METAIRIE — Monday may have been a holiday for most people, but it wasn’t unlike any other day for New Orleans Saints offensive line coach/running game coordinator Aaron Kromer.
Kromer officially became the Saints interim coach, taking over from Joe Vitt as the team began preparing for Sunday’s regular-season opener with the Washington Redskins in the Mercedes- Benz Superdome.
Even in his new position, Kromer said he didn’t feel any differently as he carried out his usual duties with the offensive line during what suspended coach Sean Payton likes to call a bonus practice.
“I did the normal amount of offensive line coaching,” Kromer said. “And during team (periods), I was able to see both sides of the ball.”
He said it was all about following the plan Payton laid out before he was forced to leave the team in April as a result of his season-long suspension for misleading NFL investigators looking into the bounty scandal.
“I’m following the formula … so anytime you have a plan, you have a good sense that things are going to go well,” Kromer said. “We have a good plan here. I’m following the plan, and the team is with us.”
As he did when he was named interim coach for Vitt, who is serving a six-game suspension, Kromer said coaching the team will be a collaborative effort.
That will include himself, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and special teams coordinator Greg McMahon — along with the other assistant coaches.
“We are going to work this as a group, I happen to be sitting in this chair,” Kromer said. “I am going to do the best job I can to lead this, but we have great leaders.
“We have five great captains and a wonderful coaching staff. It is going to be a collective effort in this situation. I feel good about that. You can feel comfort when you have leaders and people around you.”
Kromer noted that General Manager Mickey Loomis, who began an eight-game suspension Monday, and Vitt were at a team dinner Sunday night where quarterback Drew Brees and tackle Zach Strief (offense), safeties Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins (defense) and wide receiver Courtney Roby (special teams) were elected captains by their teammates.
“It was emotional for them, really, and it was emotional for our guys,” Kromer said. “We’re going to miss those guys. Joe Vitt is an emotional leader for this team, and Mickey Loomis is always around and always supportive, and the guys have a genuine like for him.
“It is going to be a difficult situation as we miss them, but as Sean said, ‘We do our job. Come back, do your job. Wake up in the morning, do your job.’ That is what we echoed in the team meeting this morning. As a group, we will get this thing done. There are no setbacks.”
With that in mind, Kromer said the Saints began working on the game plan for the Redskins.
“They were playing really fast,” he said. “We went away for the hurricane, came back, and this was a chance to get those guys legs fresh from camp, and it looked like they were playing very quick today.”
While he gets some help from assistant offensive line coach Frank Smith, Kromer said several defensive coaches will work together to fill the void left by Vitt, who coaches the linebackers.
When asked what his biggest adjustment will be during the games, Kromer said there shouldn’t be one. He said the staff has worked well together as a group and has a good feel for following the formula Payton established.
And if they have to change suddenly and go off-script, he said, they’ll adapt.
“We have always said here that we adapt better than anyone in the NFL,” Kromer said. “We adjust better than anyone. Things don’t distract us. We don’t let little things bother us. We only worry about the big things. We keep the main thing as the main thing.
“That is what we talked about today: Make sure when you show up in this office that you are focused on what we’re doing. If we have something happen, we will adjust. We are ready.”