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Saints GM Loomis defends decision to keep Allen, takes responsibility for team becoming complacent

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis on Wednesday shot back at a groundswell of fans who’ve called recently for coach Dennis Allen’s firing and urged critics to consider the records that several of the most successful coaches in NFL history posted in their first few seasons.

“The easy thing to do — the lazy thing to do — is look at the results of the season and say, ‘It’s the coach’s fault,’ or ‘It’s the quarterback’s fault,’” Loomis said during an end-of-season briefing at team headquarters. “Oftentimes, you have to look beyond that.

“It’s collective,” Loomis continued. “It’s the players. It’s the coaches. It’s me. It’s our personnel staff, our roster. It’s variables sometimes we don’t have any control of. And so, my assessment is Dennis Allen is a good coach.”

Loomis, who is one of just nine GMs in NFL history with more than 200 victories, pointed out that former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, former New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry and former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh all posted multiple losing seasons before later winning multiple championships.

Loomis noted that even Sean Payton — who coached the Saints to their lone Super Bowl triumph and nine playoff appearances — slipped to records of 7-9 and 8-8 in his second and third seasons following his 10-6 first season.

“I knew we had a good football coach,” Loomis said. “Sometimes the hard thing to do is to be patient and recognize your other shortcomings and get those fixed.”

Loomis went on to emphasize that Allen “is a fantastic defensive coach — fantastic.”

The Saints have not made the playoffs since the 2020 season, after which record-setting quarterback Drew Brees retired. Payton, now the Denver Broncos’ coach, briefly retired after going 9-8 in 2021. In the two seasons since under Allen — who previously was Payton’s defensive coordinator — the Saints have gone 7-10 in 2022 and 9-8 in 2023.

Spectators in the Superdome could be heard booing at several junctures this season. But on that topic, Loomis was empathetic.

“If I was in the stands, there’s a couple times I might have booed,” Loomis said.

Two playoff teams — Tampa Bay and Green Bay — also went 9-8, but New Orleans lost out to them on tiebreakers. The Buccaneers split their games against the Saints, but performed better against common opponents. The Saints lost a head-to-head matchup with Green Bay, blowing a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter, during which New Orleans also missed a late, go-ahead field-goal attempt.

Had New Orleans won at Green Bay, Loomis suggested, it could have changed “the entire course and narrative of the season.”

Still, the Saints made a significant change on Allen’s staff on Tuesday, firing offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., who had been with the club since Payton hired him as quarterbacks coach in 2006.

Loomis largely praised Carmichael and said letting him go was difficult emotionally. Loomis declined to get specific about what lacked in Carmichael’s recent performance.

The Saints ranked ninth in the NFL in scoring and 14th in yards per game, but stagnated offensively during clutch moments of several close losses.

“We just felt like we can perform better and we needed a change in that area,” Loomis said. “Our expectations were higher collectively. We had some games that slipped away from us and a couple we didn’t perform in well.”

Loomis declined to list candidates to fill the job and said the hiring would not be rushed.

“We’re going to make the right hire,” Loomis said. “We’re not going to make the expedient hire.”

Loomis was largely upbeat and appeared eager to take questions while speaking for about an hour — something he said he felt compelled to do as he tries to set the club back on a playoff trajectory.

“I hate doing these press conferences. You guys know that,” Loomis said. “Typically, I’m very stoic and unenthused, right? But I think we need enthusiasm. I think we need a boost in energy and excitement in our building. … That stuff starts with me.”

Loomis blamed himself for not being vigilant enough about making sure coaches and players were constantly focused on finding the edge required to win in the NFL, a league renowned for parity.

“Sometimes we’re not doing the things that are necessary to win — and that’s on me,” Loomis said. “I’ve got to hold our guys to a standard … and I think that I probably let that slip a little bit over the last few years. And so we’re going to, we’re going to get that recalibrated.

“That’s my message to our entire building. It’s not just to the players or just the coaches,” Loomis said. “We’ve gotten a little too comfortable over the last few years, and so, I want to make it uncomfortable.”

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL

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