NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has forbidden Payton from coaching the team for the 2012 season due to his role in the plan put into place by the New Orleans defense to purposely injure opposing players. Payton will lose $8 million due to the suspension.
Vitt was also suspended for the first six games of the campaign, but that did not stop the Saints from choosing him as the team's interim coach. There was no indication who would take Vitt's place while he serves his suspension.
"Sean has been the driving force behind the tremendous success our team has enjoyed during the past six years. His leadership will be missed," said General Manager Mickey Loomis, who also will serve an eight-game suspension next season.
"But we need to set a course of action that gives us the best chance to win this season without our head coach and that is why I am announcing today that Joe Vitt will assume Sean's duties.
"We considered a number of great options to handle Payton's duties both internally and externally, but believe this will provide the most seamless transition for our players and our coaching staff, allowing our offensive and defensive staffs to remain intact with the fewest changes."