New Saints head coach Dennis Allen wants ‘to create my own legacy’ in New Orleans

METAIRIE, La. — Continuity is one of the main reasons the Saints promoted defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to replace coach Sean Payton.

And the team’s established winning culture is one of the main reasons Allen said he feels better prepared to succeed in his second stint as an NFL head coach than when he was first hired as the Raiders‘ head coach 10 years ago.

However, the 49-year-old Allen insisted during Tuesday’s introductory news conference that he plans to “put my own spin on” the job now that he is replacing his longtime boss.

“I want to take the lessons that I’ve learned, I want to build upon those lessons, and I want to create my own legacy here with the New Orleans Saints,” said Allen, who added that the No. 1 lesson he has learned throughout his coaching career — including his 8-28 stint with the Raiders — is that “you have to do it your way and you have to be yourself.”

Allen has certainly made his mark with a defense that has developed into the Saints’ strength in recent years. They rank fourth in the NFL in both yards allowed and points allowed over the past three seasons. And they became the first team to shut out Tom Brady in 15 years in December when Allen served as interim head coach while Payton was sidelined by COVID-19.

“We selected him because of his leadership skills, because of his teaching skills, because of his football acumen. And frankly he’s just a damn good football coach,” general manager Mickey Loomis said Tuesday.

Allen and Loomis both said that while Allen’s interview for the job lasted about 6½ hours last week, he has really been interviewing for the job for “12 of the past 16 years” since he first arrived as an assistant defensive line coach on Payton’s original staff in 2006.

Owner Gayle Benson noted that Allen came to New Orleans at a time “when many others were going elsewhere” after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.

Allen didn’t announce any immediate plans for who will serve as his coordinators — though he did hint that he might continue to call his own plays on defense since “it’s hard to turn your baby over.”

It’s unclear if longtime offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. will remain in his role. However, Allen suggested that he isn’t planning on any wholesale staff changes. And he said, “I don’t see the offense being run too dissimilarly from what we’ve been able to do in the past” outside of some possible “tweaks.”

“I think that was one of the unique things about this job is that this was not a broken job. This is a job that’s a desirable job. This is a job that has a foundation and culture of winning that’s already been built,” Allen said. “I don’t see this as something where we need to have a ton of change.”

Allen also wasn’t ready to announce the team’s plans at quarterback — though he readily acknowledged, “I think it’s the most important decision that you make.”

The Saints could certainly look to bring back free agent Jameis Winston, who went 5-2 as a starter last season before tearing his ACL. But they will likely consider trades and other free-agent options, as well, since that position is such a high priority.

Allen also addressed receiver Michael Thomas, who appears to still be a big part of the team’s plans after missing all of last season with an ankle injury.

“I know he’s working extremely hard to get himself back and ready to go,” Allen told WWL Radio. “He’s really committed to the season and looking forward to getting started.”

Allen also was asked about star running back Alvin Kamara’s Sunday arrest on a charge of battery in Las Vegas, which will be a key issue for the team to monitor in the coming weeks and months. Kamara’s next court date is currently scheduled for March 8.

“I think it’s really early for any sort of comment,” Allen said. “I think we’ve got to gather all the information before we have any sort of comment on that.”

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