METARY, Louisiana. Dennis Allen’s transition to head coach of the New Orleans Saints went smoothly, by all accounts.

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Well, basically.

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“We are such creatures of habit,” said a former Saint defense coordinator who admitted to one particular mistake he made a few weeks ago. “I left the dressing room and went up to my office, and I just went through the back door, down the corridor and entered what is now [co-defensive coordinator] Ryan Nielsen’s office. And I thought, “Oh shit, I just walked into the wrong office.”

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“He was there and I started some kind of conversation and acted like I needed to talk to him. And then, at the end, I thought, “I have to admit something: I really just came to the wrong office.”

To be fair, though, Allen has tried to keep things as normal as possible this offseason.

The atmosphere was very different from when Allen’s mentor, Sean Payton, first arrived in New Orleans 16 years ago and did his best to change the culture. Payton made adjustments to just about everything, from dressing room signage to home game jersey colors.

Allen, on the other hand, is proud of the culture he helped Payton and most of the current Saints coaching staff and roster build over five consecutive winning seasons from 2017 to 2021 before Payton decided to step down in January.

“Why should I change things just to change them?” Allen said. “We have done a lot of good things here. So you will see a lot of the same things.

“Now how I present the message may be a little different from how Sean presented it…kind of a contribution to it.”

Players and coaches seem to appreciate the approach of the 49-year-old Allen, who is trying to succeed in his second coaching career, which eluded him when he struggled to set an 8-28 record with the much less established Oakland Raiders. from 2012 to 2014.

“It’s great to just keep the same DNA,” said running back Mark Ingram II. “It doesn’t look like a complete renovation here. We have a team that can make a lot of noise and run away from him. It is obvious that we must improve, become better and unite as a whole. But I think that keeping the DNA of the team, the pedigree of the team, the culture of the team intact is very important.”

It helps that everyone, including strikers like Ingram, saw Allen’s defensive performance. Under Allen, the Saints have finished fourth in the NFL in yards allowed and points scored over the past three seasons. Last December, they became the first team to shut out Tom Brady in 15 years with a 9-0 away win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Despite not making the playoffs 9-8 in the 2021 season with injuries, the Saints rank second in the NFL with 58 regular season wins over the past five years, behind only the Kansas City Chiefs. .

Even players who have just joined the Saints as free agents, such as defenseman Tyranne Mathieu and wide receiver Jarvis Landry, have spoken of being drawn to the established culture in New Orleans despite the change in head coach.

“The level of consistency is good. This is what you rely on. It’s something you already trust,” defenseman Cameron Jordan said. “[Allen is] someone we already trusted. So when you say, “Hey, this is for the best for the team,” you believe it. It’s not like the new guy comes in and says, “Hey, this is how we’re going to run the team,” and you’re like, “Damn, do I agree or disagree?”

“You know what our defense is about and that immediately builds credibility.”

This consistency is felt throughout the coaching staff, with Allen retaining longtime offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and promoting assistants Nielsen and Chris Richard to the role of defensive coordinator. The biggest personnel change the Saints made during the offseason was the rehiring of former Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone as offensive line coach — after Marrone had previously been Payton’s offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2008. year.

Allen was also on the Payton staff from 2006 to 2010, including in the 2009 season when he won the Super Bowl of Saints before he became the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2011 and coach for the Raiders in 2012. Allen returned to New Orleans in 2015.

“What we do works and what we do is effective. And let’s be honest, Dennis was involved in developing it,” said offensive line assistant coach Zach Strif, who was a rookie when Payton and Allen first arrived on the team in 2006.[Allen] was a big part of building culture and structure. So even though Sean was the head coach, something could have come from [Allen’s] brain.”

The most notable change that players and coaches pointed out was a slightly increased attention to detail. It’s not that Peyton doesn’t worry about the little things – he certainly does – but Allen approaches everything with a fresh eye, including meeting times and practice exercises.

“DA has always paid attention to the little things and it’s been interesting to watch him attack with the same hitting side idea that everything has to be on point,” said Jordan, who said he’s so far resisted the urge to poke fun at Allen for being anything—or even complain when the now candid head coach doesn’t consider defense enough bags in training.

“I’m just trying not to get on his nerves,” said the often exuberant Jordan, who admits he may have had some firsthand experience with it.

“I’ll get in line and say, ‘Sir, yes, sir’… bye.”