The Saints have had a turbulent season to say the least, but despite all the distractions, interim head coach Joe Vitt says there are no excuses. On his conference call this week to One Buc, Vitt talked about the problems the Saints have faced, and also how impressed he has been when watching Tampa Bay this season.
From the bounty situation as well as the Drew Brees signing prior to the season starting, interim head coach Joe Vitt and the New Orleans Saints have had a year that could cause any club to not focus on football. For the first six games Vitt was suspended as well.
For him though, he realizes that no mulligan will be given out this year for the football club. In this league, excuses do not pay off either.
“You are right, I am not going to make excuses,” Vitt said. “We have to play the hand we are dealt. We have known since April exactly what the hand is. We had a tough offseason. Drew (Brees) was not in training camp. Sean (Payton) was not here. Then will the yearly suspensions with myself and Mickey (Loomis) it has been one of those years. You guys all know this as well as I do you have been in this business a long time. If you are going to lean on excuses for failure, you are not [going to be] very long in this league because this league is what have you done for me lately. The fact of the matter is we are not protecting the ball like we need to protect the ball right now. We are not taking away big plays on defense like we have to take away big plays on defense right now. Our coverages were not good enough in New York last week to win a football game.”
Coach Vitt does not allow himself to focus on matters that are beyond his control. Instead, his focus is on the next opponent he faces and his coaching to better improve the team.
“Instead of worrying about all the things you can’t control, you better worry about the things you can control and we better protect the football,” Vitt said.” We better stop giving up big plays on defense. We better start having a better job in our coverage units. At the end of the day, these excuses are not going to come into effect. We are going to be held accountable. We all are going to be held accountable for our production this year. That’s just the way the league is. Nobody is getting a mulligan around here. Including myself and I have got to do a better job and I am going to be held accountable. I think that’s one of the great things about this league.
We are getting ready to play an improved football team this week in Tampa Bay. They are running the ball well. They are playing great run defense. They are doing a great job at protecting their quarterback and really nobody is giving Tampa bay a mulligan when they lost a couple offensive starts in their offensive line. It is what it is. We got to play better. We got to coach better. It all starts with me.”
With Saints quarterback Drew Brees having already thrown 18 interceptions this year as opposed to just 14 last season, some wonder how much the absence of Sean Payton has affected the quarterback. Vitt does agree that Brees and Payton have a close relationship, but he is not making any excuses at all. In fact, he reiterates that the blame should not be on the quarterback at all times for incompletions or interceptions. For the interim coach, it starts with the coach.
“Him and Sean (Payton) have a great (relationship),” Vitt said. “When you put Sean Payton together with Drew Brees it is a pretty tough combination to beat. I will be perfectly honest with you. I think some of the things where Drew (Brees) completion percentage is down is a couple factors. Sometimes the protection is not what we wanted it to be. Sometimes the receiver will break off a route. There are a lot of things that go into where we are right now being 5-8. It doesn’t start and it doesn’t end with the quarterback. It starts and it ends with we got to do a better job of coaching and we got to do a better job of playing across the board to become a better football team.”
With former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently announcing the suspensions of players were lifted, one would believe that would bring some closure to the Saints team. For Vitt, he and his players have always remained focused on their tasks at hand.
“I think that we lived with this thing for so long over our head that it has really become, inside the walls of this building, and I know you are not going to believe this as much we miss Sean (Payton) and as much has been said about this, [but] when the players come here [they are focused],” Vitt said. “We start out with a team meeting in the morning. We go to install meetings. We go hard in practice. We come back and have post practice meetings. There is not a lot of time to talk about the could [or] should and the would. It is about living in the moment and trying to get better. Now as far as closure goes, the only thing I can say is I am happy for our players that they have been vindicated and the suspensions have been vindicated. That is a good thing. Other than that, I said that to our press a little while ago I am not going to comment on anything else today about that. We will see where this leads us.
"At the end of the day we are not going to get a mulligan for this season. We could have a million excuses of why we are not where we should be right now. The fact of the matter is we are not playing good enough to win right now. Until we get the critical factors of what it takes to win in this league and understand what they are we are going to have the same results. In this league you got to keep from losing before you ever win a game.”
Even though the Saints face an opponent this week in the Buccaneers who have dropped three straight, the Saints will still be preparing for a team that can play well. Coach Vitt has respect for the Buccaneers and has seen the talent that the team has and how hard they play despite their record.
“I do this,” Vitt said. “When I look at film number one you look statistically at their body of work and in Tampa Bay’s win this year, they are averaging 150 yards rushing the ball a game. You take a look [and] they are third right now at protecting the quarterback. Josh (Freeman) is a big quarterback who has great field vision. Even if you get a hold [of him] and some free blitzes there is no guarantee you are getting that big body down.
"The running back is doing an outstanding job now. I am telling you I said this to our football team this morning that I have not seen a back run over as many people as I have seen this back run over. He is dropping linebackers and he is dropping defensive linemen like third period Latin. They are going down. They got the running game going. They got an explosive, strong back. They got an experienced quarterback and they got a big play receiver who we experienced in Vincent Jackson. I think he is third in the league right now with catches of 20 plus yards and he is averaging over 20 yards a reception.
“The body of work on film has been impressive. This time of year you plan to move players because of injuries and you are struggling a little bit here or struggling a little bit there, but we are going to get their early game and we got great respect for them.”
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