After 16 seasons under Sean Payton's guidance, the Saints have found their next head coach. And they didn't have to look far to do so, informing defensive coordinator Dennis Allen on Monday that he'll be hired to replace Payton atop the staff, as first reported by ESPN. New Orleans had recently hosted "strong interviews" by external candidates like Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, per NFL Media, but Allen is now locked into the job roughly two months after filling in for Payton during the 2021 season.
Payton informed the Saints after the season that he would be stepping away from his longtime post, not necessarily retiring but taking at least a year off from coaching. Allen, who worked under Payton for 12 of the coach's 16 seasons in New Orleans, was quickly deemed a front-runner for the opening, with Payton himself calling Allen a "strong candidate" at his farewell press conference. Now, Allen will get a second chance at his own head coaching career after lasting just over two seasons as the Raiders' coach from 2012-2014, when he went 8-28.
Allen is best known for his work as the Saints' defensive coordinator, a title he's held since 2015. The team's secondary coach during New Orleans' Super Bowl win in 2009, he took over as acting head coach for the club's Week 15 shutout win over the Buccaneers, when Payton was sidelined due to COVID-19. He originally returned to the Saints from the Raiders as a senior defensive assistant, and also served as assistant defensive line coach from 2006-2007, Payton's first seasons in town.
While Allen is vaunted for his defensive work, he takes over a roster with a number of big-picture questions following a 9-8 season without a playoff appearance. The Saints are currently projected to be at least $75 million over the 2022 salary cap, and they also have no clear answers at quarterback, where injured starter Jameis Winston is scheduled to hit free agency.