As expected, the Saints have handed the reins, for now, to assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt.
The Saints announced that, as of the commencement of coach Sean Payton’s suspension on April 16, Vitt will handle the day-to-day duties of running the team.
No decisions have been made as to the start of the regular season, when Vitt starts a six-week suspension of his own.
“This is about our program, and the continued success of our program,” Saints Owner Tom Benson said in a release, breaking weeks of silence regarding the bounty scandal. “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.”
“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,” G.M. Mickey Loomis said. “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.”
So, basically, Vitt will be the interim head coach. And then there will be an interim interim head coach when the regular season begins.
Unless, of course, the Saints make some other decision between now and then.
For now, Vitt is in charge. Which makes it even more likely that Payton will be back in 2013, even if Vitt leads the Saints to a Super Bowl win.
“It is important that we keep Sean Payton’s philosophy front and center during this season,” Loomis said. “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.”
Initially, it was reported that offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo were the primary in-house candidates to take over, given Vitt’s suspension. Then, after Bill Parcells’ name emerged — and subsequently dissipated — as a potential replacement, Vitt suddenly became the primary option.
A cynic would say that Payton initially wanted Vitt, that Loomis and Benson resisted, that Payton responded by recruiting Parcells, and that Payton dropped the prospect of pursuing Parcells once Loomis and Benson agreed to give the gig to Vitt, who presumably will gladly give the whistle back to Payton in 2013.
Of course that would be a little far-fetched. Almost as far-fetched as a three-year bounty system that continued for two years after the NFL investigated it and found nothing.
UPDATE 7:46 p.m. ET: Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Kromer is expected to be the interim interim head coach.