Joe Vitt: Saints moving forward
April, 24, 2012
By Pat Yasinskas | ESPN.com
Joe Vitt referred to himself as a “substitute teacher’’, but he sure sounded like a football coach.
Speaking to the New Orleans media Tuesday afternoon, Vitt sounded like he was giving a pep talk. Yeah, he started off the session by saying he’s on board with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s concerns for player safety, but he then tried to move forward, which is something that’s been difficult for the Saints since news of their bounty program first broke in early March. Suspensions have been issued, allegations have been made, and there could be suspensions coming for players.
But Vitt, a man who has spent his adult life coaching football, sounded like he was trying to rally a football team -- and a region.
“Understand one thing: We ain’t down,’’ Vitt said. “We are not down. We’ve got 41 wins over the last three years and we’ve got a great building full of players. We’ve got a great scouting staff. We’ve got a great administration. We’ve got a great owner. And we are looking forward to starting the season. Again, the excuses are out there for us not to perform. But we are all held accountable for our jobs, and that’s just the truth. And we will be held accountable.’’
Vitt is in charge with coach Sean Payton suspended for the entire season. He’s been running the team’s offseason program, but he made it very clear everything he does will be done in a manner similar to how Payton has run the team in the past.
“Understand this -- I’m not taking Sean Payton’s place,’’ Vitt said. “I’m like a substitute teacher here. I’m not going to try to take his place. Our program, our beliefs will stay in place. Our calendar is made out all the way out until the coaches’ vacation. You can ask a coach on a particular date and a particular time what he’s going to be doing and it’s all mapped out. I’m just here to service our team and our organization.’’
The Saints are in good hands with Vitt, who has been Payton’s assistant head coach since 2006, running things right now. But there is a catch to all this. Vitt will be suspended for the first six games of the regular season. Vitt can work right up until the start of the regular season, but he then will have to step aside. There have been reports that offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will take over then, but the Saints have said no decision has been made. Vitt said that decision will be made by owner Tom Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis.
There’s another cloud hanging over the Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees has been hit with the franchise tag. He hasn’t signed his tender and Brees and the Saints, so far, have not worked out a long-term deal.
“Drew has earned the right to negotiate this contract,’’ Vitt said. “And he’s negotiating this contract with one of the best guys in the National Football League in Mickey Loomis. Mickey has got to have vision and try to protect our football (team) down the road money-wise. This is going to get worked out. There’s two highly competent people that have great respect for one another that have a common goal. This will get worked out.’’
That should provide some encouragement for Saints fans. Oh, and here’s a little bit more from a the football coach that should raise spirits a bit.
“I know what this football team means to our fans,’’ Vitt said. “I want to assure our fans: we are going full bore ahead.’’