Bill Parcells won't be coaching the New Orleans Saints on an interim basis. This is a loss for the Saints and the many fans of one of the game's finest coaches. Having Parcells back for one more encore season would have been a beautiful thing to watch. To see him roaming the sideline, providing those great sound bites and talking about games would have benefitted all football fans. I am sure the television networks are disappointed -- this would have been a great story to monitor all season.
Now assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt will assume the interim gig through the preseason, serve a six-game suspension from the bounty scandal and then retake control in Week 7. Yes, that's right -- the Saints promoted one coach facing suspension to replace another on the verge of suspension. This only makes sense if you know the inner workings of the NFL.
There is an old theory developed by former New York Giants GM George Young that applies to the situation in New Orleans. It's called "Guard your desk." The premise of Young's philosophy is that most NFL people don't ever want to bring in a talented outsider in fear they might lose their own desk. Competition is only good on the field in the NFL, not in front offices or coaching staffs. However, this is not common in every professional sport. In Major League baseball, former general managers always seem to catch on with new teams at lower-level positions. Apparently, there's no "guard your desk" mentality in the MLB. But it runs rampant in the NFL, and it's the reason Parcells is not coaching the Saints.
Parcells carries a huge persona, which can be intimidating if you have never worked for him or don't understand his language of football. It takes courage and conviction to stand up to him on all matters football. He can melt the weak and fortify the strong. And his presence would've created an uncomfortable situation for Saints GM Mickey Loomis, who would have been forced to take on a different role in his relationship with the head coach.
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Like Parcells, Loomis is not used to working for anyone but the owner. Loomis holds a degree in accounting and always served on the contract side of things before becoming a GM. So his general background is more finance than football. But as often happens in the NFL, the money men run the teams. Loomis and Parcells come from different backgrounds and hold different philosophies, which would have made this a difficult arrangement for just one season.
Bringing Parcells aboard was a wonderful idea in the beginning because Payton wanted it. But from Loomis' perspective, it would have created problems. How would roles be defined? Parcells' presence would have threatened Loomis' significant power base on all matters football. Loomis is facing an eight-game suspension at the beginning of the season as part of the Saints' bounty punishment. Let's say Loomis returns in Week 9 to find Parcells unhappy with a player the Saints drafted. Do you think that Loomis is going to pull Parcells aside after practice and tell him to just coach the team?
When this Parcells option presented itself, Loomis had two choices:
1) Embrace this as an opportunity to improve his craft by learning a new way of handling his job, knowing that he'd have a talented manager on the sideline and in the front office during his suspension.
2) Resist change as a result of feeling threatened and not wanting an outsider to come in.
Clearly, Loomis chose the latter, which is not uncommon in this league.
Loomis decided it would be best to keep everything in the family, despite the many obstacles created by Vitt's and his own looming suspensions. Payton knew the best thing for his football team would have been adding Parcells, but in order to keep everyone happy, he went along with "The Loomis Plan." Sometimes in the NFL, peace replaces winning.
I am not sure how this is all going to work. There are so many moving pieces, so many areas of uncertainty. It's hard to believe the Saints can continue their recent success. And until they sign Drew Brees, nothing else matters. Without Payton and Brees, the Saints suddenly become the fourth-best team in the NFC South.