With Sean Payton suspended for a year by the NFL, the question of who will be the head coach of the Saints this year comes into the forefront.
One of the most obvious candidates would be assistant head coach Joe Vitt, but he’s suspended for the first six games of next season as well. That leaves the Saints to look at other candidates to run the show. There’s no word about what the Saints plan to do at this point.
They could look outside the organization, although that seems like a thankless job for someone to take under the circumstances. That would leave in-house candidates and the two most obvious ones are defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
Spagnuolo has head coaching experience with the Rams, but he’s also a brand new part of the staff in New Orleans. That might not be a negative, though. The Saints could see that as a way to put a face on the team with no ties to what went down over the last three seasons.
He’s also got a lot of work to do putting together a more effective defense in New Orleans for the coming season, a task that won’t be made any easier by Vitt’s suspension since he also coaches the linebackers. The rest of the staff is a mix of holdovers and guys who came from St. Louis with Spagnuolo, which isn’t ideal if Spagnuolo’s attention will be divided.
Carmichael took on extra responsibility when Payton was knocked off the sideline after injuring his knee in a sideline collision during the 2011 season, but his offensive coordinator role was always tempered by Payton’s outsize role in running the offense. Having Drew Brees on hand would make it easier for Carmichael to focus on bigger picture things, though, and he has more experience with the organization than Spagnuolo.
One other option could be offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who has more than two decades of experience as an assistant and five years with New Orleans. He got some looks for head coaching vacancies earlier this year and it’s possible that the team would prefer moving him up the ladder while keeping the two coordinators in place. None of the other offensive assistants seem to have the background to move up to the top spot.
Whoever does wind up doing the job will be faced with filling some big shoes during the 2012 season.