Saints assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt has appealed his six-game suspension by claiming that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was a “rogue coach.”
If that’s the case, Vitt still failed in his responsibility to the team and its players.
Vitt was and is the “assistant head coach.” If Williams was saying the things he said in the meeting room the night before the playoff loss to the 49ers, chances are that Williams was saying the same things on other occasions. And Vitt, as a member of the defensive staff, apparently sat on his hands — thumbs pointing up — as Williams ranted and raved about literally “killing the head” and targeting ACLs and otherwise trying to injure players.
Vitt claims, via lawyer David Cornwell, that “coaches did not coach and . . . players did not play to injure their opponents.” Though the latter may be true, the former clearly isn’t, given the plain words that came from Gregg Williams’ mouth.
By not standing up and telling Gregg Williams he was out of line, Vitt went along with Williams’ message. By not going directly to coach Sean Payton or G.M. Mickey Loomis or owner Tom Benson or NFL Security, Vitt necessarily ratified Williams’ tactics. It’s far too late now for Vitt to say that Williams was acting on his own; Vitt’s title and duties gave him an obligation to act, and his inaction cannot now be excused.
The same goes for Payton. Delegating full responsibility for the defense to Williams doesn’t amount to abdicating responsibility for half of the team. Payton is the head coach, and Payton is ultimately responsible for everything Williams does. Intentionally remaining ignorant as to Williams’ methods makes Payton necessarily complicit. Otherwise, every head coach could say the offensive coordinator exclusively runs the offense, the defensive coordinator exclusively runs the defense, the special-teams coordinator exclusively runs the special teams, and all the head coach does is determine whether to go for it on fourth down and show up for the press conferences.