Parcells Out, So Where Do the Saints Turn Next?

The uncertainty continues to swirl in New Orleans this week.  Hall of Fame finalist Bill Parcells has indicated that he is not interested in taking over as the interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints.  Now that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has denied the appeal for Saints head coach Sean Payton, along with assistant coach Joe Vitt and general manager Mickey Loomis, the search for an interim coach steps up.

Bill Parcells and Sean Payton

Parcells said Wednesday that he is not interested prowling the sidelines again, to fill in for suspended head coach Sean Payton for the 2012 season.  Parcells said, “I’ve been out quite a while now. I have another life. I’m very happy with that.”

“I do have a very high regard for the coach of the Saints, Sean Payton,” said Parcells, who worked with Payton when both were on the Cowboys coaching staff. “I like him very much personally … my initial thoughts were about him.”

Parcells had been the subject of much speculation since shortly after the suspension was handed down, but if Parcells isn’t going to be the man, the team is likely to look inward.

Bringing in a qualified outside candidate is difficult, particularly since Payton will be back in 2013.  There is a huge burden for the Saints’ head coach to handle in 2012, and it is hard to make the position enticing as a temp job.

The Saints’ do have qualified candidates in house, although it will stretch their thin staff even further.  Joe Vitt would have been the most likely candidate, as he took on some of Payton’s responsibilities when Payton injured his leg last season, but Vitt is a partial answer at best since he himself will be serving a six-game suspension and so is unavailable for a significant portion of the season.

Other qualified candidates on the current staff include offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.; offensive line coach Aaron Kromer; new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.  Spagnuolo has head coaching experience, with the Rams from 2009 to 2011, but he is new to the Saints organization this year, so this may be a stretch.  Carmichael has been a coordinator with the Saints since 2009 and has been an assistant coach in the NFL since 2000.  Kromer has been a position coach in the NFL since 2001, and also joined the Saints in 2009.

Another possibility is for Spagnuolo, Kromer or Carmichael to step in for the beginning of the season, and then for Vitt to take on the responsibilities in week seven.  All of the options are sub-optimal and going to make this a very difficult season in New Orleans.

Under the circumstances, the Saints will be relying heavily on their on-field leadership, and it still remains to be seen if they will be missing any key players.  Goodell has indicated that player punishment for BountyGate is still coming, with no indication of what those punishments will be.

Former Saint Darren Sharper, who played on the Saints defense under indefinitely-suspended coordinator Gregg Williams, weighed in with his thoughts this week.  “Hopefully there aren’t any fines or suspensions,” Sharper said.  “I don’t think that suspensions, fines are warranted.”

“I still don’t feel as though there is proof that guys received certain benefits from making dirty plays or making plays during the game,” Sharper said.

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