The team’s coaches are keeping pace with the Saints’ success on the playing field, with three position coaches moving on to top-level positions within the league in this year alone.
While former Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell would go viral earlier this offseason for extolling the virtues of knee cap-biting and the like during his introductory press conference as the head coach of the Detroit Lions, his departure from New Orleans is but one of the many changes among the team‘s coaching staff.
Though the ascension of defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn and quarterback tutor Joe Lombardi to coveted coordinator positions received dutiful media coverage as well, there was movement further down the Saints coaching ranks that largely evaded the attention of national media.
When one door closes, another door opens for the New Orleans Saints.
It is not surprising that Payton looked to Kris Richard — a key architect of the vaunted “Legion of Boom” defensive backfield that came to signify the dominant run of the previous decade’s Seattle Seahawks — to succeed Glenn in guiding the team’s secondary. What is surprising is the fact that Richard was in a position to heed Payton’s call in the first place.
Having risen to acclaim alongside star pupils Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor, Richard spent the final three years of his eight-year stint in Seattle as the team’s defensive coordinator. Although the unit’s fortunes waned as its featured players began to age, the Seahawks ranked first and third, respectively, in total defense in Richard’s first two seasons at the helm of Seattle’s defense.
Upon exiting the Pacific Northwest, Richard found himself in Dallas, where his title belied the fact that he was the Cowboys’ primary defensive play-caller.
Caught in the purge of head coach Jason Garrett’s Cowboys staff following the 2019 season, Richard elected to bet on himself in that season’s coaching market, with an eye toward attaining the highest rung of the NFL’s coaching ladder.
Despite garnering several head coaching interviews, Richard was not able to land one of the league’s 32 top spots. Unwilling at that point to revert to the role of position coach, Richard ultimately spent the 2020 season away from the game.
Fast forward to this offseason, and Richard made the decision to bet his coaching future on a Saints secondary that, though flush with talent, represents a question mark for this Saints team in the season ahead.
Even as Richard inherits one of the league’s top talents in Marshon Lattimore, he will likewise be tasked with evening out the play of the team’s star cornerback.
However, given the level of talent set to return to New Orleans at the safety and slot defender positions, it is the starting spot opposite Lattimore that likely represents the greatest challenge for Richard in the short term.
The Saints did add a long, ball-hawking man coverage corner in the third round of this year’s draft in form of Stanford’s Paulson Adebo, and likewise in the undrafted free agent (UDFA) process with former UT Vol Bryce Thompson and the rookies will do battle with the likes of Grant Haley, Ken Crawley, and Keith Washington Jr. for snaps on the outside as training camp gets underway this summer.
If Kris Richard is able to coax a fitting performance from old and new alike on the back end of this year’s defense, he might just hit the big time by way of the Big Easy.