I know we're all happy to see Gregg Williams out and Steve Spagnuolo in as defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints. Changes are coming, I think we can only hope they are for the better. But the question I ask all of you today is this: have there been enough changes to the coaching staff to truly make a difference?
I'm talking about assistant and positional coaches. Guys whose names you don't hear very often but still play a huge part in player development and the overall success of the team. The guys that are really working with the players day in and day out, getting their hands dirty and building important bonds. We all look to the top guys when things go terribly wrong, but do the Saints need to trim some fat and add some fresh perspective in the assistant coaching department as well?
Because I can't help but think about, say, the linebacking corps. Every year we bitch about these guys, right? Every off-season we talk about how this group needs to improve but it never seems to happen, despite free agent signings and draft picks. In short, their development has been stagnant. The one constant since 2006, however, has been assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt. But nobody ever points a finger at him. Coordinators can be lightning rods for fan discontent; they're always the first to take the blame. Perhaps, though, we've been overlooking problems elsewhere.
We've got to assume that, given the revolving door nature of NFL coaching, anyone under performing would be let go and free to move on. But does Vitt get a pass given his relationship with Sean Payton? Vitt was one of Payton's first hires in 2006, who was looking for a "consigliere" to act as an adviser. Who better for the job than one of Payton's closest friends. And when Payton was sidelined this season with his leg injury, it was Vitt handling the press conferences. Basically, Vitt is second in command so it's probably safe to say that his job security is directly in line with Payton's.
Which would be a problem if it turned out Vitt has been holding this defense back. Because he's not going anywhere as long as Payton's in charge and we've got a while to go before that ever changes.
So are we destined for continued defensive mediocrity from the Saints defense or is Joe Vitt not to blame in the slightest? How much importance do you place on the role of assistant/positional coaches? Can the right defensive coordinator make up for or override assistant/positional coaching deficiencies?