Saints announce several coaching staff changes, additions

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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton announced multiple changes and additions to the team’s coaching staff for the upcoming 2021 season.

Entering his sixth season with the Black and Gold, Ronald Curry will coach quarterbacks in 2021. It marks his first season as a quarterbacks coach after serving as wide receivers coach from 2019-2020 and working as an offensive assistant with the position group from 2016-18. Since he was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Michael Thomas’ 510 receptions are an NFL record through a player’s first five NFL seasons. Also, Curry has supervised the development of Tre’Quan Smith, who has grabbed 16 touchdowns in the regular season and postseason combined since being selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Overall, Curry enters his 16th NFL season, having played wideout in seven seasons (2002-08) for the Oakland Raiders and then served on the San Francisco 49ers coaching staff from 2013-15. Curry will return to his roots in the quarterback position group as he was a four-year starter at the University of North Carolina from 1998-2001, where he left Chapel Hill with school career records of 4,987 passing yards and 6,236 yards of total offense.

Ryan Nielsen adds the assistant head coach title to his responsibilities of tutoring the Saints defensive line for his fifth season with the club. Nielsen possesses an extensive history of developing defensive linemen on both the college and professional levels. Since 2017, the 187 sacks recorded by New Orleans ranks third in the NFL and the team had a league-record 55-game (regular season and postseason combined) streak of games without surrendering 100-yards rushing to an individual. Within his position group, DE Cameron Jordan’s 48 sacks are fourth in the NFL since 2017, while he has been selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls. In 2020, fourth-year DE Trey Hendrickson finished tied for second in the league with 13.5 takedowns.

Entering his seventh season with the Black and Gold, Brendan Nugent will coach the offensive line in 2021. It marks his first season as offensive line coach after serving as assistant offensive line/run game in 2020 and primarily working with the line since first arriving as an offensive assistant in 2015. Nugent has assisted with an offensive line that has surrendered only 94 sacks since 2017, tied for the lowest total in the league. During the four seasons, ten Pro Bowl selections have come from the Saints offensive line, including two in 2020. During the 2020 campaign, the Saints produced a pair of Pro Bowl offensive linemen (T Terron Armstead and G Andrus Peat) and the group blocked for the NFL’s sixth-ranked running game and an offense that rushed for a franchise-record and league-best 30 touchdowns, tied for the sixth-highest single-season total in NFL record books.

Kris Richard joins the Black and Gold as the secondary coach after tutoring the position group in the National Football League for 10 years, including five as a defensive coordinator/play caller. From 2018-19, Richard served as passing game coordinator/secondary of the Dallas Cowboys and oversaw a pass defense that improved in several areas. He served on the coaching staff with the Seattle Seahawks from 2010-17, serving as defensive coordinator his last three seasons. He has coached four players to 13 Pro Bowl selections and 11 AP All-Pro selections. The Los Angeles native played four seasons in the NFL with Seattle (2002-04) and San Francisco (2005) and started his coaching career at his alma mater, Southern California, from 2008-09. Richard and Nielsen were college teammates with the Trojans.

Dan Roushar returns to coach tight ends as well as being promoted to run game coordinator, a position that he coached in 2015 for the Saints before assuming offensive line coaching duties for the team over the past five seasons. A former college quarterback and 35-year coaching veteran, Roushar has tutored virtually every position group during his coaching career, as well as serving two stints as an offensive coordinator at the college level. Over the past four seasons, ten Pro Bowl selections have come from the Saints offensive line, including two in 2020. During the 2020 campaign, the Saints produced a pair of Pro Bowl offensive linemen in Armstead and Peat and the group blocked for the NFL’s sixth-ranked running game, a ranking achieved for the second time in the past four seasons and an offense that rushed for a franchise-record and league-best 30 touchdowns, tied for the sixth-highest single-season total in NFL record books. In his previous experience coaching Saints tight ends, Roushar tutored the position in 2015 after coaching running backs from 2013-14 and the position group played an integral role in the NFL’s second-ranked offense. As a unit they combined for 101 receptions for 1,021 yards with 11 touchdowns. As the featured tight end that season, Benjamin Watson set career-highs in both receptions and receiving yardage and tied a career-best in scoring grabs, when he made 74 grabs for 825 yards (11.1 avg.) and six touchdowns. Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui, acquired early in the season in a trade with New England, combined for an additional five touchdowns, while also providing a valuable blocking presence.

Zach Strief returns to the Saints as assistant offensive line coach after serving as the club’s radio play-by-play announcer for WWL Radio for the past three seasons following a retirement from a 12-year playing career with the club. Strief originally entered the NFL and joined the club as the first of two seventh round picks (210th overall) in 2006 out of Northwestern. Overall, Strief, appeared in 158 regular season games with 93 starts. He also appeared in ten postseason games, tied for second in club record books, with four starts. Strief opened 87 regular season games and four postseason contests at right tackle from 2011-17, during this period, the Saints ranked first in total offense overall, ranking first in three of those seasons (2011, 2014 and 2016), second three times (2012-13 and 2017) and fourth in 2013. During his tenure as a starter, he led the way for the top four single-season net yards per game totals in team history. He also served as an offensive team captain five times.

Entering his 37th year of coaching, Jim Chaney joins the Saints as an offensive analyst. Serving as an offensive coordinator in college for 25 seasons at the University of Tennessee (2009-12, 2019-20), Georgia (2016-18), Pittsburgh (2015), Arkansas (2013-14), Purdue (1997-2005) and Cal State Fullerton (1988-92), the Holden, Missouri native and former Central Missouri State standout also has NFL coaching experience from a three-year stint with the St. Louis Rams, where he served as their offensive line coach from 2006-07 and tutored their tight ends in 2008.

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