New Orleans Saints Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt
Monday, December 31, 2012
Opening Statement: "I don't feel any differently today than I did last night after the game. When you go back over it and take a look at what we identified that we had to do to win the game and we didn't get that done at any level. We lost six keys to victory, we're going to get what we deserve. It's really been what has happened this season. It's been inconsistent play for us, we're up and down, we put a couple of games together and then we don't adhere to what wins in the National Football League and two what wins for us and at the end of the day, you get what you deserve. With that, we just had our final team meeting. The players are involved right now in their exit meetings with their position coaches. I'll talk to as many guys as I can this afternoon. Tomorrow morning our coaches will go in to meetings. We'll go through scheme evaluations and player evaluations and start getting ready for our offseason."
Is it a weird feeling to be done this early?
"It's not good. I think anybody who coaches at this level or plays at this level, you live to be invited to a single-elimination tournament. Nothing gets you going like that does. This time of the season coaches get bone-tired, the players are tired, but when you have a playoff week to start your preparation there is a second wind that's unbelievable. We're used to experiencing that around here, we haven't done it this year. That has left a taste in our core players' mouths (that) there is still that burning desire to get back. We'll prepare for a great offseason."
Personally, was this season more taxing than some of the others because you had a larger role handling a lot of Sean Paytons duties?
"I had seven weeks (away from team at start of season). I don't feel like Thanksgiving has come yet. No. It is not."
When you go back and look at what got you to this point, what are some of the key points that got you to 7-9 and out of the playoffs?
"I've said this to you guys before, (that) every year takes on a life of its own. The keys to a team's success change on a yearly basis. This year, for us, it was the ability to run the ball, stop the run, and then third down conversions. When we did those things, we played pretty good football. You group into that the ability to protect the quarterback, pressure the opposing quarterback and then big plays. When we adhere to those things we've been competitive and able to win. When we break those laws, we lose games. It's been the inconsistent play of adhering to those things. I didn't do a good enough job of getting the point across. Off the top of my head that's what I would say they were."
How long do you anticipate you will have to serve in this interim role until Sean (Payton) returns to the team?
"Until he gets back. This is his team, as soon as he walks through that front door."
What the NFL did to this team, is it fair to say that it affected what happened on the field?
"You could make those excuses. I think that you could bring our core players up here and you could bring our coaches up here and there are a million excuses for losing. It is what it is. Was it a challenge? It was a challenge. That's not an excuse for letting the ball go over your head. That's not an excuse for missing tackles. It's not an excuse for getting lined up properly. It's not an excuse for protecting the quarterback. It's all of those things. At the end of the day, who is to say that there is not a catastrophic something that happens to this team next year going in to the offseason. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anybody. We're not going to use that as an excuse. We are what we are, we're 7-9 right now because of the things that we did between the white lines. It is what it is."
Can you talk about some of the brighter spots defensively and who stepped up?
"I thought our corner play got better all year long. I thought Jabari (Greer) and Patrick (Robinson) really came on. Curtis Lofton really had a good year. I think (Jonathan) Vilma, once he got in the swing of things and got his legs back under him…He was kind of going through a training camp mode in the sixth and seventh games of the season…He really came on. I think Cam Jordan had an outstanding year. I think there are some guys that really have a good foundation to build off of what they did this season."
Based on the yardage allowed, do you think it's going to be an extreme makeover on defense in the offseason?
"Everybody knows the amount of yards that came really in the first six weeks of this season. The linebacker core was in a state of flux with injuries, the defensive line was not settled down yet, the corners were learning a new system. I think once these guys, and listen we didn't play our best game yesterday and I understand that, got engrained in the system, terminology, alignments, checks, all of those things, people here saw an improvement on a weekly basis up until the time two weeks ago when we pitched a shutout against Tampa Bay. Really we played good football against the Dallas Cowboys, with four minutes left in the game we're up 14 points, and we let two balls go over our head which is inexcusable. All you want to do as a coach is get your players and your unit better on a weekly basis. When you can do that and you see the improvement, I think that's the positive. Extreme makeover, I don't know about that. I really don't but that's why we're in the evaluation process now. We'll make sure that we're putting the right players in the right positions to make plays. We'll match the proper calls with personnel groupings and do a hard evaluation of ourselves, that's only fair."
How has Chris Chamberlain been progressing?
"Really well. I don't know if you guys have seen him out there in the early part of practice but he's running now. I would say he is probably about three quarters. As we speak right now he's going to be healthy to start in the OTAs and start a lot of the offseason conditioning program and be full speed in that. He's really had a good offseason. It's an exciting prospect to have (him) with us."
What are your thoughts on Joseph Morgan and the eventual return of Nick Toon?
"Nick had he dad here this weekend, Al Toon. Nick comes from great pedigree. He's running well now. We're excited about the return of him. Joe Morgan can blow the top off of a coverage and I think one of the hidden things about Joe is his ability to block. He's played a lot of snaps for us this year which is going to serve him well when he comes back next year. We know this about him: he can catch the ball in a crowd, the game is not too big for him, he gets better every day and he can run. I think Toon and Joe Morgan are really two guys that we're excited about, that are part of our football team and can help us."
What Jonathan Vilma had to go through, how much do you think it took a toll on him?
"I think you're probably better off asking him that. My relationship with Jonathan is (that) I love him to death, I have great respect for him, but I need to tell you it's something that we just didn't talk about on a daily basis. He'd tell me what time I had to show up for the trial, I'd show up for the trial and then we were back on to football. I think he did a marvelous job of handling all of that stuff. He's the consummate pro. Through all of the turmoil he exhibited great leadership in the locker room, especially to our younger guys. I think you're probably better off asking him that."
When you go through an evaluation in the offseason, do you just look at your team or the teams in the playoffs?
"That will come in the self-scout part of the offseason. We'll evaluate schemes and trends in the National Football League, new blitzes. That probably, in our offseason schedule, won't come around until May. We're always looking to do scheme evaluations of other teams and what we can do to upgrade our scheme. Right now it's our scheme evaluation and we're evaluating our players right after that. Then we're getting ready for the bowl games, the Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine game. Then it's on to the combine and then we'll get ready for the draft. That's later on in the spring that we do that."
With the level that this organization has performed at the past three years, is it realistic to get back to that level as early as next season?
"Absolutely. That's why we wake up every morning and come to work here. The standards are high, the goals are high and the expectancy level is high. There is not a player or a coach or anybody that works in our building that is going to sleep easy tonight on 7-9. It's a great motivational tool for the offseason. No, that's what this organization is about, it's what these core players that we have here are all about."
With the season being over, do you take away a different perspective about this team, whether it's the coaches or the players, that maybe you didn't see before?
"I'll share this with you, like I said we just had our last team meeting and they're having exit meetings right now with their position coaches and the last thing I told this team was that I loved them. I have more respect for them now than I've ever had. I've got more respect for this coaching staff right now than I've ever had and they're my friends. I've worked with these guys every day for the last seven years. We can sit and whine and sit here in self-pity and talk about coulda, shoulda, woulda or we can try to get this thing behind us as soon as we can and move on to the business of getting better. That's what our players want to do. That's what our coaches want to do. That's what Sean (Payton) would demand. That's what we're going to do. We're going to take a hard look at what we're doing and how we're doing it and get better at what we're doing but I have more respect now for this group of players and these coaches and our organization than I ever have. I'm proud to be a part of it."
If you did want to consider major changes, is it too hard to do that without knowing what Sean Payton wants to do?
"No. Not at all. When Sean comes back here the first thing he'll do is look at the film and study the film and he'll dictate what direction we're going to go in schematically, offensively and defensively, and procure the talent we need to do that and move forward."
Isn't this the time of year when a lot of those decisions need to be made?
"Not really. I don't think so. I think the time of the year comes where you're moving towards the combine and you see exactly what the influx of talent is going to be, who's available in the free agent market and then doing your own scheme evaluation. Those things, coming out of the combine is when you make those determinations."
Will you have any input on the coaching staff?
"That is Sean (Payton) and Mickey (Loomis) all the way."
In the meantime, If someone wanted to interview an assistant coach would it be your call?
"No, it's Mickey's call."
Do you expect Sean Payton back after the Super Bowl?
"That's what I've been led to expect, yeah. I think midnight of the Super Bowl. He'll be back here at 12:01 I'd assume."
Will you be here at 12:01 with him?
"Probably, I don't have a life."