Assistant coach Joe Vitt to take over for suspended Sean Payton next season

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Bill Parcells wasn't interested so longtime assistant Joe Vitt gets the nod in New Orleans. (US PRESSWIRE)

The Saints announced Thursday that assistant Joe Vitt will coach the team during head coach Sean Payton's absence during the 2012 season, effective April 16. Last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Payton for one year for his involvement in the Saints bounty scandal, but Vitt was also suspended for six games. Which means that New Orleans will need an interim for the interim to begin the season.

Saints Bounty Scandal
“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," general manager Mickey Loomis said in a statement released on the team website.

"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."

Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer is expected to be New Orleans' interim head coach through the first six games, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Goodell also suspended Loomis for eight games, and the organization faces a $500,000 fine and will lose their 2012 and 2013 second-round picks.

Shortly after the commissioner handed down his decision, Payton contacted Bill Parcells about possibly coaching the Saints for the 2012 season. Parcells hired Payton as a Cowboys assistant in 2003 and the two remain close friends. Ultimately, Parcells, who will be 71 in August, opted to stay retired and conventional wisdom was that Vitt would be the frontrunner despite the six-game suspension.

“It is important that we keep Sean Payton's philosophy front and center during this season," Loomis said in the statement. "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."

Vitt enters his seventh season with the Saints. His current title is assistant coach/linebackers coach. He has previous experience in the interim head coach role; in 2005, he served in that capacity for the Rams' final 11 games after Mike Martz took a medical leave from the team.

“This is about our program, and the continued success of our program,” said Saints Owner Tom Benson.

Quarterback Drew Brees, who was franchised last month but is looking for a long-term deal, thinks the bounty scandal will bring the team together for the 2012 season.

"Our organization, whenever we're hit with something, any kind of adversity, we have guys that step up and fill the void, take on more responsibility and really thrive," he said Tuesday. "We did that last year, and whatever is thrown at us this year, we'll continue to thrive."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.
 
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