left and right at the snap of the ball – there is a game last season where the first eight plays of the game we are misaligned and we don't even cover down the right way. Those were just facts and we had to look at hey, as teams have changed offensively, we've got to have some flexibility and find a way to reduce the variation on defense.
We've got to find a way to get a call in and play a defense without it being a panic where guys are late getting lined up. That was a big thing a year ago and again, a lot of that is the ability to communicate quickly what we're seeing and what we want to get done, and then make a call. The first opportunity to play good defense is to be set and ready, and know what the call is. I think that would be the first thing that we're going to work tirelessly on, and I am sure Dennis the same way. Getting these guys set and getting them aligned, and then obviously all 11 to the football."
Jahri Evans' struggled somewhat this season but he's still a six-time pro bowler. Can you tell me what he still means to you in the meeting rooms and with his leadership?
"He has been a fantastic player for us. He has a chance to be a hall of fame player. He is a guy who has been very consistent. He is powerful, he is strong, he is a great teammate and he is very coachable. From day one, he entered this league and very quickly he was the starting right guard. Here it is 10 years later and it seems like it;s only been five years. You don't ever take a player like that for granted. He is a special person and a big piece of the things that we have been able to accomplish here."
As far as defensive personnel, how much realistic shifting can you do? It is not like this is the offseason and you can't go out and acquire new players.
"It would be small, and yet within the frame work of your base package then your nickel package, those are some things that we would tinker with. You're right, at this point in the season, you're not waiting for the next guy to walk in the building. It is going to come from within."
You have alluded to possibly more changes; is this coordinator change just one of (several)?
"No, the point's that we're just not going to continue on status quo, if that makes any sense. That would be madness. We are going to look closely at each position, what we're coaching and how we are coaching them, and evaluate it and make sure that we are giving ourselves the best chance to win."
Do you ever look at the standings and calculate (your playoff chances) or do you focus in on the game ahead?
"I think, periodically, you discuss a big picture, but then quickly you get back to okay, this is what's going to have to happen but before any of it has to happen, we have got to have a good first week of practice. We're coming off a bye. No one's talked about the Texans yet, but this is a team that's entirely different in their last five weeks than their first five weeks.
When you watch the film closely and study these guys against the Jets, pick a game, you are seeing one of the better defenses playing right now in the NFL. When you watch how they're playing on third down, their pressure on the quarterback, the way they rush the passer and their corners outside, (you see a defense playing really well). Offensively, they have greatly reduced the turnovers. The first five weeks, I think they were averaging two (turnovers) per game, and now they are less than one-half per game. This team has played well, especially of late."
Has there been anything else you've noticed around the league that's been surprising? Do you pay attention to what is going on around the league?
"The one good thing here is with the video setup now, we receive every game basically. You have access to any type of cut-up you want of any game or every game played. There are 72 snaps of the last two weeks – the last two weekends' games, of touchdowns inside the 20 (yard line). They'll be games that jump out at you that you just have to see at some point during your day, (for instance) I am anxious to see the Tampa Bay/Philadelphia game. I would say that nothing surprises you when you have done this long enough. You take notice but I don't know that surprised would be the word."
Are you curious or anxious to see (Terron) Armstead go up against J.J. Watt, considering how good Armstead has played?
"The thing that is interesting, and it is a credit to what (Texans defensive coordinator) Romeo (Crennel) and their staff does there, you don't just see J.J. line up over on one side the whole time. I would say more of his rushes come over to our right. In the base, he is going to play one of the ends in this defense, which puts him on the guard at times. In the sub, he is going to be over (Zach) Strief, he is going to be over the center or he'll be over Terron. They move him around quite a bit. It wouldn't be like a game where Terron is going to end up blocking this guy 60 snaps. He'll be on Zach probably more than he would Terron based on his number count."
On defense you have had a number of injuries; do you feel like you are going to get some of those guys back? How is Damian Swann doing?
"Good, we'll keep you posted on injuries. This bye week has come at a good time."
How concerned are you that when you make a big move like this in-season that it becomes a distraction to the team? How did you address it to the players when you guys got back?
"This won't be a distraction to the team. I think the bigger challenge would be coming back and just continuing on with the normal routine."