It had to be done.
The New Orleans Saints defense had become an abomination, an embarrassment, an albatross around the neck of coach Sean Payton, so coordinator Rob Ryan had to go as in going, going, gone.
The question was when, not if.
And now the question is can Ryan's successor -- Dennis Allen -- scheme/motivate an underachieving defensive unit to perform its assigned job over the last six games?
I suspect Allen will do his level best to turn things around in the time afforded him.
It's unclear if Allen's promotion from senior defensive assistant to DC stretches beyond this season to coincide with Payton's current contract that runs through 2017. Or, if Allen assumes the role on an interim basis.
But as a colleague points out "nothing is certain beyond this season" for Payton and his current coaching staff. A salient point if ever there was one.
I have not come to praise Ryan or say anything schmaltzy in his defense. He's a big boy, is paid extremely well, and comes from a long line of coaches who know that the NFL stands for Not For Long.
Nor have I come to bury R-squared either. There will be no saving Captain Ryan. He made his bed and became the perfect scapegoat for a season on the stink. That said, he's merely one piece of a systemic problem on defense that begins with general manager Mickey Loomis and Payton as the leading men in the football operations.
Instead, I'd like to focus on Payton and his seeming inability to find a competent coach to run his defense for more than two or three seasons at a time. The graveyard of defensive coordinators in New Orleans is getting a little crowded. Consider:
n Gary Gibbs (2006-08): Too passive, not proactive enough for Payton's liking.
n Gregg Williams (2009-11): Changed the defensive culture 180 degrees (39 takeaways) and played a major role in Super Bowl XLIV season but was shown the door in the wake of his alleged involvement in the Bountygate scandal.
n Steve Spagnuolo (2012): One and done after his defense allowed the most yards in one season (7,042) n NFL history, a tumultuous season played under two interim coaches (Aaron Kromer, Joe Vitt) while Payton served a season-long suspension for his alleged role in Bountygate.
n And now Ryan (2013-'15: 44 games total counting two playoff games). Saints finished 4th in total defense in '13, dropped to 31st last season and he exits with the Saints dead last in yards per game (424.7), points per game (31.5) and yards per play (6.68).
I suspect Ryan will need longer than five minutes to get another job.
I also suspect there won't be an appreciable difference in those aforementioned defensive statistics in the coming weeks under Allen, although I can't imagine them getting any worse.
And if they do, then what?
Bring in another senior defensive assistant to look over Allen's shoulder?
Stay tuned. This story is far from over.
Brian Allee-Walsh, a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.