Tough times are ahead for the New Orleans Saints.
Difficult decisions need to be made and the fallout from the bounty investigation that has floored the franchise is not complete. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season beginning April 1. General manager Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight games starting in Week 1. Linebackers coach Joe Vitt, who also serves as the assistant head coach, has been suspended for six games.
Forget about the second-round draft picks the Saints will lose this year and next for right now. Commissioner Roger Goodell will soon be coming for players. They’re next in the discipline process.
The Saints are facing a leadership crisis in a major way. Quarterback Drew Brees can’t coach ’em up. The more you examine the situation, it would not be a good idea to promote a coordinator on an interim basis.
Steve Spagnuolo has experience as a head coach with the St. Louis Rams but he’s been brought in to install a new defensive system. That’s a job that takes time, lots of it. Spagnuolo won’t have his linebackers coach for six games, and he’s likely going to be dealing with missing parts if expected suspensions come down for players. His full attention needs to be on improving a defense that has to get better for the Saints to compete in the NFC this season despite all of the turmoil.
Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael could be another candidate. But he’ll be more heavily involved in that role now with Payton, who has called plays, absent. Do the Saints want to risk making themselves weaker at the one thing they’re best at? This isn’t the time to see if Carmichael is cut out to be a head coach.
There is an outside candidate that is drawing some buzz when you talk to folks in coaching circles. I’m not suggesting this is going to happen and by no means am I intimating the Saints have talked about it. But Bill Parcells makes an awful lot of sense here. Yes, Big Tuna. First of all, he’s got a strong relationship with Payton, who worked for him previously. One source said before the NFL Scouting Combine that Parcells could be getting the itch to work again. When the idea was floated to the source earlier today, he said “I like that you are thinking outside the box.”
Parcells could manage the team while the coordinators did their jobs. Someone is going to need to manage the roster, too, in the absence of Loomis. He could handle game preparations. Is there a better outside candidate that could restore a sense of credibility to a club that has been rocked by the bounty scandal and the work of ex-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams?
Perhaps Parcells would embrace the opportunity to work for nine months or so with a team that has the capability of competing in 2012. The Saints desperately need to transition in a positive way. The Super Bowl will be held in New Orleans this year. It’s a big season for Tom Benson’s franchise and the city. The spotlight on the Saints and the bounties isn’t going away any time soon. Asking a coordinator to wear multiple hats isn’t going to allow the club to function at its highest level. Finding an outsider skilled in running a team is the best solution. Could Parcells be the man?
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune