Sean Payton had clearly heard some of the calls from the outside for special-teams coordinator Greg McMahon to be fired in the wake of the New Orleans Saints’ colossal special-teams woes this year.
But Payton said it made more sense for New Orleans to simply bring in another veteran coach to add to the existing mix. Payton told WWL Radio on Monday night in his weekly coaches’ show that he has hired longtime special-teams coach Kevin O’Dea -- most recently the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coordinator from 2014-15.
“I think when you have some struggles in an area, immediately I think the reaction is people want heads to fly,” Payton said. “[But] I think for us, it’s about bringing in someone that can help. I think Greg and [assistant special-teams coach Stan Kwan] and those guys, this is a low-ego business. We want to win. And that’s the most important thing.
“And so a guy like Kevin I think can help us, and he was fired up, he got in here this afternoon. He was in meeting with those guys, putting together a plan for [this Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams].”
Payton said O’Dea has “expertise particularly when it comes to coaching the kicker, the snap and the hold,” though he also believes he can help from a scheme standpoint with the return game and kick coverage.
O’Dea has 21 years of NFL experience. He also served as the New York Jets’ special-teams coordinator from 2008-2009 and was an assistant under highly-touted special-teams coach Dave Toub with the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears, among other stops.
O’Dea was let go by the Buccaneers this year after Dirk Koetter replaced Lovie Smith as head coach.
“He’s someone I’ve had a chance to speak to Lovie Smith about, a number of people about,” Payton said. “I think Kevin’s gonna help us … and I’m glad we have him on board.
The Saints (4-6) have had some spectacular gaffes on special teams this year, including blocked kicks in close losses in each of the past two weeks. They had an extra point returned for a game-winning two-point conversion in the final minutes of a 25-23 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 10. Then they had a blocked field goal set up a 40-yard touchdown pass by the Carolina Panthers just before halftime last week in a 23-20 loss.
Earlier this year, the Saints had a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in a 16-13 loss at the New York Giants in Week 2. They also had two rookies collide on a fumbled punt return in a Week 3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and had a kickoff returner fumble the ball out of bounds at the 1-yard line last week. And they ranked 31st in the NFL in kickoff return yardage heading into this Sunday's games, among other woes.