METAIRIE, La. – Aaron Kromer tried to become a head coach this past offseason, agreeing to an interview in St. Louis and interviewing in Indianapolis.
Neither of those jobs went his way, the Rams going with Jeff Fisher and the Colts tabbing Chuck Pagano as their head coach.
But come Sept. 3, albeit not the way he wanted it to happen, he’ll become a head coach, if only for six games.
Not that he’s viewing his time as the New Orleans Saints’ interim head coach as an audition.
“I see it as a holdover,” Kromer said Thursday, nearly 24 hours after being named the interim head coach while acting head coach Joe Vitt serves his six game suspension. “I’m going to hold this thing over until Joe Vitt gets back. I’m going to hold the fort. I’m going to follow the program that’s been set.”
Kromer can follow the program that has been set because he has been around. Hired away from Tampa Bay in 2008 to coach running backs, Kromer has since moved to coaching the offensive line and being in charge of planning the run game.
Players on both offense and defense believe in Kromer. They also expected that Kromer had a good shot at becoming the interim to the interim.
“I think a lot of guys who were here, me being one of them, I kind of suspected and expected that he’d be a natural choice,” linebacker Scott Shanle said. “Kromer has been kind of a quiet guy but the guys he talks to have a great relationship with him. I think he was a candidate or being spoken of for head coaching jobs around the league last year.
“There’s a lot of respect for him, not only in this organization as far as the players go, but outside the organization too.”
Added quarterback Drew Brees, “His experience level, his credentials put him line to have this opportunity. He’s a guy who all of us have a lot of confidence in and feel very comfortable with.”
Kromer, 45, said he has aspirations of being a full-time head coach eventually.
Of all the position groups, watch a practice and the offensive linemen appear to be having a better time, enjoying their learning sessions while also learning from Kromer.
He doesn’t plan on being the fiery sideline general like the suspended Sean Payton, saying he has to be himself.
“Yeah, I think more than anything he allows us to laugh,” right tackle Zach Strief said. “He allows us to be ourselves. You know, we take our jobs seriously and when there’s times for it to be serious, it’s serious but when something funny happens it’s OK to laugh. It’s OK to smile, it’s OK to crack a joke and that might be on the field. At the end of the day it’s a game and I think he lets us play it like it’s a game.”
Kromer will begin working with Vitt on the sideline on Saturday night when the Saints host the Texans in an exhibition game. He’ll begin to fully learn the game-day schedule, he’ll speak with the officials before the game and he’ll get a heads up on post-game protocol.
Though this will the first time in his life he has ever been a head coach, he’s playing down the position, saying that he plans on the first seven weeks of the regular season to be one big collaboration between all the coaches on staff.
“It’s going to be very important in this situation that it’s a group effort, that Steve Spagnuolo, Pete Carmichael and Greg McMahon feel like we come to every conclusion as a group,” Kromer said.
In the end, very little will change and that’s the plan. When Vitt took over for Payton, the schedule and practices all remained the same.
So will it when Kromer takes over for Vitt.
“Tell me the difference between last year’s training camp and this year’s training camp,” Kromer said. “Tell me the difference that you see in the way we run things, the way Drew Brees drops back to pass, the plays that we run, the hustle, the tempo on the field. There isn’t a difference because we’re following what Sean Payton has taught us. We’re keeping pace with the way that Sean would do it.”