Vitt on state of Saints: "We're not going to get a mulligan for this season"
The Saints enter their showdown with the Bucs Sunday in uncharted territory.
For the first time in eight years, New Orleans (5-8) is playing out its final three games with almost no chance for the playoffs. It's coming off a 52-27 loss to the Giants Sunday that interim coach Joe Vitt labeled an "embarassment." That's a far cry for a franchise that has been one of the NFC's perennial powers, with a 37-11 combined record the past three years.
But it's been no ordinary year in New Orleans, with with the Saints engulfed in a Bounty Gate scandal that resulted in a season-long suspension for head coach Sean Payton, discipline for four players, as well as an everyday distraction. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue's ruling Monday vacated the player suspensions might have offered some closure, though Vitt said they're not making excuses, and they've just had to play the hand they were dealt.
"I think that we've lived with this thing for a long (time), over our head," Vitt said. "But inside the walls of this building....when the players come here..there's not a lot of time to talk about the coulda, shoulda, woulda. It's about living in the moment and trying to get better. As far as closure goes, the only thing I can say is I'm happy for our players that they've been vindicated and the suspensions have been vacated. That's a good thing. Other than that, I'm not really going to comment on anything else today. We'll see where this leads us.
"At the end of the day, we're not going to get a mulligan for this season. We have a million excuses of why we're not where we should be right now. But the fact of the matter is, we're not playing good enough to win right now."
While the Saints, powered by star QB Drew Brees, boast the league's third-ranked offense, their defense is the worst overall (436.6 yards per game), with problems against both the run and the pass. Turnovers have been their Achilles heel, with 11 in their past three games (and a -4 differential this season).
"We're not protecting the ball like we need to protect the ball right now, we're not taking away big plays on defense like we have to take away big plays," Vitt said. "Instead of worrying about all the things you can't control, you better worry about teh things you can control. We're all going to be held accountable for our production this year."
-- JOE SMITH