New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, left, celebrates with outside linebacker Demario Davis (56) after the team defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. On Monday, Feb. 7, 2022, two people familiar with the decision say the New Orleans Saints have promoted Allen to head coach. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken, File)

Gazebo Gazette

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Dennis Allen has announced the club’s offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators for the 2022 season, several staff promotions and the hiring of Offensive Line Coach Doug Marrone and Wide Receivers Coach Kodi Burns.

Pete Carmichael will return for his 17th season on the Saints coaching staff and 14th as offensive coordinator, his first under Allen. Over the past 16 seasons, Carmichael has been a key figure in the planning and preparations of an offensive attack that has been ranked first in the National Football League in yardage in six seasons and the top ten each campaign from 2016-19. During this period of Carmichael’s tenure on the New Orleans coaching staff, the club’s 14-year streak of finishing in the top 10 in offense was the third-longest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

Despite the New Orleans offense being limited by significant injuries at quarterback, the skill positions and the offensive line in 2021, New Orleans managed to finish 19th in the NFL in scoring, reaching outputs of at least 30 points five times.

Despite the impacts of multiple lineups, New Orleans was tied for the sixth-fewest turnovers (18) in the league. Through the first eight weeks of the season, Jameis Winston posted a 5-2 record as a starter and ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in touchdown passes (14), touchdown percentage (8.7) and passer rating (102.8) before suffering a season-ending knee injury in an October 31 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Due to Winston’s injury, Carmichael was forced to prepare four starting quarterbacks. Taysom Hill won four of his five starts, while rushing for 374 yards to rank second on the team with a club-best five rushing touchdowns, passing for four more. Trevor Siemian closed out important divisional victories over Tampa Bay and Atlanta following injuries to Winston and Hill. Running back Alvin Kamara was selected to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl as he led New Orleans in rushing and receiving for the second consecutive season, carrying 240 times for 898 yards and four touchdowns, while grabbing 47 passes for 439 yards and five scores, for a club-best 1,337 yards from scrimmage despite missing four games (knee). At wideout, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris made significant progress. Callaway posted 46 receptions for a team-high 698 yards (15.2 avg.) and a club-best six touchdowns. Harris posted career-highs in receptions (36), receiving yardage (570) and touchdown grabs (four), while ranking seventh in the NFL in yards per reception (15.8).

Ryan Nielsen has been promoted to co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach and Kris Richard to co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach.

Both Nielsen and Richard were valued and trusted members of Allen’s defensive staff in 2021, when he served as coordinator. College teammates at the University of Southern California from 1998-2001, Nielsen and Richard served on the same coaching staff together for the first time this past season in New Orleans with Nielsen completing his first season as assistant head coach/defensive line and fifth with the Saints overall tutoring the front and Richard joining the Saints as secondary coach.

Both Nielsen’s front and Richard’s back end made important contributions to a banner campaign on a Saints defense that ranked first in the NFL in opponent red zone touchdown percentage (43.5), second in opponent first downs (304) and opponent rushing first downs (84), fourth in scoring defense (19.7 points per game), opponent net yards per play (5.08) and run defense (93.5 yards per game), seventh in total defense (318.2 net yards per game) and eighth in sacks (46).

Both Nielsen and Richard worked with their position groups to help produce standout campaigns from longtime veterans as well as overseeing development from the team’s promising young defenders.

Nielsen helped defensive end Cameron Jordan earn Pro Bowl honors, as he finished the season tied for seventh in the NFL with 12.5 sacks. In the five seasons that Nielsen has served as Jordan’s position coach, his 60.5 sacks are tied for third in the league over that period, with four double-digit campaigns and being selected to the Pro Bowl each season. Along with defensive end Marcus Davenport, who posted a career-high nine quarterback takedowns, the Saints were just one of seven teams to have a pair of teammates record at least nine sacks.

Nielsen, who enters his 20th season of coaching in 2022, joined the NFL ranks in 2017 in New Orleans after serving as defensive line/recruiting coordinator/run game coordinator at North Carolina State from 2013-16. During his tenure in New Orleans, the Saints have ranked in the top ten in sacks four of five seasons and have finished in the top five in run defense the last four campaigns.

In 2021, his first season in charge of the Saints secondary, Richard helped develop third round draft pick Paulson Adebo, who was the only Saints defender to open all 17 contests, tying for the team lead with three interceptions, second among all NFL rookies.

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore continued his improvement under Richard with a career-high 19 passes defensed, ranked third in the NFL and was selected to his fourth Pro Bowl. New Orleans was tied for sixth in the NFL with 18 interceptions, with 16 of them coming from the secondary, with Adebo, defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Lattimore and defensive back P.J. Williams tying for the team lead with three apiece.

Richard, a Los Angeles native, has 15 years of NFL playing and coaching experience, including experience as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2015-17.

Originally a third round draft pick by Seattle in 2002, Richard played in 39 games with one start for the Seahawks (2002-04) and San Francisco 49ers (2005), contributing on both defense and special teams. Following the conclusion of his playing career, Richard served as a graduate assistant at USC from 2008-09, before re-joining the Seahawks, where he spent eight seasons on their defensive staff, serving as defensive coordinator his final three years.

During Richard’s tenure with the Seahawks, Seattle boasted a defense that ranked in the top-five for five consecutive seasons (2012-16) and became the first defense in the Super Bowl era to lead the NFL in scoring defense for four consecutive seasons.

Prior to coming to New Orleans, Richard served as passing game coordinator/secondary for the Dallas Cowboys from 2018-19, where he oversaw a pass defense that improved in several areas. In 2019, the Cowboys finished in the top ten in opponent third down percentage (second-33.3%), pass defense (tenth-223.5 yards per game), opponent passing yards per attempt (eighth-6.82), opponent passing yards per completion (fifth-10.48), opponent touchdown passes (tied for eighth-21) and  opponent passing touchdown percentage (ninth-3.7), while improving in their opponent points per game total (20.1) to rank 11th. In 2018, his first season in Dallas, the Cowboys were ranked seventh in total defense (329.3 yards-per-game), sixth in points-per-game (20.3) and seventh in opponent red zone touchdown percentage (51%). As a position coach and defensive coordinator, 12 of Richard’s players have been selected to 24 Pro Bowls.

Darren Rizzi has added assistant head coach duties in addition to his role as special teams coordinator. A 29-year coaching veteran, including a ten-season stint with the Miami Dolphins from 2009-18 before joining the Saints in 2019, units that Rizzi has coordinated the past 11 seasons are ranked first in the NFL over that period with 13 blocked punts. Since Rizzi entered the NFL in 2009, six special teams players he has coached have been named to seven Pro Bowls.

He has coached six players to the NFL All-Rookie team in the past nine years. Rizzi’s units have served in the top half of NFL writer Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings in all 11 years that he has served as a coordinator, including first in 2019 and fifth in both 2020 and 2021.

In 2021, Saints special teams ace J.T. Gray from Mississippi  received his first career selection as a starter in the league’s All-Star Game after leading the NFL with 19 special teams tackles and was also an AP first-team All-Pro. Linebacker Andrew Dowell, in his first full NFL season, tied for fifth in the league with 14 coverage stops and blocked a punt.

Rizzi prepared Blake Gillikin for his first season handling punting. 29 of Gillikin’s punts were downed inside the 20-yard line, ranked fourth in the league and tying a team record. The Saints special teams unit ranked fourth in the NFL in opponent average starting position after kickoffs (24.1-yard line) and eighth in punt return average (10.0).

Ronald Curry, now entering his seventh season on the New Orleans coaching staff, will serve as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach after tutoring the team’s signal-callers in 2021 and serving as wide receivers coach from 2019-20. In 2021, Curry along with Carmichael prepared Winston, Hill, Siemian and Ian Book in the starting lineup with Winston enjoying a promising start prior to his knee injury and Hill rallying New Orleans to four wins in his five starts in December and January.

Playing seven seasons in the NFL at wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders from 2002-08 following a standout career at quarterback at the University of North Carolina, Curry helped Michael Thomas shatter the NFL’s receptions record and club receiving yardage records in 2019 as he posted 149 receptions for 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns as he was selected AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Marrone, who most recently served as offensive line coach at the University of Alabama in 2021, returns to New Orleans for his second stint as a member of the coaching staff, previously spending three seasons (2006-08) as the team’s offensive coordinator/offensive line.

Marrone possesses six plus years of NFL head coaching experience (Jacksonville Jaguars, 2017-20 and Buffalo Bills, 2013-14) and also served as head coach for four seasons at his alma mater, Syracuse University from 2009-12, where he led the program to a 21-17 record in his final three seasons.

Originally a sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1986, Marrone played two years in the NFL, including on the Saints offensive line in 1989.

In 2021, Marrone tutored an offensive line unit that helped the Crimson Tide win the Southeastern Conference championship game and advance to the College Football Playoff final, anchored by left tackle Evan Neal, who in his first season as a starter at the position was a consensus All-American.

Marrone came to Alabama after four-plus seasons as head coach of Jacksonville. The Bronx native guided the Jaguars to the 2017 AFC Championship game after finishing with a 10-6 regular season record in his first full season as head coach after going 1-1 in interim duties in 2016.

His 2017 team was tied for the NFL’s biggest win/loss improvement (plus-seven) among first-year head coaches and earned him AFC Coach of the Year recognition from the prestigious Kansas City Committee of 101.

During Marrone’s first Saints tenure, the Saints led the NFL in total offense twice (391.5 avg. in 2006; 410.7 avg. in 2008) and passing yards per game two times (281.4 avg. in 2006; 311.1 in 2008).

The Saints’ offensive line held their opponents to the fewest sacks allowed in the NFL in 2007 (16), second-lowest in 2008 (club-record 13) and tied for the fewest sacks in the NFL from 2006-08 with 52 despite leading the NFL with 1,868 passing attempts during that span. Quarterback Drew Brees captured the NFL passing title in 2006 (4,418 yards) and 2008 (5,069) and became just the second passer in NFL history to eclipse 5,000 passing yards.

Burns comes New Orleans to tutor the Saints wideouts after spending the past ten years coaching at the college level, including serving as wide receivers coach at the University of Tennessee in 2021.

In his only season in Knoxville, Burns made a quick impact on the position group, as he was instrumental in the development of redshirt junior Cedric Tillman, who had 64 receptions for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns as he was selected as second-team All-SEC by Phil Steele, becoming the first Volunteers wide receiver to reach 1,000 yards in a season since 2012. In a shootout against eventual national champion Georgia, Tillman had ten receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown, hauled in seven receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown against eventual College Football Playoff finalist Alabama. Tillman capped his historic season with a standout performance at the TransPerfect Music City Bowl vs. Purdue, bringing in seven catches for 150 yards and three touchdowns.

Burns also garnered impressive production out of Velus Jones Jr., who in his graduate transfer sixth year caught 62 passes for 807 yards with seven touchdowns and ranked third in the conference with 1,772 all-purpose yards.

Burns served six years on the Auburn coaching staff, where he won a national title as a player and a Southeastern Conference Championship as a player and coach. The Fort Smith, Arkansas native was co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach from 2016-20 after first serving as a graduate assistant in 2013, adding the role of passing game coordinator from 2019-20.

During his tenure, nine Auburn offensive players were selected in the NFL Draft, including a pair of wide receivers in 2021. Anthony Schwartz was a third round selection by the Cleveland Browns, while Seth Williams went in the sixth round to the Denver Broncos. It marked the first time since 2006 multiple Tiger wide receivers were taken in a single draft. In addition, Darius Slayton was a 2019 selection by the New York Giants under Burns’ watch. Burns also has coached at Middle Tennessee (2015), Samford (2014) and Arkansas State (2012).

From 2007-10, Burns earned four varsity letters at Auburn, excelling in a variety of roles. He was a quarterback his first two seasons. In 2007, he became the first Tiger true freshman quarterback to start a game since 1998. He moved to wide receiver for the second half of his career, collecting nearly 2,300 total yards and 22 career touchdowns.

As a senior wideout in 2010, he guided Auburn to a perfect 14-0 season and the national title, scoring the opening touchdown on a 35-yard pass reception in a BCS National Championship Game win over Oregon.

Burns earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise science in 2011.