The magnitude of the penalties levied by the NFL against the New Orleans Saints cannot be understated. Taken as a whole, these suspensions represent a message -- loud and clear -- that the NFL will not tolerate player bounties to any degree. The unparalleled severity of these penalties will resonate throughout the league for years to come. But it is the immediate future with which the Saints must concern themselves now.
These are the kinds of penalties that can fracture a franchise, and there is little time to lose if the Saints want to preserve their 2012 season. The Saints must act quickly and decisively in four key areas to build a framework that prevents an all-out collapse in the upcoming season.
1) Name an interim coach ASAP
I believe New Orleans ought to decide upon an acting head coach to step in for Sean Payton -- today, if possible. The reasons to expedite this decision are continuity and stability. The Saints will want the same hands on the wheel from the start of mini-camp through the conclusion of their 2012 season. To maintain those elements, most NFL teams have an assistant already designated to step in if needed. When I was with the Indianapolis Colts, we had tabbed Jim Caldwell for that role, and he did step in when Tony Dungy needed to take a leave of absence following the death of his son, James. However, with the six-game suspension to assistant head coach Joe Vitt, the NFL has also taken away the Saints' safety net.
With speed and continuity necessity, I believe the choice for the acting head coach will come from within, where I see two clear candidates.