At the end of the 2023 NFL season, a lot of questions are being asked and very few are being answered involving the New Orleans Saints.
The loudest question: What is the future for Dennis Allen?
On Tuesday, a report from Tom Pelissero of NFL.com determined that the Black and Gold was expected to hang on to their second-year head coach for the 2024 season.
This news has been met with mixed reactions, especially after the way the game on Sunday ended. After a 74-yard interception return from Tyrann Mathieu set the Saints up at the one-yard line, Jameis Winston was brought in to kneel the clock out and win the game. However, the players on the field decided they wanted to get Jamaal Williams his first touchdown as a Saint.
Lined up in the victory formation, Winton handed it off to Williams who ran in for the score to cap the 48-17 win. Following the game, now-former Falcons head coach Arthur Smith and Allen exchanged heated words at midfield, prompting Allen to apologize when he opened his postgame press conference.
“That’s not who we are,” Allen said during his postgame. “That’s not how we operate. We should have taken a knee so I want to apologize to them. We have a good rivalry. And it’s a heated rivalry. But there’s a way we go about doing our business and I wasn’t happy about that.”
Allen continued to elaborate on what went down during that final play.
“We should have taken a knee right there,” Allen continued. “They asked me about getting Jamaal a touchdown at the end. I said I wanted to take a knee. We put victory out there, and the guys kind of wanted to get him a touchdown. They did that on their own and that’s not acceptable.”
He also went on to say that Smith had every right to be upset about that final play.
There’s a certain level of respect that I believe sports should have, and that play didn’t show it on Sunday. But what I found even more disrespectful was when the head coach of your football team is willingly throwing his players under the bus to the media. Whether you agree with what your players did or not, you give “coach speak” to the media and handle it behind closed doors. The same rules apply to the players, who doubled down on their reasoning behind ignoring the play, saying it was a “team decision”.
“Well, I apologize to DA (Dennis Allen),” Winston said postgame. “The play was victory, but I also explained to DA that it was a team decision. I think when you have the team around and I got to say guys, what do you what do you want to do? We know how much Jamaal means to this team and I understood from the guy’s perspective, so I gave him that, but didn’t condone it at all. However, we decided as a team to do it.”
This whole situation on Sunday proved, in my opinion, what I have thought on occasion in the past: Dennis Allen doesn’t have control of his locker room. I feel that if the players TRULY respected DA like a player should respect their coach, they would’ve just knelt the clock out and moved on. Now, there’s the argument that “well the players were the ones that showed disrespect” and you’re right. However, in the NFL landscape, it is so much easier to let a coach go when there’s turmoil than letting go of players, especially critical pieces of your offense.
Here’s the other thing in all of this: it’s not like DA has set the world on fire. In 2022, the Saints went 7-10 and had to win 3 of their 4. This season, the Black and Gold finished 9-8 by winning four of their last five. Both years, his teams have started incredibly sluggish, been riddled with injuries, and found a groove late in the season but it was too late. Allen referenced the definition of insanity during a press conference last year. “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” When will the Saints listen to their head coach’s advice?
We’ve seen enough. The players clearly have lost respect for him, there are stories out about issues happening during the season where the players were being defiant of this coaching staff, and so on and so forth. If the Saints wait too long to make a change, it’ll be too late.
If the New Orleans Saints want to get back to the glory days, Dennis Allen is not the coach to do it. Jon Gruden isn’t that guy either.
This franchise needs a shake up and there’s no time like the present.
Matt Miguez is the host of the Miguez Mindset podcast on ESPN Southwest Louisiana’s YouTube channel. He is also a digital contributor for ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles.