January 24, 2013

Payton Cans Spagnuolo, Switches Defense to 3-4

Sean Payton sure knows how to make a re-entrance.

The Saints' head coach, two days after being reinstated by the league, has fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo his sidekick secondary coach Ken Flajole and announced that the Saints will run the 3-4 defense in 2013.

The franchise has not fielded a 3-4 defense as its base alignment since 1995, though they unsuccessfully opened Super Bowl XLIV in creative three-down linemen formations.

Spagnuolo has the dubious honor of leading the 2012 Saints defense to the worst performance in league history, surrendering 7,042 yards on the season, shattering the 1981 Baltimore Colts' record of 6,793 yards.   When he was hired in 2012, just 11 months ago, Spagnuolo brought on Ken Flajole and Andre Curtis as secondary coach and assistant secondary coach.  Flajole was also fired today.

Payton, who has hired former head coaches for his last two defensive coordinators, is getting into the coaching search late.

Possible candidates with a history in running a 3-4 include former Kansas City head coach Romeo Crennel, fired by the Chiefs in December 2012, current Falcons secondary coach Tim Lewis, who was defensive coordinator for the Steelers from 2000-2003.

The Saints are likely to hire an established defensive coordinator, considering that Payton usually prefers to turn that side of the ball over to another coach.

Promoting assistant head coach and linebackers coach Joe Vitt, also the team's interim head coach in 2012, to defensive coordinator is unlikely, has Vitt has never held the title of defensive coordinator and has been a position coach and assistant head coach since 2004.

Other available ex-head coaches such as Dave Wannstedt and Lovie Smith are tied presumably to the 4-3 defensive scheme they've always preferred, ruling them out of consideration.  Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was hired by St. Louis today, another possible candidate.  Television analyst and former Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards isn't likely to emerge from comfortable broadcasting and preferred a 4-3 scheme.

Saints special teams coach Mike Mallory left the team this week to be the Jaguars' special teams coach under new head coach Gus Bradley, bringing the number of vacancies on the coach staff to four.

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