Sean Payton wasted no time in his first 48 hours back as he fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo just one year into his new job. Less notably, The Saints also fired defensive backs coach Ken Flajoe who was the defensive coordinator of the Rams under Spagnuolo. They were relieved of their duties in tandem, suggesting neither really were the right fit in New Orleans. It also seems clear they are taking the brunt of the blame of the Saints securing the "worst defense in NFL history" title, though Sean Payton added: "Philosophically we are changing our defense to a 3-4 alignment". That's something my friend Marijn has been clamoring for for years, so I know he is salivating at the news. Whereas in year's past I would always contend they didn't have the linebackers/personnel to pull off a 3-4, I think that's changed and the timing for this is actually good. Clearly "Spags" ran a 4-3 system and the Saints didn't have the players to pull off his system that well. The fact of the matter is the Saints do have talent on defense, though, regardless of the season they just had. I do believe a 3-4 system could be a better fit for their best talent.
Well, first of all, they have the interior linebackers for it. Picking up Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne this past offseason improved them in that department. While they aren't quite as thick as you'd ideally need at that position, they both tackle well and it will put less demand on them laterally which is arguably their biggest weakness. In addition, it suggests the Saints are going all in with the development of young budding players Junior Galette and Martez Wilson. Both are highly gifted athletes, but "tweeners" in the 4-3 system. In the 3-4 they could be full time outside linebackers, making them extremely dangerous off the edge blitzing. Don't rule out Roman Harper as a backer in the 3-4 scheme either. Akiem Hicks and Cam Jordan are others that I think will fit the system well on the defensive line. The big question is whether or not they can find a prototypical NT to anchor that middle interior position, which is key to a 3-4 being successful. I'm not sure Bunkley can be that guy. I think Hicks immediately moves to end in a 3-4 scheme, but they need a mammoth NT to anchor this line and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Saints go nose tackle in the 1st round of the draft now, depending on what happens with Jermon Bushrod.
This offseason just got a lot more interesting and a lot more fun. Stay tuned for the new defensive coordinator hire, which I'm sure will happen real soon. As much as I was hoping for Lovie Smith, he runs a 4-3 defense, so he's likely not the right fit given the philosophical change. Thoughts on Spags getting canned?