So it begins. While a potential offensive coordinator shift is a popular focus for New Orleans Saints fans right now, the team may be forced to undergo a change at defensive coordinator as well. On Monday, the Carolina Panthers requested permission to interview Saints co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Kris Richard.
Richard has been in New Orleans since the 2021 season when he was brought in to Sean Payton’s staff, replacing former secondary coach Aaron Glenn as he left for the Detroit Lions’ defensive coordinator job. Richard was then promoted to co-defensive coordinator ahead of this season as Dennis Allen moved into the head coach position.
His cohort Ryan Nielsen is getting a look this offseason too. The news of the Panthers’ request to interview Richard comes hot on the heals of Nielsen being requested by the Atlanta Falcons. Meaning New Orleans could be in line to lose not one, but two defensive coordinators this offseason.
General manager Mickey Loomis made it clear in his end-of-year press conference on Friday that the organization would not stand in the way of their staff getting advancement opportunities elsewhere. That has been typical of New Orleans in the past with examples like the aforementioned Glenn, Lions head coach Dan Campbell, and Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot to name a few.
Per a high-ranking NFL executive, the option for franchises to block these interviews cannot be exercised when a candidate with a “co” title is being offered an opportunity to take on sole ownership of the same role. So even if New Orleans was to try to stand in the way of the advancement of one of these candidates, their options are limited. Short of promoting one of their co-coordinators, which effectively would mean moving on from the other, there is not much the Saints can do here. Instead, an NFC South rival or two could force the team’s hand. Could Richard team up with Payton in Carolina?