NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Saints announced Thursday that assistant coach Joe Vitt will serve as head coach in place of Sean Payton, who is set to serve a one-year NFL suspension over the team's bounty payments.
Vitt was also suspended for six games in the bounty scandal, but the ban will not go into effect until the end of the preseason.
The team said it has not yet decided how it will reconfigure the coaching staff for the first six games.
"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," said general manager Mickey Loomis, who will be 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."
Payton's suspension will go into effect April 16.
The move to promote the veteran coach was expected after the NFL denied Payton's appeal of his suspension last week. The Saints noted that Vitt carried out some head coaching duties last season while Payton recovered from a knee injury suffered on the sidelines.
Vitt has been with the Saints since 2006 and served last year as assistant head coach and linebackers coach. He went 4-7 as interim head coach with the Rams in 2005.
The NFL slapped the Saints with the unprecedented set of penalties, which also included a $500,000 fine and the forfeiture of two second-round draft picks, after defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was found to be paying players for hits that injured opponents.
Williams, now with the St. Louis Rams, received an indefinite suspension but did not file an appeal.
Payton, who led the Saints to victory in Super Bowl XLIV, was hit with the one-year ban for trying to cover up the bounty payments after the league began an investigation.