Saints' job hunt grows after losing WR coach John Morton

METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints' to-do list just got a little longer.

They will now have to fill yet another key position on their coaching staff after losing wide receivers coach John Morton to the New York Jets' offensive coordinator job.

The Saints were already in the market for four or five new assistants after firing linebackers coaches Joe Vitt and James Willis, special teams coaches Greg McMahon and Stan Kwan and defensive line coach Bill Johnson earlier in the month.

As much as the Saints will miss Morton, though, coach Sean Payton has always said that losing assistants to promotions elsewhere means that you are doing something right. And that certainly appears to be the case with the way Morton handled the Saints' young wide receiver corps during his two years in New Orleans.

The Saints' top three receivers -- Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Willie Snead -- caught more passes (242) for more yards (3,205) than any other trio in the NFL this season. And their top four receivers (Cooks, Thomas, Snead and Brandon Coleman) are all 24 years old or younger.

Morton first came to New Orleans in 2006 as a general offensive assistant on Payton's first staff. He then left to become a receivers coach and later an offensive coordinator at USC, then became a receivers coach with the San Francisco 49ers before returning to the Saints in 2015.

The Saints have had a total of three receivers coaches under Payton -- the first being Curtis Johnson, who left to become head coach at Tulane and now coaches for the Chicago Bears. The Saints chose to part ways with Johnson's replacement, Henry Ellard, before hiring Morton.

Payton has been busy interviewing assistant coach candidates for the better part of the month.

ESPN's Adam Caplan confirmed that some of the notable candidates include former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan and former Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver for the linebacker job and Washington Redskins assistant special teams coach Brad Banta for a special teams job.

The Saints have also reportedly interviewed former Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Brian Vangorder, according to the Sporting News' Alex Marvez and former Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis, according to the New Orleans Advocate's Nick Underhill, among other candidates.

It's unclear if they plan to hire someone into a prominent “assistant head coach” role like the one that Vitt held for the past 11 seasons. The Saints named tight ends coach Dan Campbell as an assistant head coach when they brought him on staff last year.

Also, it's unclear how many special teams roles the Saints will look to fill. It seems likely that they will keep special teams assistant Kevin O'Dea in some capacity after he was hired midway through last season, primarily to work with rookie kicker Wil Lutz and the snap-hold-kick operation.