Vermeil is perfect choice for Saints

BY Jason Whitlock • April 11, 2012

Dick Vermeil is the perfect interim coach for the New Orleans Saints. Yes, the 75-year-old retiree is a far better choice than Sean Payton pal, Bill Parcells.

You remember the last time Vermeil came out of long retirement? He discovered Kurt Warner, unleashed Marshall Faulk as a lethal weapon, built the Greatest Show on Turf and won a Super Bowl. Most important, as it relates to the Saints situation, Vermeil managed and tolerated offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s ego and genius.

Self-awareness will be the key ingredient for the coach filling in for Sean Payton. Being a successful NFL head coach requires robust confidence. Vermeil has as much confidence as any coach I’ve ever met. What separates him from most is his self-awareness, his ability to rein in his own ego so that there is room for his coaching peers and players to feel equally confident and autonomous.

Dick Vermeil is the one coach with the relationship skills and football intellect capable of putting his unique stamp on the Saints while letting Payton’s assistants do exactly what Payton has trained them to do.

Vermeil is not greedy. He knows how to share responsibility while remaining in control. I’ve seen it. Joe Vitt, Payton’s assistant head coach, has experienced it as a three-year assistant for Vermeil in Kansas City. According to the NFL experts, despite having to serve a six-game suspension for his role in the bounty scandal, Vitt is the most likely candidate to serve as NO’s interim coach now that Parcells is allegedly uninterested in the job.

I understood Payton’s desire to bring in his mentor, Parcells. Payton is loaning his team to a coach for one year. This would be an impossible job for most outsiders. That’s why it’s foolish for some people to suggest the Saints must adhere to the Rooney Rule. This is a totally unique situation. Payton and the Saints have every right to want to keep this job in-house.

I just think the selection of Vitt seems misguided. It’s going to create chaos. Vitt will run the team through the offseason and preseason and then sit out the first six weeks of the regular season. There’s going to be a leadership void.

Payton needs to turn his team over to one man for the next 10 months and that man needs to connect emotionally and intellectually with one man, quarterback Drew Brees, the leader of the Saints.

Yes, it’s outside-the-box thinking and outside the Saints house, but there’s no better candidate than Vermeil. He’s a quarterback’s best friend. Just ask Kurt Warner and Trent Green.

You know the story of Warner’s improbable, undrafted rise to two-time league MVP, Super Bowl champion and potential Hall of Famer. Vermeil birthed that story. Green’s rise from eighth-round draft pick, CFL reject to two-time Pro Bowler in Kansas City is nearly as impressive. Warner and Green were not born with all the physical gifts of all-time great QBs. Vermeil has a way of instilling a magical confidence in his quarterbacks that helps them play at a higher level than their physical tools.

For one year, Vermeil can ensure that the undersized Brees doesn’t lose any of his Payton-reinforced magic. The Payton-Brees partnership has been the engine that has powered the Saints.

Joe Vitt or Bill Parcells can keep that engine humming? Really?

Vermeil is the right option. In Kansas City, Vermeil turned Priest Holmes into the second coming of Marshall Faulk. For three years, Holmes, a cheap free-agent pickup by the Chiefs, was as productive as any running back in football. In 2002, he was selected the league’s offensive player of the year.

Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas would flourish under Vermeil.

And the beauty of the whole deal is Vermeil, who will be 76 in October, wouldn’t remotely be a threat to Sean Payton or any of Payton’s assistants.

Vermeil has proven all that he needs to prove in the NFL. His resume speaks for itself. He carried two different franchises to the Super Bowl. He built one of the league’s greatest offenses and then moved from St. Louis to Kansas City and built a second version.

As best I know, Vermeil is in excellent health and still has the necessary energy to coach. He has a solid relationship with Vitt.

I am not friends with Dick Vermeil. We had a rocky relationship when he was the coach of the Kansas City Chiefs and I was a columnist at the Kansas City Star. I didn’t like Vermeil’s defensive coordinator, Greg Robinson, and I made no secret of my dislike. I mention that to make clear that neither Vermeil — nor any of his friends — asked me to write a column promoting him for the Saints job.

I simply respect Vermeil. He has a wonderful, positive energy and a natural charm. He cares about people. He’s the ideal football coach to help the Saints transition out of the bounty crisis.