It’s clear that the New Orleans Saints offense needs to change. The team made an assumption that Pete Carmichael could keep it afloat thanks to his 15 years of experience in the system, as the NFL’s longest-tenured offensive coordinator — but that blew up in their face. They averaged just 19.4 points per game this season and a meagre 13.5 points per game through their final six contests. That’s inexcusable with the playmakers assembled in New Orleans.
Carmichael mismanaged personnel throughout the season, failing to creatively use Alvin Kamara on the ground (with too many runs flowing between the tackles in 10 yards-to-go situations) and through the air (with the fewest designed screen passes in the league, and little to no targets out of the slot) and neglecting to keep his most effective short-yardage convertor, Taysom Hill, involved for long stretches of play. Electrifying rookie receiver Rashid Shaheed didn’t become a regular part of the offense until Week 11.
And that doesn’t even get into his concerning trends as a play caller. Few offenses had more rushing attempts on 2nd-and-10 after an incomplete pass than the Saints did under Carmichael (37), with defenses responding accordingly by allowing just 3.4 yards per carry on those downs. Carmichael never seemed to buck that trend, among others. New Orleans needs to evolve.
So making a change at offensive coordinator should be one of the first moves of their offseason. Whether the Saints try to keep things in-house again or fully explore their options outside the building, here are five names on our radar:
Ronald Curry, Saints quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator
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Though it seems unlikely New Orleans will reprise its continuity approach from last offseason, Curry still warrants consideration. Yes, he has several years experience with the Saints’ offensive system, but would look to bring a fresh approach to that side of the ball. As a former quarterback and wide receiver himself, the passing game would without a doubt see a more dedicated focus. Bringing a new perspective to the offense will be important so he would have to prove that he can do so. Then his familiarity with the staff and organization may assist the rest of the way. — Ross Jackson
Thomas Brown, Rams tight ends coach and assistant head coach
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Brown has steadily climbed the ranks in L.A. while working with Sean McVay, and the likelihood of McVay bolting for a media gig or a simple hiatus could send Brown looking for work elsewhere. And the Saints should give him a call. He has experience coaching multiple position groups (he initially started out with the running backs before pivoting to the tight ends) and he’s seen how the sausage gets made while working as McVay’s assistant the last two years. He also has several seasons of experience as a college offensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes. McVay’s coaching tree has done well for itself, and there’s a chance Brown might be the next smart offshoot. The Saints should at least give him a call. — John Sigler
Bobby Slowik, 49ers passing game coordinator
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If you want to thrust this Saints offense into today’s NFL, a Kyle Shanahan disciple is the way to go. Slowik has been with the 49ers head coach since 2017 and has also worked with wunderkind Mike McDaniel who now coaches the Miami Dolphins. Working as passing game coordinator with San Francisco is significant because the wide zone scheme that he could bring with him. With speedy receivers like Chris Olave and Rashid Shaheed and an all-star running back like Kamara, it would be exciting to see them in a system that maximized their ability as playmakers. The Saints could see benefits hiring Slowik that the New York Jets saw in hiring former 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur. That is, until their quarterback situation got in the way. It does not hurt that Slowik has defensive coaching experience either. Something the organization might find intriguing as he would be scheming up ways to attack coverages and fronts that he knows well. — Ross Jackson
Frank Reich, former Colts head coach and Eagles offensive coordinator
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Reich is overqualified for this job, but that shouldn’t stop the Saints from calling. He was an effective play caller with both the Colts and Eagles and he knows how to run an offense. The problem is that Indianapolis never got him a quarterback, saddling him with a series of past-their-prime veterans, and that mercurial owner Jim Irsay never seems to know what he wants. Reich would do well in a stable situation. Taking a year to clean up the Saints’ offense would do a lot to rebuild his standing around the league and open up future opportunities to run his won team again as a head coach. — John Sigler
Brian Johnson, Eagles quarterbacks coach
This move would necessitate a change at quarterback in order to fully realize Johnson’s value. But hey, that could be on the way anyway. If the Saints were to invest in a mobile quarterback this offseason (such as drafting Tennessee passer Hendon Hooker), Johnson could skyrocket to the top of the prospect list. That should not be considered far from reality considering their tireless pursuit of Deshaun Watson ahead of 2022. What he has done in helping quarterback Jalen Hurts develop as a passer in Philadelphia is remarkable. Hurts went from being questioned as a starter in the league to a clear and obvious MVP frontrunner after two seasons with Johnson. Also, as a former player he fits the mold of recent moves the Saints organization has made on their coaching staff. — Ross Jackson
Liam Coen, Rams offensive coordinator
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Coen may or may not be planning a return to Kentucky as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator; it was previously reported that was his intention, but he’s since backtracked, which makes sense given all of the upheaval in the coaching world. Situations change rapidly this time of the year. Coen was on the Saints’ radar last offseason but opted to work with McVay and the Rams, so they went back to Carmichael. He’s got pro experience coaching both quarterbacks and receivers, and he’d be an interesting fit in New Orleans as one of the bright up-and-comers in coaching circles right now. If McVay is on the outs and Coen wants to remain in the NFL, the Saints could be a nice opportunity for him. — John Sigler