Saints' Payton denies DC Ryan was fired

METAIRIE, La. (AP) Saints coach Sean Payton is promising changes to New Orleans’ last-ranked defense.
However, Payton said Monday that he hasn’t made decisions regarding the coaching staff or other personnel, including defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Ryan is ”absolutely” still on the staff, Payton said, adding that significant personnel moves are ”something that would not be done without a lot of thought.”
The Saints then canceled an open locker room period for media, instead making only one defensive player – end Cameron Jordan – available by conference call.
Jordan said Ryan served in his typical role in team meetings Monday before players left the facility for their bye week.
”That tells us a lot,” Jordan said. ”I don’t know what the organization will do from this point on. But at the given moment, I know that when the team meeting started, Rob Ryan was our D.C. and addressed us as such, and we’ll leave it at that.”
Rex Ryan, head coach of the Buffalo Bills, said if his brother is let go, he’ll go down competing.
”We’re presuming that he’s going to get let go at some point, I don’t know,” Rex said Monday during his weekly radio show on Buffalo’s WGR-AM. ”But I know one thing, he’s tough. He’s going to compete to the very end. If that end comes tomorrow or it comes at the end of the season, I don’t know. But I can tell you he’ll be the same guy.”
If Payton does make a change, it would hardly be a shock.
Defensively, New Orleans ranks last in the NFL with 424.7 yards allowed per game, 6.7 yards allowed per play and 31.5 points allowed per game.
”It’s hard to be last,” Payton said. ”That’s hard to do.”
Yet the Saints’ defense has often made it look easy, particularly in its past two games sub-.500 teams Tennessee and Washington; New Orleans lost both games to fall to 4-6.
Payton showed little patience with questions about Ryan’s future, saying he would ”go crazy” trying to answer them and demanding that reporters ask about something else.
But he didn’t go out of his way to defend Ryan, either – or anyone associated with the defense, for that matter.
”I do know this – continuing just along the same course we’re taking right now is not something that we’re going to do. And I’m talking about players. I’m talking about us as a staff, all of us collectively.” Payton said. ”But you’ve got to look closely at what’s winning and what’s keeping you from winning. And in fairness to the players and fans and everyone else, we’ve got to look at that specifically.”
Payton’s comments came a day after the Saints allowed 526 yards in a 47-14 loss to the Washington Redskins.
”It’s hard to swallow a game where all of a sudden you’re feeling like there isn’t an answer,” Payton said. ”There’s some things on tape that have to be better. And we’ll get that right. … It might take a little bit of time. And it might hurt going down for some people. But we’ll get it squared away.”
Injuries have hampered the unit lately, but New Orleans has ranked consistently low defensively for a season and a half, having finished last season ranked 31st.
Even in some of their victories this season, such as a 52-49 victory over the New York Giants three weeks ago, New Orleans’ defense often appeared to botch coverages and leave gaps that led to explosive plays.
Opposing quarterbacks have consistently had their best games of the season against New Orleans.
Washington’s Kirk Cousins had the best game of his career on Sunday, throwing for 324 yards and four touchdowns, producing a perfect QB rating of 158.3.
Payton spoke to reporters after a team meeting in which he said he delivered a similar message about the need for change.
”It’s a success-driven business,” Payton said. ”We’ve got some young guys that want to do well, want to please, some veterans the same way. Yet we’ve got to look closely at what we’re doing and how well they’re doing. But the main thing was, it wasn’t going to be the same when they got back. It was going to be different. And it needs to be.”
Notes: Payton was critical of veteran cornerback Brandon Browner’s apparent decision to give up pursuit of the ball carrier on one play against Washington and instead deliver a blind-side hit to offensive lineman Spencer Long, who was trailing the play. ”Obviously when you’re playing a screen pass that is away from you, you want to get to the ball. So those are some of the mistakes we are discussing,” Payton said. ”You have to get to the ball. We have to play the ball. … You don’t want to fight a battle unless you’re getting to the football.”

AP Sports Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York contributed to this report.

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