2022 Coaching Carousel: New Orleans Saints

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2022 Coaching Carousel: New Orleans Saints

The Saints are officially entering a new era with Drew Brees retiring following the 2020 season after 15 years with the franchise and with Sean Payton stepping away from coaching following the 2021 season after 16 years in New Orleans. The Saints’ front office avoided a complete revamp by promoting DC Dennis Allen to head coach from within their own ranks. Pete Carmichael will also step out from Payton’s long shadow and call plays full-time this season after already owning the title of offensive coordinator. Payton hired both Carmichael and Allen on his first staff with the Saints in 2006 and they’ve worked together in 12 of Payton’s 16 seasons with New Orleans — Allen worked as the Broncos’ DC (2011) and Raiders’ HC (2012-14) for four seasons. The Saints flirted with bringing in other former play-callers like Jay Gruden, but they ultimately elevated Carmichael into a bigger role after some deliberation.

Carmichael’s connection with Brees started with the San Diego Chargers from 2002-05, and he followed Brees to New Orleans to be his QB coach in 2006. He took over as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2009 when Doug Marrone left for Syracuse, and this season will be the 14th year he’s held the OC title. Payton was the primary playcaller but Carmichael has handled the duties intermittently over the last 13 seasons. He called plays for the final 11 regular-season games and two playoff contests after Payton broke his leg in 2011, including when the Saints set a franchise record for points scored in a game in a 62-7 victory over the Colts. He then called plays in 2012 when the NFL suspended Payton for the entire season for his role in the “Bountygate” scandal. Carmichael next called plays for the first 10 games of the 2016 season and he took over the offense in New Orleans’ 9-0 victory over the Buccaneers last season when Payton missed with COVID.

New Orleans is coming off its first down season since they had one of the NFL’s best drafts of the last decade when they selected Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara, and Trey Hendrickson in 2017. The Saints failed to reach 11+ wins and to capture the NFC South title for the first time since their three-year run with 7-9 records in 2014-16. The exact makeup of the offense is still very much up in the air with the new League Year approaching. Michael Thomas missed all of last season with an ankle injury, Kamara has a legal situation hanging over his head, and they don’t currently have a starting quarterback with Jameis Winston entering free agency after tearing his ACL last season.

The Pete Carmichael File

  • Age: 50

  • Playcalling Experience: Saints (2011, 2012, 2016)

  • Other Coaching Experience: Saints OC (2009-present), Saints QBs (2006-08), Chargers offensive assistant (2002-05), Washington offensive assistant (2001), Browns TEs (2000)

  • Offensive Coaches Worked Under: Sean Payton (2006-2021), Cam Cameron (2002-05)

  • Notable: Super Bowl champion in 2009, father Pete Carmichael Sr. coached for more than 40 years at all levels including nine years in the NFL

Potential Offensive Changes

Carmichael handled the primary playcalling duties three times during his first 16 years in New Orleans, and the Saints produced top-two total offenses and top-three scoring offenses in each of those seasons. He last handled the duties for 10 games in 2016 when the Saints finished first in yards per game (426.0) and second in points per game (29.3). Carmichael called the plays for the entire 2012 season when they ranked second in YPA (410.9) and third in PPG (28.8), and for the final 11 games in 2011 when they led the league in YPG (467.1) and finished second in PPG (34.2).

Unfortunately, Carmichael no longer has a Hall-of-Fame quarterback at his disposal as he did in his first three cracks as the team’s playcaller. This season’s offense should more closely resemble their 2021 offense than any Saints’ offense from 2006-20. The Saints averaged a league-low 187.4 passing yards per game going from Brees to their hodgepodge of quarterbacks, and it didn’t help that Thomas sat out the entire season after delaying his ankle surgery until right before training camp. ​​They finished behind only the Eagles with a 49% run rate, well ahead of the league average at 42%. The Saints also used 11 personnel at the sixth-lowest rate (48%), well below the league average of 61%. New Orleans has been transitioning to a more run-centric offense since they drafted Kamara in 2017, with Brees hitting the twilight of his career while sporting one of the league’s best defenses.

Also since Kamara joined the offense, New Orleans’ tight ends have become afterthoughts in their passing attack. Saints TEs tied for the league’s lowest target rate with a 13% share last season while Saint’ RBs finished with a position-best 27% rate. New Orleans’ 2021 usage also lined up with how they distributed targets in Kamara’s first four seasons with Brees at quarterback. They tied New England with a league-high 29% target rate to RBs in 2017-20 while their TEs saw just a 16% target rate (third-lowest).

WATCH LIST

Players whom we’re not ready to upgrade or downgrade, but their situations demand monitoring based on playcaller changes.

Alvin Kamara (RB) — It’s tough to be optimistic about any player in this offense with so much uncertainty with the team’s personnel entering the new League Year. They also really struggled in their first season without Brees, sporting the league’s worst passing attack while averaging the fifth-fewest yards per game overall (304.5). Kamara was the one reliable piece in their offense with Thomas sitting out the entire season. He crushed his previous career-high with 18.5 carries per game but his effectiveness fell off a cliff, averaging by far a career-worst 3.7 YPC. He also averaged a career-low 3.6 catches per game with 47 receptions in 13 games, which was a major dropoff from his 81+ catches in each of his first four seasons. He at least still saw a 21% target share but the efficiency and volume in the passing game plummeted with Brees retiring. Kamara’s playing status for the upcoming season is a bit uncertain after he was arrested in Las Vegas during the Pro Bowl for battery “resulting in substantial bodily harm.” We’ll hopefully find out by this summer if he’s facing a suspension, but he figures to play an outsized role in Carmichael’s offense when he’s on the field this season.

Downgrades

Players about whom we’re feeling less optimistic based on the playcaller changes.

Adam Trautman (TE) — Trautman had some second-year breakout buzz last summer before his usage in the preseason cooled the hype with Juwan Johnson stealing passing-down snaps from him. He averaged just 4.9 FPG in 13 games last season despite running an additional 10 routes per game from his rookie year — he ran 19.2 routes per game in 2021. Kamara and Thomas have been target hogs since they arrived on the scene in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and there’s been little room for tight end production in New Orleans’ offense. Jared Cook finished as the TE10 with 12.0 FPG in 2018, and he’s been the only fantasy-relevant TE the Saints have produced in that span. Trautman flashed a bit with 14/137/1 receiving in Weeks 9-11 before a knee injury knocked him out of the lineup and slowed him the rest of the year. The Saints are still likely to be thin at receiver, but Trautman will likely need a Kamara suspension to have a strong chance to break out in his third season.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.

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