Since being hit with unprecedented sanctions by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this week, the New Orleans Saints have been relatively quiet as an organization in the wake of the bounty scandal. The team immediately put out a statement Wednesday when the news came down, followed by head coach Sean Payton's apologetic statement on Friday. As the organization gets its ducks in a row, let's look at how it needs to proceed moving forward.
I would have a press conference very soon, led by owner Tom Benson, to announce the following steps have been taken to move forward this year. The Saints must move quickly and decisively to take the focus off the past week and turn it to the future.
Benson should focus on the following points:
1. A no-excuses mentality for the organization.
2. Stress that the Saints have a winning formula and a wealth of talented individuals in the organization.
3. Remind everyone that the organization has overcome adversity before and will rise up to be a champion again.
4. Pledge support and commitment to Sean Payton as the Saints head coach in 2013.
Head Coach For 2012
There are a number of qualified candidates on the staff to replace Payton, who is suspended for the season (beginning April 1). My choice would be defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. He has head coaching experience and his record in St. Louis is not indicative of his ability. He would eliminate the learning curve of a new head coach. The offensive staff would stay intact. Spagnuolo should still coordinate the defense. You would not want to have someone else be the defensive coordinator in 2012 and then have Spagnuolo return to the position in 2013. Keep the same, consistent voice to the players over the next two years.
He is the greatest asset of the Saints. He is the team leader. Some say he has gained leverage in his negotiations. With or without the suspensions, the Saints were going to have to raise their offer to get him signed. They can't have him decide to boycott the offseason because he does not have a new contract. Get the deal done in the next two weeks.
Before Payton leaves April 1, he should meet with GM Mickey Loomis and director of college scouting Rick Reiprish to review team needs and project what could be available in the third round, when the Saints have their first pick. What needs to be discussed is what players are worth taking in the third round and whether it'd be worth trading this year's third for a second next year. If they do that, they would have a full draft for next year. I think a second in the future is better than a third this year.
Before his suspension for the first eight games, Loomis will have the opportunity to get Drew Brees signed, complete free agency and sign the draft choices. In fact, he accomplish all of that before training camp. And during camp, he'll work with the interim head coach to set a roster to open the season.
A GM missing the first eight games of the season can be dealt with. The main function of the GM from a personnel standpoint during the early part of the season is filling roster spots due to injuries. The Saints have two very competent people to handle those duties: director of pro scouting Ryan Pace and negotiator Khai Harley. Along with the coach, they can easily make those decisions. Benson still has to decide who has final say in who the Saints sign. The logical person would be the interim coach.
I believe Benson should meet with Goodell and ask him to be allowed some input into when the suspensions are going to occur. If there are multiple players involved, as is very likely, it could put the team at a tremendous competitive disadvantage if they miss time all at once. Goodell might say no, but you have to ask.
Follow Charley Casserly on Twitter @CharleyCasserly