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 the Tennessee Titans gave up more.
Head coach Sean Payton, who returned to work this week after a season-long 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 defensive end Will Smith in limbo for portions of the schedule while their suspensions were being appealed — and eventually rescinded — the Saints lost their first four games.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 N.Y. Giants, 44 to the Carolina Panthers and 40 to the Washington Redskins.
Spagnuolo was the St. Louis Rams’ head coach for the previous three seasons, presenting a 10-38 record. 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.