With New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton serving a one-year suspension that starts Monday, April 16, and lasts through the 2012 NFL season ending the day after the Super Bowl, the team had to look elsewhere after the retired Hall of Fame bound Bill Parcells cleared up speculation that he was in the running to become the interim coach.
“It is important that we keep Sean Payton’s philosophy front and center during this season. Sean has been the driving force behind the tremendous success our team has enjoyed during the past six years, his leadership will be missed,” said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. “But we need to set a course of action that gives us the best chance to win this season without our head coach, and that is why I am announcing today that Joe Vitt will assume Sean’s duties.
“We considered a number of great options to handle Payton’s duties both internally and externally, but believe this will provide the most seamless transition for our players and our coaching staff, allowing our offensive and defensive staffs to remain intact with the fewest changes. This is the same structure we used last season during Sean’s knee injury.”
Loomis added, “We will work through the offseason under this plan and when we get to training camp we will decide on a course of action for the first six weeks of the season, while Joe Vitt is unavailable. We are fortunate to have a great veteran coaching staff well equipped to handle this challenge. Joe and Sean have worked closely together to build our program, one of the most successful in the NFL in the past six years, and I have the fullest confidence that Joe will continue that success that Sean has brought us.”
Joe Vitt, who has been with the team since 2006, coaches perhaps one of the more “solid” positions on the team next to the offensive line.
He also has filled in as interim head coach in 2005 while with the St. Louis Rams where he served as assistant head coach and linebackers coach. The team went 4-7 when Vitt took control due to coach Mike Martz being out with a bacterial heart infection.
“Joe has been part of building our success along with our Head Coach Sean Payton and our General Manager Mickey Loomis. We are looking forward to the start of the offseason program, the NFL Draft, our minicamps and training camp. We are looking forward to the start of our season, as I know that all of our fans are and we are looking forward to competing and winning a championship right here in our own city, in our own stadium this year.” Saints Owner Tom Benson said on Vitt.
However, Vitt has problems of his own which will leave the New Orleans Saints searching for yet another interim head coach.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Joe Vitt for the first six games of the 2012 season for his part in the “Bountygate” scandal that has fans across the league disgusted and has caused media outcry from every outlet imaginable.
For now, Vitt will take over duties for the entire offseason and possibly coach the team throughout their preseason match-ups. It’ll be interesting if Vitt does decide to coach through the preseason given the fact that he won’t be handling the duties when the season actually begins.
According to ESPN’s NFL Insider Adam Schefter, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is expected to take over for the first six games, in which then Vitt will be handed the head-set and he will resume control of the team.
Ultimately the teams best bet is to have Kromer handle the preseason game duties to get the players comfortable with the system that will be ran during Vitt’s absence.
What intrigues me is that a defensive minded head coach will be calling the shots instead of an offensive minded coach like Payton or offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. Vitt is the better fit over Carmichael as far as chain of command is concerned and experience with the tasks involved in the job, but Carmichael has the most experience with quarterback Drew Brees and the juggernaut offense.
Everyone knows Drew Brees is the on-field coach of the offense, so I don’t see any change there, but it’ll be interesting when it’s time to make key calls in the game on how Vitt will handle those. If he’ll decide to take the gamble or set up his defense.
For now though, at least Saints fans have something to lean on knowing who will be their head coaches for the rest of the 2012 season.