Saints assistant to be in charge when Vitt sits out
METAIRIE — With one week to go before interim coach Joe Vitt begins serving a six-game suspension for his role in the bounty scandal, the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday chose offensive line/running game coach Aaron Kromer to lead the team while Vitt is away.
Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis announced in a news release that the 45-year-old Kromer, who has been with the Saints since 2008, will take over on Sept. 3 — just six days before the regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins.
A 22-year coaching veteran, Kromer has split that time evenly, with 11 seasons on the college level before getting his first NFL job with the Oakland Raiders in 2001.
He coached with the Raiders (2001-04) and Tampa Bay Bucs (2005-07) before joining Sean Payton’s staff in 2008.
A former offensive lineman at Miami (Ohio), Kromer started his coaching career there in 1990 and left after the 1998 season. He and Payton worked on the same staff at Miami in 1994 and ’95.
A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Kromer was believed to be one of the more likely candidates to replace Vitt, who took over from Payton when he began a season-long suspension on April 16 for misleading NFL investigators looking into a pay-for-performance scheme.
Other candidates included offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., who will call the plays while Payton is out, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who joined the team in January.
“This was a difficult decision because we have several coaches on our staff that would do a great job in this role,” Loomis said in the news release.
Loomis said he consulted with Vitt as well as other members of the organization before deciding on Kromer.
“Ultimately, I wanted to have the least amount of change with both the offensive and defensive staffs, and maintain the most continuity with the program that has been in place for the last six years,” Loomis said.
“I appreciate the confidence Mr. (Tom) Benson and Mickey have in me to handle this duty while coach Vitt and coach Payton are not with us,” Kromer said. “Coach Payton has laid a successful foundation here, and our jobs are to make sure we keep moving in that direction.”
Kromer has spent the majority of his coaching career working with the offensive line, even though Payton tabbed him also to be the running game coordinator after serving as running backs coach in 2008.
Since joining the NFL, Kromer has helped develop seven Pro Bowl linemen, including three in 2011 as tackle Jermon Bushrod and guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, who’s now with the Bucs, were voted to the all-star game.
Since Kromer took over as the Saints offensive line coach, they’ve allowed the third-lowest sack total in the league, and in 2009 and ’11 won the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award for the best offensive line in the NFL.
“Aaron has coached with Sean both in college and here at the Saints,” Loomis said. “He is very familiar with our team and with the methods we have been successful with. He will do a great job.”
Vitt said he’s confident Kromer and the other coaches will do what the staff has done since Payton began his suspension.
“The job our staff has done during Sean’s absence has been remarkable,” Vitt said. “We have great talent and depth on our coaching staff. But most importantly, we have guys on this coaching staff that clearly understand the foundation of success that Sean has built.
“I feel great that Aaron and the staff will continue to build on that foundation.”