January 16, 2013

Kromer Leaves For Chicago; Sends Waves Through Saints HQ

Saints offensive line coach, running game coordinato and six-game interim head coach in 2012, Aaron Kromer has taken a promotion with the Chicago Bears.

Kromer will be the offensive coordinator under new head coach Marc Trestman, who worked with Kromer in the early 2000s in Oakland.

The Saints are still without suspended head coach Sean Payton, who cannot rejoin the team until after the Super Bowl.  The Saints are unlikely to replace Kromer without Payton's input.

Kromer served as the Saints' interim head coach for the first six games of the 2012 season, when Payton and Joe Vitt were suspended because of the bounty scandal and coverup.  Kromer was 2-4 as a head coach, including a disastrous 0-4 start that torpedoed the Saints' season. 

With the Saints since 2008, Kromer served as runningbacks coach for one season - helping develop Pierre Thomas, and as offensive line coach and running game coordinator for the past four seasons, where he helped develop Jermon Bushrod, Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans, and Brian de la Puente from afterthoughts into starters.  He helped Jon Stinchcomb blossom relatively late in his career and help Zach Strief make the transition from rotational backup to starter.  Thanks in large part to Kromer, the Saints offensive line has been among the best units for years.  

The loss of Kromer may not bode well for the Saints' top free agent heading into 2013, starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod.  Set to become a free agent, Bushrod's close relationship with Kromer won't help recruit him back off the open market.  Lacking a new long term deal which will make Bushrod one of the highest paid tackles in the league, the Saints may be forced to use the franchise tag to retain their left tackle.

Bushrod may play in the Pro Bowl next weekend as a replacement for 49ers LT Joe Staley, if the 49ers go to the Super Bowl or if Staley withdraws.

Kromer was one of two offensive assistants on the Saints' coaching staff that drew attention from other teams this offseason, the other offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who also interviewed for the Chicago Bears head coaching position.  As of now, there are two NFL head coaching positions open and neither has been linked to Carmichael.  Kromer was linked to the Rams head coaching position last year.

In 2005, the Saints interviewed Trestman, who has been coaching in the Canadian League for five seasons, for their offensive coordinator job, which had been vacated by Mike McCarthy, now the long-time head coach of the Packers.  Kromer was signed to replace Doug Marrone in 2008, who then left for Syracuse and is now the Buffalo Bills head coach.

Frank Smith has served as the Saints' offensive line assistant coach under Kromer since 2010, and was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Butler University for four seasons prior to joining the Saints and started three seasons for Miami (Ohio), according to the Saints official website.

Saints runningbacks coach Bret Ingalls held the offensive line and running game coordinator job at Northwestern University prior to joining the Saints in 2009. He had been coaching offensive line since 1984 in the college ranks.

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