June 13, 2024

Jeff Ireland spent years scouting players knowing what Sean Payton wanted. Ireland, the deputy general manager and director of college scouting for the New Orleans Saints, had a framework for what kinds of prospects would fit best in the offence system even after the former coach left in 2022.

Ireland could be starting over throughout this offseason.

Michigan promotes Sherrone Moore: Wolverines elevate offensive coordinator  to replace Jim Harbaugh as coach - CBSSports.com

The lack of an offensive coordinator for the Saints presents a challenge for Ireland and his team as they go about the draft. This week at the Senior Bowl, members of the New Orleans front office convened without a firm offensive plan in place, which may have left the process more ad hoc than in previous years.

Ireland told reporters that the Saints aren’t “there yet” in terms of connecting prospects with specific strategies and are still in the “gathering information mode.” Teams get their first genuine opportunity to interact with a wide range of players during the yearly draft cycle at the Senior Bowl, which helps to generate information.

Ireland stated that the Saints will eventually need to draft with the new coordinator in mind. whatever it ends up being.

Of course you do, Ireland remarked. “You modify it to fit his search criteria. We might be considering an offensive blocking run strategy, which often produces a different kind of player that we are after. A bit more athletic, perhaps, as opposed to a big guy in the middle.

Therefore, yes, it may slightly alter the type of player we are searching for because we want someone who fits in offensively schematically. As we do while we’re on defence.

In their current hunt for an offensive coordinator, the Saints have looked into a wide range of prospects and strategies. At least eleven candidates have been interviewed by New Orleans, and over half of them have some connection to either Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay or San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

New Orleans will want players who can excel athletically and are large enough to use the kinds of heavier personnel sets that have become a mainstay of their offences if the Saints’ next coordinator is descended from the Shanahan-McVay family. Shanahan’s 49ers have depended on wide zone run plays in the run game, but this past season McVay’s Rams switched to a power-gap strategy.

However, the Saints have looked at coaches with a variety of backgrounds. Greg Lewis, the wide receivers coach for the Baltimore Ravens, not only helped his players succeed under Todd Monken’s offence, which included a lot of three-receiver sets, but he also worked under Andy Reid of Kansas City, a West Coast-based offensive coordinator. Ronald Curry, the quarterbacks coach for the Saints, is an internal choice who would maintain consistency in Payton’s offence.

Ireland claims that the Saints evaluate a group of prospects during the draft process before “trimming the fat,” or determining which scheme they could be most suitable for at that point.

Ireland declared, “We’re prepared to attack, regardless of our understanding of the nature of their players.” Therefore, when a player doesn’t fit in well, he sort of fits into a different category—perhaps he doesn’t match the offensive coordinator’s exact specifications, but maybe this player does. That is really the approach we take.

The Saints need to make a hire first. Though several candidates have moved to second interviews, general manager Mickey Loomis stated that New Orleans will be thorough and that this does not always mean those candidates are finalists for the post.

Think about this: Three of the four candidates who are reported to have been asked to come back for another interview or to have accepted one have already withdrawn. Dan Pitcher of Cincinnati was elevated to offensive coordinator, former Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson joined the Atlanta Falcons as their new offensive coordinator, and Houston quarterbacks coach Jerrod Johnson told prospective teams he was staying with the Texans.

The search is far from over  and the evaluation for the draft is also just gearing up.

Ireland stated, “There are some things that I don’t stray too far from what I’ve learned.” I’ve learnt a lot of Bill Parcell-esque lessons, so I won’t stray too far from things like brilliance, beauty, and the like. But in order to ensure that you have the greatest athletes on the pitch, you must adapt as player sizes and skill sets change.

 

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