Metairie, LA – Joe Vitt will assume the day-to-day coaching duties for the New Orleans Saints while Sean Payton serves his suspension.
The Saints said Thursday that Vitt, an assistant head coach and linebackers coach, will take over for Payton on April 16 but did not indicate what will happen when Vitt begins serving his own six-game suspension at the start of the regular season for his role in the team's bounty program.
General manager Mickey Loomis, who will serve an eight-game ban next season, said in a statement that keeping Payton's philosophy front and center was important in picking an interim replacement.
"Sean has been the driving force behind the tremendous success our team has enjoyed during the past six years, his leadership will be missed," Loomis said. "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."
Loomis said the structure would look like it did after Payton had knee surgery last season and Vitt stood in as acting head coach.
Payton, of course, was given a one-year suspension for the bounty program and had previously spoken to Bill Parcells about taking over. His ban takes effect on April 16.
Loomis and Vitt will begin their bans at the conclusion of the preseason this summer.
The Saints could name somebody to take over for Vitt while he's out, or they could opt to turns things over to another assistant or group of assistants for the first six games.
Loomis said the team would make that decision during training camp.
"This is about our program, and the continued success of our program," said Saints owner Tom Benson, who said Vitt has been part of building the team's success along with Payton and Loomis.
"We are looking forward to the start of the offseason program, the NFL Draft, our minicamps and training camp," he said. "We are looking forward to the start of our season, as I know that all of our fans are and we are looking forward to competing and winning a championship right here in our own city, in our own stadium this year."
Vitt is entering his seventh season with the Saints.