Aaron Glenn was a favorite among players.
The former Saints defensive backs coach was a great communicator who knew how to take complicated information and make it relatable. He knew how to teach in the classroom and on the field. His players said he made them better, which is the sole purpose of a position coach, but a goal that isn’t always reached.
Losing Glenn to Detroit, where he will serve as the defensive coordinator, is a hit to the coaching staff. But gaining the man responsible for coaching up and helping form the Seattle Seahawks famed secondary, the Legion of Boom, is a pretty good backup plan.
Kris Richard will become an essential member of this coaching staff, and one of his assignments is going to be among the most critical tasks anyone on the team faces next season.
Here are some initial thoughts on the hiring and the tasks Richard needs to accomplish in his new role.
NEW VOICE: The variations in Marshon Lattimore’s play are so obvious and unavoidable that even he talks about the ups and downs and how they’re a problem.
But despite having those conversations and admitting that he doesn’t practice as seriously and consistently as he should, nothing has changed. Lattimore will look like one of the best players in the league one week and then be solid the next. Those edges have never smoothed out.
Glenn did everything he could with Lattimore, but maybe having someone else come at it from a new direction could help Lattimore achieve some consistency and truly emerge as one of the game’s best cornerbacks every week. Totally possible nothing can be done. Still, it will be interesting to find out.
If Richard succeeds, he will immediately become one of the league’s top offseason acquisitions.
TEACHER OF THE GAME: Maybe Seattle was just better at drafting players than everyone else, specifically defensive backs. But as the saying goes, good players can’t overcome bad coaching. So, Richard must have been doing something right during his time with the Seahawks.
This list of players he coached and where they got drafted is all he needs to put on his resume.
• Richard Sherman: Fifth round
• Earl Thomas: First round
• Kam Chancellor: Fifth round
• Byron Maxwell: Sixth round
• Brandon Browner: Undrafted
These players all maximized their potential under Richard. Sherman and Thomas were likely destined for great things regardless, but the coach played a part. Chancellor found his niche with the Seahawks and became one of the game’s greatest enforcers. Maxwell and Browner played so well in Seattle they got other teams to throw money at them before disappointing in their new cities.
Richard should be able to have a similar impact here. The Saints have some young players like Keith Washington, who is still incredibly raw with tons of upside. But even players like C.J. Gardner-Johnson could benefit from Richard’s coaching. Marcus Williams is just starting to realize his full potential. If Williams sticks around, he could greatly benefit.
But having someone who can consistently develop cornerbacks is a cheat code. Teams never have enough, and if you can pull some off the street and get them ready to play, you’re a step ahead of the competition.
ACTUAL RESUME: Here is Richard’s actual resume.
NFL Player: 2002-2007, former third-round pick out of USC
• USC graduate assistant (2008-2009)
• Seattle assistant defensive backs coach (2010)
• Seattle cornerbacks coach (2011)
• Seattle defensive backs coach (2012-2014)
• Seattle defensive coordinator (2015-2017)
• Dallas defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator (2018-2019)
NATURAL FIT: There was a time when Sean Payton wanted the Seattle defense. He signed Jairus Byrd, added Browner and drafted Stanley Jean-Baptiste to follow the blueprint Richard and Seattle coach Pete Carroll laid out.
The plan didn’t work as hoped, but the point is, Payton has long been an admirer of Richard’s work.
No, the Saints aren’t going to start running Seattle’s scheme. The days of playing Cover 3 every snap are over, and Richard isn’t going to be in charge of the scheme. Dennis Allen has that department well covered, and there is little reason to change something that is working well.
But coaching up the defensive backs to play with that mentality blends with what the Saints do. They mix up coverages, but at the core, this is a team that wants to press and be physical with players. They want safeties who are going to light players up going over the middle. The more agitated everyone is, the better.
Richard knows how to bring that. Those traits got embedded in his coaching DNA.
THE ROAD: Much like the other members of this coaching staff, Richard has aspirations for more. He served as the defensive coordinator in Seattle for a few years and then called plays in Dallas. He sat out last season, likely while he searched for another coordinator job. One didn’t come. Now he’s here.
But that’s fine. The Saints have created an advantage over the last few years by acquiring higher-end coaches and scouts and catching them after they fell out of bigger jobs. Mike Nolan, Jeff Ireland and Allen all fit this mold. If Richard works out and gets the secondary playing at an even higher level, that means he did his job and earned the right to leave. The situation will have been mutually beneficial.