With Sean Payton stepping down as the Saints’ head coach Tuesday, the franchise will embark on something that many other teams in Louisiana experienced within the last calendar year: a coaching search.
The Saints became the latest team in the state to undergo a major coaching change, joining the Pelicans, multiple LSU teams and the football programs at UL, McNeese State, Southern, Grambling and Louisiana Tech.
Though LSU football and the Saints, the two biggest brands in the state, have coexisted for more than half a century and experienced plenty of turnover, this will mark the second time they both changed coaches after the same season.
The first occurrence was back in 1999.
Near the end of the year, LSU fired Gerry DiNardo. The school quickly hired Nick Saban from Michigan State, and within two years, the Tigers went 10-3 with a Southeastern Conference championship. They later won the 2003 national title.
The Saints similarly fired Mike Ditka, who had a 15-33 record over three seasons. New Orleans picked Jim Haslett as his replacement a month later.
Haslett won the 2000 NFL Coach of the Year award after capturing the first playoff win in franchise history. He spent six years with the Saints, amassing a 45-51 record.
Saban eventually left for the Miami Dolphins after the 2004 season. He wanted to sign quarterback Drew Brees, who instead partnered with Payton and the Saints to create one of the steadiest teams in the league for 15 years. Saban has since won six national championships at Alabama.
Haslett was fired after the 2005 season, when the Saints were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and went 3-13. He has bounced around the league ever since, spending time as the defensive coordinator in St. Louis and Washington. After two years as Tennessee’s inside linebackers coach, the Titans fired him Tuesday.
When Saban left, LSU won two national championships under Les Miles and Ed Orgeron. A sudden spiral over the last two years led to Orgeron’s firing midway through the 2021 season, and LSU hired Brian Kelly, ending its search before the Saints started their own.
Payton became the most successful coach in franchise history over the last 16 years. Now the Saints must begin a search.
When football season arrives next fall, the two most recognizable teams in the state will both have new coaches for the second time.