Saints turn to Vitt
Saints turn to Vitt despite six-game suspension
By Paul Higham Twitter: @SkySportsPaulH. Last Updated: 13/04/12 7:40am
Joe Vitt: Taking charge in New Orleans
The New Orleans Saints have named assistant coach Joe Vitt as the replacement for Sean Payton while he sits out the coming season through suspension, despite Vitt himself being banned for the first six games.
Both Payton and Vitt were caught up in the now infamous bounty payment scheme at the Saints, with Payton suspended for the entire NFL season and Vitt the first six games.
Vitt stepped in for Payton during last season when the Saints head coach injured his knee, whilst he has also served as an interim coach with the St Louis Rams back in 2005.
Payton's suspension starts on Monday, but Vitt can work with the team until the start of the season, when it is thought that one of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael or offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will assume command for the opening six games.
Although it seems a strange decision to name a coach who will miss almost half the regular season, general manager Mickey Loomis, who himself is banned for eight games, says it was the right move to maintain some continuity around the team.
"It is important that we keep Sean Payton's philosophy front and center during this season," Loomis said in a statement. "Sean has been the driving force behind the tremendous success our team has enjoyed during the past six years, his leadership will be missed.
"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."
Names in the frame from outside the club included the likes of Bill Parcells, but in the end the Saints are trying to keep things as familiar as possible for the players.
Owner Tom Benson still believes they can still challenge for the Super Bowl, which New Orleans will host next February, despite missing Payton for the entire campaign.
"This is about our program, and the continued success of our program," said Benson. "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."
The Saints will use their five pre-season games to work on the mechanics of things under Vitt before he steps aside for the first six games.
Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was said to be the instigator of the bounty scheme and he did not appeal his indefinite ban from the NFL, with the league still considering whether the players involved will be punished.