Saints fire longtime offensive coordinator Carmichael, two other assistants

Published 6:09 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Saints have fired offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., along with senior offensive assistant Bob Bicknell and receivers coach Kodi Burns.

“These types of decisions are never easy to come to, but are necessary as we move forward,” Saints coach Dennis Allen, who oversees New Orleans’ defense, said in an announcement made Tuesday.

The Saints ranked ninth in scoring with 23.6 points per game, 14th overall in yards per game with 337.2, and tied for sixth for fewest offensive turnovers with 18. However, the offense stagnated repeatedly in clutch situations during the first 12 games of the season — a troubling trend after the high-profile acquisition of 10-year veteran quarterback Derek Carr during the 2023 offseason.

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New Orleans (9-8) started 5-7 before getting four victories by 10 or more points in its final five games, narrowly missing out on the postseason because of unfavorable tiebreakers with Tampa Bay and Green Bay.

New Orleans converted 53.3 percent of red zone opportunities into touchdowns, which ranked 18th. For much of the season, however, the Saints were in the bottom third of the NFL in that category and lost seven games by fewer than 10 points each.

Carmichael has been with the Saints since 2006, when he was hired by then-rookie coach Sean Payton as quarterbacks coach in what also was QB Drew Brees’ first season in New Orleans.

“I would especially like to thank Pete for his contributions to this staff for 18 seasons,” said Allen, who worked with Carmichael in New Orleans for 14 seasons between 2006 and 2023. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the job he has done and as a colleague.”

Carmichael became offensive coordinator under Payton in 2009, but the head coach primarily oversaw the design and calling of an offense that was run to record effect by the now-retired Brees for 15 seasons.

When Payton, now the Denver Broncos’ coach, retired briefly after the 2021 season, Allen, who’d been promoted from his defensive coordinator role, retained Carmichael to oversee the offense.

While the unit’s overall production remained solid, it struggled to produce consistently during the past two seasons.

The Saints were hampered in part by instability at quarterback in 2022; season-opening starter Jameis Winston was limited by a back injury and replaced for much of that season by veteran backup Andy Dalton. New Orleans went 7-10 with an offense that ranked 19th and a defense that ranked fifth.

The highlight of Carmichael’s tenure overseeing New Orleans’ offense came in 2012, when Payton was suspended in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation into off-the-books cash rewards offered to defensive players for big and sometimes injurious hits under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

With Carmichael calling the plays and Brees under center, the Saints ranked second in the NFL in offense that season with 410.9 yards per game.

While the Saints have not commented on possible candidates for Carmichael’s replacement, the club has been fostering a relationship with former NFL head coach Jon Gruden, who has been out of the league since resigning in 2021 from the Las Vegas Raiders, where he coached Carr.

Gruden’s resignation came amid revelations that emails he’d sent while he was a broadcaster contained racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. Gruden has not worked in professional football since leaving Las Vegas, but was a guest at Saints OTAs last summer and has informally consulted for the Saints on offensive play designs that Carr had run well in the past.