When the speculation first surfaced that the Saints would name Joe Vitt their interim head coach while Sean Payton serves his one-year suspension, we wondered why New Orleans is refusing to make sense.
Sure, it was easy to see the motivation to slide Vitt in. He has head coaching experience from his brief time as the lead headset wearer on the Rams’ sideline, and he’s a mob boss of sorts for the Saints, and was named the assistant coach because of his fierce demeanor and ability to command respect.
All of that’s just wonderful, but there’s one minor detail missing there: he’s facing a bountygate punishment too, and he’ll be suspended for the first six games of the 2012 season. That didn’t matter, and Vitt has officially been named Payton’s temporary replacement.
The Saints can now have their proven leader of men throughout the offseason and training camp because Vitt’s suspension doesn’t start until after the preseason. But then once football that matters begins and the week-to-week grind of practices that prepare players to win a football game start, they’ll have to find a replacement for their replacement. The 2012 New Orleans Saints will operate under two interim coaches, a convoluted mess that exists because…well, no one is really sure.
Please try to explain your logic, team owner Tom Benson:
“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.”
That all sounds swell until he gets to the word “seamless.”
If Vitt wasn’t facing a suspension, then Benson is absolutely right, and the assistant coach would be the easy, no-brainer candidate to step in for Payton. He’s been with the organization since 2006, and he did indeed serve as the head coach during Payton’s leg injury this past season that restricted him to press box duty.
But he is suspended, and he will leave the team for six weeks, which shatters Benson’s ideal and dreamy seamless transition that keeps the intricately assembled offensive and defensive coaches in their current positions. When Vitt leaves for nearly half the season, Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis will have to find another replacement, and where will this new mystery coach come from? Yes, he’ll be one of the offensive or defensive coaches.
It’s understandable to want Vitt’s experience and leadership in a prime position throughout the offseason during a turbulent time for the franchise as it fights through a historic and unprecedented punishment. But Vitt could have remained as the second in command and stayed in his current role as the assistant coach, and given that same guidance and strong leadership while deferring to another head coach–ideally either offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo–who’s not going to disappear during the season.
There’s nothing seamless about having three head coaches in a calendar year.