The New Orleans Saints announced that assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt will assume the duties of head coach Sean Payton while he serves his one-year suspension for violating the league's anti-bounty rule.
"It is important that we keep Sean Payton’s philosophy front and center during this season. Sean has been the driving force behind the tremendous success our team has enjoyed during the past six years, his leadership will be missed," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. "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."
Following an unsuccessful appeal, Payton's suspension begins on April 16. Loomis added that the team will decide during training camp how they will handle the first six weeks of the regular season when Vitt is serving his suspension for violating the same anti-bounty program.
"We will work through the off-season 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," said Loomis, who was suspended for eight games. "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."
The most logical choices to be the interim head coach to the interim head coach is Pete Carmichael, the team's offensive coordinator who will be handling play-calling duties without Payton this season. Another option is offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who is among the several head coaching candidates the Saints have on staff.