Saints' NFL-worst defense gets Spags sacked

Posted: January 25, 2013

THE NEW ORLEANS Saints fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo after one season - a record-setting year in the wrong way.

New Orleans ranked last in the NFL in total defense and run defense, yielding the most yards (7,042) ever in a single season. The Saints went 7-9 this season and allowed 454 points; only Tennessee gave up more.

Head coach Sean Payton, who returned to work this week after a seasonlong suspension, announced Thursday that Spagnuolo was being released. Payton also fired secondary coach Ken Flajole.

"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."

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and end Will Smith in limbo for portions of the schedule while their suspensions were being appealed - and eventually rescinded - the Saints lost their first four games.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.

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 and was an Eagles assistant from 1999-2006.

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," he said. "We've got a lot of tough meetings ahead. That's what 7-9 is. Those are our biggest challenges."

Noteworthy * 

The St. Louis Rams hired Rob Ryan as their defensive coordinator, a league source told ESPN. Ryan was fired as defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 8, soon after owner Jerry Jones said he would make major changes to a team that finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

* Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed isn't planning on joining teammate Ray Lewis in retirement after the Super Bowl. "I'll be playing next year," Reed said.

* New York Jets coach Rex Ryan announced the expected hirings of Marty Mornhinweg as his offensive coordinator and Dennis Thurman as the team's defensive coordinator. Ryan also announced that David Lee was hired as the team's quarterbacks coach and Tim McDonald will be the Jets' defensive backs coach.

Mornhinweg, who replaced the fired Tony Sparano, was an assistant for 10 years with the Eagles, including the last seven as offensive coordinator.

In other Jets news, John Idzik was introduced as the new general manager, replacing the fired Mike Tannenbaum. Idzik, 52, was formerly the Seahawks' vice president of football administration.

* Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski added assistants Brian Baker and Jon Embree to his staff. Baker, who spent the past two seasons as defensive line coach in Dallas, will coach outside linebackers. Embree, the former head coach at Colorado, will be in charge of tight ends.

* The Jacksonville Jaguars agreed to terms with defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker, quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo and offensive line coach George Yarno. Walker has 25 years of coaching experience and spent the last four seasons as head coach at New Mexico State.

* Former Houston quarterback Case Keenum and former Texas A&M quarterback Stephen McGee are among eight players signed to reserve/future contracts by the Houston Texans.

* Former NFL kicker and punter Russell Erxleben, who previously served a federal prison sentence for securities fraud, was arrested on new charges of running an illegal Ponzi investment scam that netted more than $2 million. According to a federal indictment, Erxleben, 56, scammed investors from 2005 to 2009 with fraudulent deals that promoted dealing in post-World War I German government bonds and a work of art purportedly by French painter Paul Gauguin.

According to the indictment, Erxleben used the investments to pay himself and previous investors. Erxleben was indicted on five counts of wire fraud, one count of securities fraud and two counts of money laundering. He faces up to 20 years in prison on each of the wire and securities fraud charges, and up to 10 years for the money laundering.

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