Who is Dennis Allen? A career analysis of the Saints new head coach
Dennis Allen has been named head coach of the New Orleans Saints, the club announced today. Allen, who has served as New Orleans’ defensive coordinator since 2015, becomes the 17th head coach in the history of the franchise.
“Dennis has a deep understanding for the culture of our organization and our football team,” said Saints Owner Gayle Benson. “That combined with the character, integrity and leadership skills that he possesses makes him the right head coach for the New Orleans Saints. Having been here for 12 years as a member of our coaching staff, he firsthand knows what it takes to achieve success, sustain it and continue to build. Dennis is a quality coach and individual and the right person to help us build on the solid foundation that has already been established here.”
“I saw in Dennis throughout this comprehensive interview process the same things I have seen in 12 years with him in this organization as an assistant coach,” said Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis. “Dennis is smart and organized and his values and personality fit the culture of the New Orleans Saints. The position groups he has coached and the defensive unit he has run have reflected this. Our philosophies on football and our vision for building on what we have with the Saints align in every way with our organization and I am excited to see what Dennis will accomplish in leading our football team.”
A coaching veteran of 26 seasons, including the last 20 in the National Football League, Allen has been a member of the New Orleans coaching staff for 12 seasons, first from 2006-10, returning in 2015. During his tenure as an assistant under Sean Payton in New Orleans, Allen has been part of staffs that have qualified for the playoffs seven times, captured the NFC South division title six times, reached the NFC Championship game three times and won the Super Bowl XLIV Championship. This is also Allen’s second tenure as a head coach, having served in that role for the Oakland Raiders from 2012-14.
Allen’s defenses have ranked in the top 10 in yards per game and in the top five in opponent points per game each of the past two seasons. During his 16 seasons coaching a position, serving as a defensive coordinator and as a head coach, he has coached 10 players to a total of 21 Pro Bowl selections.
In 2021, Allen’s defensive unit boasted two Pro Bowl selections (defensive end Cameron Jordan and cornerback Marshon Lattimore) and one Associated Press All-Pro selection (linebacker Demario Davis). The Saints defense finished ranked first in the NFL in opponent red zone touchdown percentage (43.5), second in opponent first downs (304) and opponent rushing first downs (84), third in touchdown passes (20), fourth in opponent scoring (19.7 points per game), opponent net yards per play (5.08) and against the run (93.5 yards per game), seventh in total defense (318.2 net yards per game) and eighth in sacks (46) and opponent third down efficiency (37.1 pct.). New Orleans’ current streak of 22 regular/season postseason contests without allowing a 100-yard rusher is the longest in the NFL. With 25 takeaways and a plus-seven turnover ratio, Allen’s defense played an instrumental role in leading the Saints to their fifth straight winning season. Allen handled Payton’s duties in a December 19 9-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with Payton sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols.
In 2020, the Saints defense boasted one of the league’s top units, finishing tied for first in interceptions (18), ranked fourth in opponent net yards per game (310.9) and opponent rushing yards per game (91.3), fifth in opponent net passing yards per game (217.0) and opponent points per game (21.1) and eighth in sacks (45). The 139 road points given up on the road by New Orleans were the fewest in the NFL and the third-lowest total by the club since the start of a 16-game regular season schedule in 1978. New Orleans did not allow a 100-yard rusher until Week 14 of the season, marking an NFL record of 55 games (regular season/postseason combined) of not giving up 100 yards to an individual.
The 2019 Saints ranked third in the league in sacks, recording 51 takedowns and finished fourth in run defense at 91.3 yards rushing per game. The sack total was the highest for the Saints since 2001. The 2019 Saints also ranked sixth on third down (34.8 percent) and 11th in total defense (333.1 yards per game). The Saints had two contests where they did not surrender a defensive touchdown for the first time since 2000. Jordan finished with a career-high 15.5 sacks, ranked third in the NFL and tied for the fourth-highest total in franchise history, also earning All-Pro honors. Davis filled up the stat sheet with a team-high 111 tackles, four sacks, one interception and a career-high 12 passes defensed.
In 2018, the Saints boasted the second-best run defense in the NFL, allowing just 80.2 yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry. Allen’s defense also collared 49 sacks, which tied for fifth in the league. The New Orleans defense held its opponents to 20 points or less in ten games and had a six-game streak of keeping opponents under 20 for the first time since 2000. Jordan was selected to the Pro Bowl as an AP All-Pro in a season where he posted 12 sacks. Davis, in his first season with the club after signing as an unrestricted free agent, became only the fourth Saint to record 110 tackles and five sacks in a single season. Lattimore led the team with five regular season takeaways and added two more in the NFC Divisional Playoff win over Philadelphia.
In 2017, Allen coordinated a Saints defense that finished third in the league in interceptions (20), tied for seventh in sacks (42) and ranked tenth in opponent points per game (20.4 ppg.) after ranking 31st in 2016. Away from home, New Orleans surrendered only 18.3 points per game, tied for sixth in the NFL, with their 146 road points given up tied for the sixth-lowest total by the club since the start of a 16-game schedule in 1978. Allen oversaw a defense that featured first-team All-Pro Jordan who posted 13 sacks and Lattimore, who led NFL rookies with five interceptions and garnered Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, as both defenders earned Pro Bowl trips. Lattimore was the second rookie under Allen’s tutelage to capture league Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2016, a young Saints defensive unit took several strides in the right direction, surrendering only 90.6 rushing yards per game over the final 13 weeks of the season, ranked sixth in the NFL over that period. In fact, New Orleans allowed under 100 yards rushing in eight games on the season.
After starting the 2015 season as the club’s senior defensive assistant, Allen assumed coordinator duties in Week 11. As New Orleans rallied to win three of their final four contests, Allen’s unit contributed to finishing strong as the defense surrendered 35.1 total net yards per game below the overall season average, including 25.1 fewer yards per game in stopping the run. New Orleans also held opponents to a season-low 17 points in two of the final four contests. Jordan was selected to his second Pro Bowl, as he recorded double-digit sacks for the second time in his career.
Allen served as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2012-14. In his second season, he guided a team that made significant improvement in several areas on offense, defense and special teams. Offensively, the Raiders ranked 12th in the NFL in rushing, improving 16 spots in league rankings from 2012 and sixth in yards per rush (4.6), improving 21 places in league rankings despite starting an NFL-high eight offensive line combinations due to injury. The defense replaced nine starters, yet improved in several categories. The defense recorded 38 sacks, 13 more than 2012, and tied for second in the NFL with 15 players getting to the quarterback. The rush defense improved five spots from 18th in the NFL in 2012 to 13th in 2013, as it limited opposing offenses to just five runs of 20-or-more yards, tied for the fewest in the league, and kept opponents to less than two yards per carry three times. On special teams, the Raiders moved from the NFL’s bottom-third to first overall in opponent gross punting (41.7), ranked third in opponent net punting (37.0) and fourth in opponent kickoff returns (20.4).
In 2011, Allen served as defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. He led a defense that helped the Broncos win the AFC West division title and advance to the AFC Divisional round with a Wild Card game victory. The Broncos improved 12 spots over the previous year in overall defensive ranking and bettered their points allowed eight spots. The defense produced four Pro Bowl selections as rookie linebacker Von Miller joined cornerback Champ Bailey, safety Brian Dawkins and defensive end Elvis Dumervil on the AFC squad. Miller set what was the team’s rookie record with 11.5 sacks en route to AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The Broncos’ 41 quarterback takedowns marked the unit’s most since 2000.
During Allen’s previous five-year tenure in New Orleans, he first served as assistant defensive line coach (2006-07) before being promoted to secondary coach (2008-10).
He was a part of a defensive coaching staff that engineered significant improvement from 2009-10, when the club went 24-8 in the regular season, qualified for the playoffs both times and captured Super Bowl XLIV. Under Allen’s direction in 2010, the Saints allowed an NFL-low 13 touchdown passes, while New Orleans ranked fourth in both opponent net yards per game (306.3) and pass defense (193.9 ypg.) and fifth in opponent third down efficiency (34.5 pct.). Safety Roman Harper was selected to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, posting 100 tackles and three sacks, and cornerback Jabari Greer recorded two interceptions with one brought back for a touchdown.
In 2009, Allen tutored a secondary that played a key role in helping the Saints to the club’s first Super Bowl victory. A revamped unit accounted for an NFL-high five interception returns for touchdowns and totaled 21 picks with two of the four starters being selected to the Pro Bowl. Opposing quarterbacks managed a 68.6 passer rating, ranked third in the NFL. Greer returned one pick for a touchdown. Harper led the unit with a career-high 127 tackles and added 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles while being selected to his first Pro Bowl. Cornerback Tracy Porter picked off Brett Favre and Peyton Manning in the fourth quarter in consecutive postseason contests, with his famous Super Bowl XLIV interception being brought back for a touchdown.
While serving as assistant defensive line coach from 2006-07, Allen helped develop a unit that ranked as one of the defense’s strengths. During that stretch, the front four combined for 49.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 10 recoveries. Defensive end Will Smith was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2006, posting a club-best 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Allen joined the Saints after a four-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons, where he spent his final two years as defensive assistant/quality control with an emphasis on working with the defensive line. Over the previous two seasons, he was in charge of defensive quality control while helping tutor the secondary, beginning his NFL coaching career under Head Coach Dan Reeves.
Allen worked as the secondary coach for the University of Tulsa (2000-01) before heading to the NFL. Prior to his stint at Tulsa, Allen was on the coaching staff for four years (1996-99) at his alma mater, Texas A&M, as a graduate assistant working primarily with the school’s secondary.
A native of Hurst, Texas, Allen earned four letters for Texas A&M as a safety from 1992-95 and started the final 21 games of his career. A highlight was his fourth-quarter interception that clinched an 18-9 victory over Texas in 1993, sending the Aggies to their third-straight Cotton Bowl. He collected Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors after intercepting two passes in a 36-14 win over Oklahoma in 1994.
Allen was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Buffalo Bills and competed in their training camp in 1996. Allen’s late father, Grady, played at Texas A&M and was a linebacker for the Falcons from 1968-72. Allen and his wife Alisson have a daughter, Layla and a son, Garrison.
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