Joe Vitt at the Super Bowl in 2010.
The New Orleans Saints have decided that assistant head coach Joe Vitt will take over for head coach Sean Payton as he serves a one-year suspension in 2012.
The Saints announced the news on their official website. Payton's suspension, which stems from the NFL's investigation into the bounty program run under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, will begin on April 16th.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said this in a statement:
...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.
The NFL upheld Payton's suspension earlier this week after he tried to appeal, according to ESPN.com. In addition, Loomis is facing an eight-game suspension and Vitt himself is set to serve a six-game suspension.
However, their suspensions won't kick in until after the preseason is over.
Loomis says the team will decide during training camp how to account for Vitt's absence in the first six games of the season:
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.
Vitt served as the interim head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 2005 when then-head coach Mike Martz was out with a health problem. The Rams went 4-7 in 11 games with Vitt at the helm.
Vitt joined the Saints in 2006, earning a Super Bowl ring when the team won it all in 2010.