Young, Torrence, Nielsen, Hodges, Westhoff, O’Dea, Banta
While there are a few other coaches on the staff, a couple of other names may be familiar to Saints fans. Brian Young finished his NFL career in New Orleans, playing 5 seasons after playing 4 more in St. Louis. He began coaching right after retirement and has been with the Saints since 2009. Leigh Torrence was a defensive back with the Saints for the last 3 years of his career.
Ryan Nielsen was brought in during the offseason to coach the defensive line. He comes to the Saints after handling the same duties at North Carolina State.
No Saints staff would be complete without at least one coach with ties to Payton’s alma mater, Eastern Illinois University. Michael Hodges, defensive assistant, is that guy, having coached for 3 seasons at EIU.
And the Saints hired a new coach this week as well, to help with the struggling special teams units. Special teams coaches are a great example of 6 degrees of separation. The Saints hired Mike Westhoff, most known for his great run as coach with the Jets. Aaron Glenn returned a couple of punts on Westhoff’s unit.
Westhoff was diagnosed with cancer and left coaching to deal with his illness. The guy who replaced him – current Saints kicking game specialist Kevin O’Dea. Branford Banta, the special teams coordinator, was the long snapper on the 2000 Jets team where Glenn was a returner and left the year before Westhoff arrived from Miami.
The Saints’ coaches have meshed rookies in with veteran talent and the results have been tremendous. It’s been a few years of despair but getting the right pieces on the field and on the sidelines has paid dividends. Hopefully they lead to a great playoff run.