This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
METAIRIE, La. The New Orleans Saints have promoted assistant coaches Ryan Nielsen and Kris Richard to the roles of co-defensive coordinators under new head coach Dennis Allen, the team announced Wednesday.
Nielsen and Richard will continue to monitor the Saints’ line of defense and secondary units, respectively.
Allen previously served as New Orleans’ defensive coordinator under Sean Payton, while Nielsen was the assistant head coach / defensive line coach and Richard was the secondary coach.
Allen hinted at his inaugural press conference that he will likely continue to call games for the defense, even though he has not made it official yet.
The use of co-defensive coordinators is much more common in college than in the NFL. But the Minnesota Vikings used co-defensive coordinators during their last two seasons under coach Mike Zimmer, and the New England Patriots have shared tasks in defense without mentioning anyone as their official coordinator over the last four seasons. Other teams have used pass game coordinators and run game coordinators. Richard served as the passing game coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys from 2018 to 2019.
Most likely, Allen wanted to find a way to promote both of his highly esteemed assistants to make sure to keep them in his staff. Nielsen has been with the Saints since 2017, while Richard arrived in 2021. The Saints finished fourth in the NFL in allowed points last season and seventh in allowed yards. They have collected a fourth-place finish in both categories since 2019. And they became the first team to shut Tom Brady out in 15 years with a 9-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last December.
Nielsen and Richard, both 42, were teammates in USC’s defense in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Richard went on to play six NFL seasons for the Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders. Nielsen signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, but never cracked an NFL list.
Richard then became one of the architects behind the Seahawks’ famous “Legion of Boom” secondary as a defensive back coach and defensive coordinator from 2010 to 2017. He has had several head coach interviews in recent years and also interviewed for several defensive coordinator positions in the NFL. this year.
Nielsen has meanwhile had several opportunities in recent years to become a college-defensive coordinator. But the Saints did not want to let him go and promoted him to assistant head coach last year while keeping him away from nearby LSU.
The Saints have had the NFL’s No. 1 running defense since Nielsen arrived in 2017.
Before joining the Saints’ staff, Nielsen spent four years as a defensive line coach and running game coordinator at NC State. His previous coaching stops were at USC, Idaho, Ole Miss, Central Connecticut State, Tennessee-Martin and Northern Illinois.
As previously reported, the Saints’ longtime coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. The team also officially announced former Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone as their offensive line coach and Kodi Burns, who spent last season with the Tennessee Volunteers, as their new receivers coach.
Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi has added assistant head coach duties to his plate. Rizzi, a 29-year veteran coach, including a ten-season stay with the Miami Dolphins from 2009-18, joined the Saints in 2019.