Sean Payton, who returned to the New Orleans Saints after a suspension, has fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and secondary coach Ken Flajole, the team announced.
“I personally want to thank Steve and Ken for their contributions during what was an unprecedented 2012 season,” Payton said. “Philosophically we are changing our defense to a 3-4 alignment and right now is the best time to accomplish this transition.”
The move made by Payton comes only two days Roger Goodell reinstated Payton from his suspension.
Without Payton, who was suspended for his role in the Saints bounty scandal, and with linebacker Jonathan Vilma and end Will Smith in limbo for portions of the schedule while their suspensions were being appealed — and eventually rescinded — the Saints lost their first four games. They gave up at least 27 points 11 times, and surrendered 52 to the Giants, 44 to Carolina, and 40 to Washington.
In 2012, Spagnuolo’s first year running the Saints’ defense, New Orleans was last in the league in total defense and run defense, and 31st against the pass and in points allowed. Prior to 2012, Spagnuolo was the Rams’ head coach for three seasons, where Flajole was his defensive coordinator.
Spagnuolo was the Rams’ head coach the previous three seasons, going 10-38. He coordinated the Giants’ defense when they ended New England’s unbeaten season to win the 2008 Super Bowl.
Flajole was with Spagnuolo in St. Louis and moved with him to New Orleans last season.
On Wednesday, Payton hinted at the moves that would occur after he met with his staff.
“This meeting we’re going to have is going to be painful,” Payton said. “We’ve got a lot of tough meetings ahead. That’s what 7-9 is. Those are our biggest challenges.”