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That means he’ll make his “debut” in late October.
Obviously, Commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t make the call. He denied Vitt’s appeal to have his suspension lifted or reduced Monday, determining that the assistant head coach/ linebackers was guilty as charged for his role in the bounty scandal, which included an alleged cover-up scheme by Saints coaches and a refusal to stop Williams in his tracks.
When the Saints brain trust went to New York last week to appeal, one favorable scenario was that Goodell would let Vitt off the hook. When it didn’t happen, it seemed reasonable to believe he was scratched from the interim equation.
Uh, not so. The Saints maintain that this is about continuity. The idea is worthy. New Orleans scored an Nfl-high 547 points last season, and that is still the ticket.
So keeping Drew Brees in a think tank with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael can trigger all that offense, and everyone else can ride along.
When coach Sean Payton was smashed up with a knee injury last season, Vitt handled an extra load, Carmichael called the plays and the Saints hung 62 points on the Indianapolis Colts in the first game with Payton in the booth upstairs. The next week, they lost at the St. Louis Rams. It was only so smooth before the eight-game winning streak to the playoffs.
Now the Saints risk having a seriously disjointed identity when the season starts, as Vitt will run the offseason program, build up summer momentum . . . then vanish.
Brees, despite his franchise tag limbo, sounds determined. “Whatever is thrown at us this year,” he said this week, “we’ll continue to thrive.”
Left unsaid was whether the quarterback will show up when offseason workouts begin Monday and Vitt takes over.
Why Vitt now, instead of Carmichael, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer or defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo? Maybe it’s something about keeping the pressure off the others for a while. The Saints bought two weeks while Payton, et al, appealed to Goodell. Now they’ve bought the next interim some space.
Vitt came to New Orleans with Payton and has been in this role before. Internally, the Saints think he’s the best one to settle things as the turbulent offseason resumes.
Vitt’s first stint as an interim comes to mind. In 2005, he took over the Rams for Mike Martz, who was stricken by a heart condition. He went 3-3, then lost four of his final five games. During a phone chat in the middle of that run, Vitt sounded like the same long-term assistant. Passionate. Intense. Loud.
When asked if he wanted to be a permanent head coach, he sounded agitated. “This is not going to be about me,” he said.
Being a role player might make Payton comfortable as the Saints deal with their crisis. But had Vitt drawn the line and protested the bounty system, maybe the Saints would not be in their predicament.
Now he’s in charge, presumably with some added wisdom.