Aaron Kromer took the short trip from a quiet locker room to a lectern Sunday afternoon for his first postgame question-and-answer session as interim coach of the New Orleans Saints.
It wasn’t the trip Kromer was anticipating when he was named to replace interim coach Joe Vitt, who is serving a six-game suspension for his role in the team’s bounty scandal.
But unlike other inexperienced coaches — who might not have known what to say after watching his team slog through a 40-32 season-opening loss to the Washington Redskins — Kromer didn’t mince his words.
Frustrating was one of the first words to come out of his mouth, and he quickly added that the team’s rabid fans deserved better for the long-awaited season opener.
Several minutes later, he began his final statement by saying the entire team needs to look in the mirror and ask what every coach and player needs to do to get better before Sunday’s game at Carolina.
While there was some usual coach speak in between, it was an impressive start for Kromer. Much more impressive, obviously, than the Saints’ offense and defense were awhile earlier in a Mercedes-Benz Superdome that wasn’t as rowdy as it usually is.
The reason was quite obvious when you consider the Saints’ defense struggled from the start when Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III came out and looked like a seasoned vet in his first four drives — putting 20 points on the board with a pair of touchdowns and two field goals.
That came amid an inauspicious start by the Saints’ offense as Drew Brees threw three straight incompletions on their first possession, and two more three-and-outs followed in their first four series.
While there was at least some reason to believe that Griffin could create problems for the Saints’ new-look defense as the second overall pick of the draft, the offense turned in an underwhelming performance in the first 31/2 quarters when it had just 194 total yards and 10 points.
Heading up the long list of problems were seven penalties Kromer said kept the Saints from getting into a rhythm.
Add to that the second-and-long and third-and-long situations it put the Saints in, not to mention several drops by receivers, and it was easy to see how they struggled so mightily.
While Kromer harped on the penalties, the thing Brees always points to — third-down conversions — was a big problem as well.
The Saints, who led the NFL last season in converting 56.7 percent of the time, were a poor 2-of-11 Sunday.
It all had Brees, who has a remarkable memory when it comes to stats, scratching his head.
“I can’t recall the last time we did that,” he said when asked about having four three-and-outs on the first six possessions. “I can’t recall the last time we had this many third-and-longs. I can’t recall the last time we were his inefficient in the passing game.
“We’re going to be better than that.”
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