There are plenty of challenges for coaches heading into the 2012 NFL season. But none is as big as the one facing the New Orleans Saints.
In training camp, a coach has to set the right tone for practice, a tone that resonates with his team for the entire season. He also has to deal with incoming free agents, getting players reps, dealing with off-the-field issues and more. That's just the standard stuff. In the Saints' case, the players have to deal with multiple head coaches this year as a result of the bounty scandal, not to mention the media attention that has come with it.
Along with how interim coach Joe Vitt keeps the Saints focused after this offseason, here are two of the NFC's biggest coaching challenges: Can Greg Schiano turn around the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? How does Andy Reid get the Philadelphia Eagles to play up to their potential?
New Orleans Saints: How does Joe Vitt keep the Saints focused after this offseason?
There is no need for New Orleans to talk about the bounty scandal.
Yes, the Saints' situation is unprecedented with the array of suspensions, fines and forfeitures of draft picks. But if I were Vitt addressing the team on that first night of training camp, what I would say is: "What's past is past."
The last thing I'd be worried about would be what happened with Sean Payton. That's done. It has no bearing on where the Saints are headed. Regardless of players' feelings toward the scandal, they have to focus on what they can control. And that is the opening game on Sunday, Sept. 9, against the Washington Redskins.
Payton left behind a player-driven team on which everyone with a helmet knows his role. There won't be a hangover. Vitt will be very clear in training camp about the expectations for this team. And whoever is named the interim coach while Vitt is suspended to start the season will carry on that message.
Remember, it's the players under the helmets who win games. The coaches will prepare them to play. They need to go out and execute.