Saints search for defensive coordinator heats up

With Super Bowl XLVII and all the festivities surrounding the week-long event over with, the search for the next Saints’ defensive coordinator appears to be heating up.

There were conflicting reports Tuesday night, however, on what coach Sean Payton’s next step will be after firing Steve Spagnuolo on Jan. 24, just one day after Payton returned from a season-long bounty suspension.

According to an ESPN.com report, Payton will hire former Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. But another report had Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and Ryan interviewing Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Both reports cited league sources.

Payton has five openings on his staff, but the most important one is for a defensive coordinator to come in and head up the switch to a 3-4 defense from the 4-3 front that Payton has used since he arrived in 2006.

Gil Brandt of NFL.com reported earlier Tuesday that Romeo Crennel and Ryan were the top candidates to replace Spagnuolo, who was dismissed after his defense allowed an NFL record 7,042 yards in his only season on the job.

After firing Spagnuolo, Payton said he would take his time to find the right person for the job after the Saints finished last in total yards allowed (440.1 yards per game) and rushing defense (147.6) and were 31st against the pass (292.6) and in scoring defense (28.4 points per game).