The first two weeks of the NFL season have not necessarily been what New Orleans Saints fans hoped it would be. The team is ranked No. 18 in terms of passing yardage and No. 17 in total yardage on the offensive side. Not the start many expected with Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave all added to Jameis Winstons' receiving arsenal. But despite the slow start on the offensive side early in the season, Saints head coach Dennis Allen isn't adding to the concerns. It's early, but he's already proven he was the right pick for the job.
While any head coach in his first year with a team would love to start 2-0, the Saints' 1-1 start isn't causing a panic in New Orleans. Part of that calm and cool response is led by Allen. He showed magnificent composure in the opening week against the Atlanta Falcons, leading the way to the largest comeback in the franchise's 55-year history. Yes, he did that. The Saints marched back after going down by 16 points against the Falcons with Allen and Winston at the helm, making up that ground in the fourth quarter.
Week 2 was not as successful as things fell apart for New Orleans in the fourth quarter, despite holding Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense to just 3 points through three quarters. But just as Allen's demeanor helped the team rally back against the Falcons, his attitude following his first loss as the New Orleans head coach does nothing less than inspire confidence for a bounce back.
While some have panicked about the Saints' quarterback situation after a not-so-flattering Week 2 for Winston, Allen hasn't let it get out of control, vocally standing by his signal caller. "No," Allen very simply responded when asked about the possibility of turning to veteran quarterback Andy Dalton last weekend against the Buccaneers. Even if Allen was considering the possibility, he's left no questions publicly about the prospect.
This goes a long way in continuing to induce confidence for Winston and his abilities. While some on the outside may doubt him, it's important that the organization and its figure head maintain trust with their starting quarterback until they have no other choice, should that moment present itself. The Saints have not been short of storylines this offseason and even since the season started, playing into a quarterback battle wouldn't be wise.
Allen has already had to navigate several tests this season. Starting safety Marcus Maye was arrested ahead of their Week 1 matchup in Atlanta. Starting nickel corner C.J. Gardner-Johnson wanted a new contract at a value above what the organization saw fit for his position and he was hence traded. Winston played Week 2 against the Bucs with four fractured vertebrae in his back. But he's shown no indication that moments are too big for him in his first year as the Saints' head coach.
Allen even led a composed and calculated 16-point comeback in his first action this season followed by limited the Bucs offense to just 13 points the following week, though in a losing effort. The former defensive coordinator has consistently proven that he wasn't "given" the job, he deserved it.
Allen has even joined in on making some tough decisions. If a move that hasn't been discussed as much as possibly warranted, the team made their 2021 first-round selection, defensive end Payton Turner, a healthy scratch. "We wanted to get Tanoh (Kpassagnon) in the game," Allen said. "And see if he could be an improvement from where we were last week." In Week 1, Turner played 21 snaps, 14 on defense. Week 2, Kpassagnon took 24 total snaps, 20 on defense. That's not an easy choice to make when the team has invested a first-round draft selection in a talent.
Even before the season began, Allen was showing that he can be the type of coach that players want to play for. Remember the strained relationship between wide receiver Michael Thomas and the Saints organization as the management of his offseason ankle surgery became public discourse? Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, it was Allen and his wife flying to Malibu, Calif. and sitting down with Thomas and his family that got him back on board. Thomas has been vocal since he returned to the team this offseason following his recovery from a pair of ankle surgeries about how much he appreciates his coach, the players around him, and the organization.
Allen has proven to be a players' coach on both sides of the ball despite his defensive background. He has, after all, helped to build the Saints defense from the ground up since returning to the organization in 2015. His defensive bonds are clear: linebacker Demario Davis, safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive end Cameron Jordan, all leaders on the team, have lauded Allen for his achievements and leadership. Allen stuck by cornerback Marshon Lattimore who was questionably ejected from last week's contest after being struck by Bucs players. But his connection with the team, as demonstrated in his ability to repair the situation around Thomas, isn't limited to just one side of the ball.
It's clear that whether it's about toughing out an opponent in the closing moments of a game, playing a tight game against a productive offense, getting a superstar player back on board with the team, making the hard decisions or avoiding unnecessary issues, Allen is handling things well in his start as the head coach in New Orleans. Hopefully for fans, he'll keep that up and lead the team to more wins than losses. Getting the offense right has to be the No. 1 priority for Allen and his staff right now, but more challenges will arise. If he's able to maintain his composure and calm demeanor as they do, the Saints should continue to feel comfortable with their decision to tap him as the team's leader.
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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire