Yes, Joe Vitt. The suspended Joe Vitt. The Joe Vitt who isn’t permitted to be around the Saints in any capcity during the regular season until after Week 6.
Earlier today I ventured out on a serious limb, naming the team’s coordinators on both sides of the ball (Steve Spagnuolo and Pete Carmichael Jr.) as the two most likely candidates to temporarily replace Sean Payton after Bill Parcells announced that he’s quite happy staying retired and conquering crossword puzzles daily. If owner Tom Benson understandably wants continuity during a historically black time for the franchise, I even threw in an offensive-minded position coach (Aaron Kromer). I was quite generous.
But now it appears that New Orleans is preparing to hand the sideline keys to Vitt, the linebackers and assistant coach who was included in the Bountygate punishments, and was suspended for the first six games of the 2012 season.
Under normal circumstances, this would be a highly logical decision, but these are far from normal times in the Big Easy. Evidently we’re not dealing with logical times either. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report Vitt as the favorite, a leaning also supported by ProFootballTalk.
Schefter noted that although Payton’s suspension begins shortly, Vitt’s punishment doesn’t start until after the preseason, meaning he’s permitted to be present during the draft, offeason mini-camps, and training camp. Vitt is highly regarded for his leadership experience, and when Payton was first named the Saints’ new coach in 2006, he sought Vitt because he wanted a “consigliere,” or a mob boss of sorts, or something. What’s important is that Payton was concerned he didn’t quite have the required leadership experience, so after his brief time as head coach of the Rams, Vitt was the ideal sounding board to fill that gap.
His experience, reputation, and the structure of his suspension make Vitt appealing, but since he’s forced to sit for six games, the Saints will have to name a second interim coach to replace their replacement. A situation that’s already a uniquely chaotic mess will then become even more convoluted, with players taking direction from one coach for the entire offseson and training camp, and then turning to another voice for nearly half the regular season.
Payton’s suspension is a massive inconvenience, and the corresponding coaching move should minimize further disturbances to the intricate machine that is a winning football team. This has the opposite effect.