METAIRIE, La. — Aaron Kromer likes to joke about his interim-interim status as head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
Whenever there’s a question about how he’s dealing with a problem, he crack a quip about asking other interim-interim coaches how they handled it.
The joke? He’s the first of the kind as far as he knows.
But one thing the 1-4 start hasn’t done to Kromer is dim the coach’s desire to one day be a full time head coach.
“Yes, I have a strong desire to have my own team one day,” Kromer said.
As Kromer goes into his final game as interim head coach today at noon when the Saints play at Tampa Bay (2-3), he’ll lead with the complete backing of his players.
Offensive players and defensive players alike all talk about how great of a job Kromer has done under some of the most difficult circumstances a coach has faced.
“I’d say, stayed extremely positive and encouraging,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “There were definitely some moments of tough love.”
Kromer wasn’t named to the interim position until midway through training camp. And he only fully took over the first week of the season when Joe Vitt’s six-game suspension began.
In the weeks since, things haven’t exactly gone as planned.
The Saints were shocked in the season-opener by a first-time starting quarterback in Washington’s Robert Griffin III.
A week later, the Saints couldn’t contain Carolina and a week after that, it was a failure to finish while holding a late-game lead against Kansas City.
Through each week, though, linebacker Scott Shanle said Kromer continued to show growth in comfort and leadership ability.
“I think he has handled it very well,” Shanle said. “I think he has done a tremendous job, just seeing his progression how comfortable he has been in front of the team week after week. Obviously nobody expected and he didn’t expect to have to go through some of the turmoil we went through. Starting the season 0-4, I thought he did a great job of keeping the team together.”
His biggest backers, though, are those who he works with on a daily basis – the offensive linemen.
Kromer’s regular day job is to coach the offensive line while also coming up with the Saints’ weekly run game plan.
Should he ever have the chance again to interview for a head coaching position, they don’t believe this year should reflect poorly on him.
“Kromer has done a fantastic job of leading us (and) continuing to implement the foundation that coach (Sean) Payton, Mickey (Loomis), Joe Vitt, all those guys have set up here,” center Brian de la Puente said. “What has been asked of him, he’s done a phenomenal job.
“I think that in that hiring process, however it works, the situation and environment plays a part in the decision. He was thrust into this situation and really did a good job with it.”
For now, Kromer said he isn’t focusing on what he has learned and what he hasn’t learned while in his current position.
On Monday, he’ll go back to being a dutiful assistant. But this weekend he has one last task and that’s to keep the Saints on an upward trajectory for Vitt, who becomes the acting head coach again after this weekend.
“What I’ve learned or not learned, I don’t know how important that is,” Kromer said. “It’s important that we win games and we win this week against Tampa Bay. Like I said, it’s not about me. It’s about the group. Our goal is to keep getting one game better and beat Tampa Bay.”