METAIRIE — Aaron Kromer doesn’t want his six-game stint as the New Orleans Saints’ interim coach to be viewed as an audition for a head coaching job somewhere down the line.
Kromer is fully aware that when he takes over for interim coach Joe Vitt on Sept. 3, his job is to follow the script laid out by suspended coach Sean Payton before he left the team in April.
Only one thing will matter until Vitt returns, Kromer said Thursday, and that’s to win.
“(With) a six-game run here in the beginning, it is important to start fast,” he said when he met with reporters for the first time since being designated as the interim coach on Wednesday. “We’ll do the same things that Sean Payton has done over the years. We will follow the same program.
“For me, it’s an opportunity,” he noted. “But it is also a collaborative situation where we will all work together and solve this thing.”
Kromer, 45, said he and coordinators Pete Carmichael Jr. (offense), Steve Spagnuolo (defense) and Greg McMahon (special teams) will get the team through Vitt’s six-game suspension as Vitt has done since Payton’s season-long ban began.
Kromer, who has never been a head coach during his 22-year coaching career, said Saints owner Tom Benson and General Manager Mickey Loomis approached him about filling in for Vitt.
“We have a lot of great coaches,” Kromer said. “It could have been Pete Carmichael sitting here right now. It could have been Steve Spagnuolo sitting here. It could have been a lot of guys, Greg McMahon.
“It happened that he (Loomis) felt like this is the best situation for the team right now — for these six weeks, that I would do it — and we’re moving on. We are all going to work together.”
Even though he’s never been a head coach, Kromer is highly regarded in league circles. He was a candidate for similar positions with the St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts last offseason.
“I don’t see it as an audition,” he said. “I see it as a holdover. I am 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 has been set.
“It’s important that Drew Brees feels this is Sean Payton’s program. This is the way we do things. … This is the formula we have followed that we’ve had success with.”
Even if the Saints were to go 6-0 with Kromer in charge, he said nothing will change, although he’ll probably get more opportunities to interview for jobs after the season ends.
“Joe Vitt will come back and finish out the year,” said Kromer, who will be helped with his game day offensive line duties by assistant Frank Smith. “I’m a fill-in for the fill-in, and I’m going to do the best job I can do.”
While the task is obviously huge, Kromer is one of several coaches on the staff that could’ve taken over because — with the exception of Spagnuolo — they have been here a long time and know how Payton wants things run.
“You (media) guys have seen it. Tell me the difference between last year’s training camp and this year’s training camp,” Kromer said in making a point. “Tell me the difference you see in the way that we run things, the way Drew 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.”
Kromer and the coordinators will work in concert on decisions during a game, such as when to punt or try a long field goal or going for it on fourth down — leaning on the one in charge of that phase of the game to come up with the best answer.
Kromer said director of pro scouting Ryan Pace will likely have the final say on personnel calls while Loomis serves an eight-game suspension.
Vitt and many of the Saints players applauded the decision to have Kromer step up to the interim spot.
“Aaron is going to continue on what Sean has built here,” said Vitt, who’ll help Kromer get acclimated to his new role in the next two preseason games. “He knows the program. He knows what we do and how we do it. He understands the teaching and the practice progression.
“It was a great pick by Mickey.”
Brees said the selection of Kromer was a good one because it will allow Carmichael and Spagnuolo to concentrate on their duties of calling the plays and running the defense.
“I think it works out perfectly for everybody,” he said. “Everybody is going to continue to have input, but despite the circumstances this is the best scenario we could have asked for.”
Tackle Zach Strief said things won’t change too much for the offensive line, even though Kromer usually spends time going over the pictures taken high above the field while the offense is on the sideline.
“I think that he’s going to be with us as much as he usually would be,” he said. “The one exception would be maybe he looks at the pictures standing on the sideline instead of in front of us.”
“The most important thing was consistency … having somebody take the position that will keep things pretty much the same,” wide receiver Lance Moore said. “He’s a great choice … he’s been here long enough.”
Linebacker Scott Shanle said he suspected and expected that Kromer would be a natural choice to lead the team.
“He’s been kind of a quiet guy, but the guys he works with have a great relationship with him,” Shanle said. “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 but outside the organization, too.”
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