New Orleans Saints Offensive Line/Running Game Coach Aaron Kromer
Monday, September 24, 2012
Opening statement:"What makes this a tough situation is that the organization has had so much success lately since Sean Payton got here in 2006 that to be 0-3 is uncharted territory. What we need to do is continue on course, keep our building together, keep our locker room together and work as a team, work as individuals to get better and collectively to get better. There were many situations in the game that we stopped or made plays, defensively stopped a play or offensively made a play and then in critical situations did not, so what we need to do is find an answer for those situations and why that didn't happen at that particular time."
With respect to your ability as a coach, is this turning out to be a tougher job than expected?
"Here's what I told the team: The toughest people in the world and the most successful take on a challenge and look forward to a challenge. That's what we're going to do and what we're looking at. We're looking forward to the challenge we have ahead of us. We're 0-3 and nothing can erase that. But the successful people, the Drew Brees' of the world, the Will Smith's of the world, Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, they look forward to these kinds of situations and that's what we're going to do."
Is it as simple as an execution problem offensively and defensively?
At any point have you considered personnel changes at positions?
"There are plenty of situations where each guy that had a failure on a play made that exact same play through the year (this year and last). They just need to do it."
A lot of times in these situations coaches and players talk about being steady and staying the course, but at some point, does somebody have to become upset or flip a table?
"That's a good question. Since day one, the first Monday that they said that I would do this job, I went in and saw Mr. Benson. Ever since that day, every Monday I go in and see Mr. Benson on top of other days and this organization including Mr. Benson is as solid as a rock right now and we're all in. Everybody's together. Mr. Benson's together (in this). He realizes the situation and he feels good about the way it's happening. Obviously he doesn't feel good about the record and we don't like it for him and the fans. Everyone's trying way too hard to lose these games, but we're going to get it fixed. We're going to get it fixed one day at a time and as a group."
Isn't it damning when you allow these kinds of rushing yards?
"If you study the stats in the NFL, what you'll see is there are teams that give up yardage. There are teams that give up yardage and don't give up touchdowns and win football games. As long as we're not giving up the big play or giving up easy touchdowns, if you take an offense and make them grind the ball down the field, someone's probably going to make a mistake offensively and that's what you're counting on at times when you don't allow a big play. For the most part, other than the long run, which we stopped earlier and didn't stop on that particular play, we did that. We kept them from throwing a deep ball down the field and kept them in third down situations where it was going to be tough. Give Matt Cassel credit. He made a couple plays (and) scrambled around at the end of the game when he was under pressure."
Zach Strief was very critical of himself yesterday. What was your evaluation of him and the offensive line?
"That is Zach Strief. Zach Strief will own up to a game that he didn't play his best. Zach Strief has played well this year. Until this game, he didn't have a sack (surrendered). He was very solid in protection and was doing a great job of leading the line and the team and in this game we got into a situation where we had to run the ball better in the fourth quarter and we didn't do it and so now we're throwing out of the minus five yard line and it's a tough down for a tackle. In that situation, he could have been better. He can in no way, shape or form blame himself totally, but I get it. He fell on the sword for the team because that's the type of guy he is."
Is it not just him on the line?
"Anytime there's sacks or big plays defensively or a good or bad play on special teams, it's a combination of all 11 guys that were out there. You get open quick, the ball gets out quick. You know who to throw it to and the guy's open, it's quick. If a guy takes a wrong step up front or he takes a good step up front and he gets pass protection done, it gets done. It's a combination of all 11 guys out there when something bad happens, whether it's a completion, incompletion or a sack."
Is it possible that this roster isn't as good as the one a year ago?
"I don't know if you can compare two different years, the situations, the circumstances, the teams you play and the matchups you have individually. We're not playing the same schedule we had last year. You can't compare the two to be honest. We have plenty of guys to get this done and we will."
Are the receivers getting the type of separation on their routes that you want?
"There are some situations where we can help the receivers by formations, motions and doing some things to get them open easier."
Is it a bigger struggle than it has been in the past?
"I don't think it's a bigger struggle, but we've always done a good job of manufacturing ideal situations for our receivers and we'll do a better job of that."
Have injuries been a problem?
"Anytime you can keep stability in an offense and keep the same guys playing it helps. But, it's something that we can't use as an excuse and we have to continue on."
Are there any specific issues from where possessions went backwards?
"Anytime you get the ball backed up as we did…And out defense did a good job of stopping them and they punted us inside the ten-yard line a couple times and I get it. That's always tough. Things get accentuated there. A bad play, a back sack, a bad anything is accentuated more there than at the 50-yard line. We just have to do a better job of getting it out of there, we have in the past and we'll do it again."
Can you give us an update on David Hawthorne and Jonathan Casillas?Hawthorne pulled his hamstring. Hopefully he's going to be good enough to go this week. We don't know. We're getting him checked today. We didn't feel he should go back in yesterday."
Do you have a status on Casillas?
"Casillas got nicked up a little bit, but it seems like he's going to be good."
You guys have talked throughout about how you are sticking to the system that has been in place. At 0-3, do you think you need to tinker with the system?
"Each individual group has to pick it up just a little bit – defensively, offensively and on special teams. If each group just picks it up we will be fine."
Have the replacement officials been more lenient with the illegal use of the hands call on plays downfield?
"It appears they aren't as many penalties down the field when you look at statistics, both offensively and defensively."
Is it fair to be frustrated with the defense being that they only gave up one touchdown? It seemed like you were encouraged by the way defense played for the most part?
"That's a good observation of what I said because when you look at the game it was 24-6 and we looked like the Saints. We looked like the New Orleans Saints. We were playing at an efficient level. We were doing a good job of stopping them. They got a couple of field goals, which is good in a lot of situations. We were scoring touchdowns and we got one touchdown called back where we would have had another touchdown going into halftime. We looked like us and we looked like how we should look. As the game went on, we wore down in the fourth quarter. We didn't finish the game. We need to finish better. The defense got a couple of turnovers for us and we scored off of them. That's the kind of complimentary football we want to play." * *
Is it as simple as you guys 'didn't have your foot on the gas pedal?' In that situation, some would say the team 'lacked their killer instinct'.
"I doubt if we lacked killer instinct. I don't think we finished very well. It was 99 plays on our defense. They were rotating some guys in and trying to keep guys fresh. Their offense did a job towards the end. Offensively, we were backed up and didn't do a good job. All we need is one first down. If you look at our history, if we get one first down we move the ball and we continue to keep the ball. Our tempo is what wins games for us. If you can't get that first first down, you can't use what you use best offensively. We have to get one first down when we get out there. If it's coming out from the five-yard line then that is what it is."
So you're saying it's three-and-out or an 80-yard drive?
"It sure seems like it in the recent history."
What do you do to calm the situation down? Some of the players have been in a similar situation back in the 2007 season but a lot of them have not…
"It's frustrating for all of us. What you have to do is make sure you are using your energy for the right reasons. The right reason is what I need to do to get better. What do I personally need to do, each person in the locker room needs to say it. Stay the course because that's what it comes down to at the end of the day. Do I need to be smarter on this play? Can I play faster because I know more? Every day we need to find something that we are going to get better at individually and as a team. We are that close. We just need to find a way to get over that edge."
You gave the players the day off today?
"Players are off which means they will watch the tape on their own with the grade sheets that we have. They will get a lift and a run in and they will start to study Green Bay."
Do you feel like they needed today off?
"Yes, they needed a rest after that long game just to refuel."
Do you have any idea what happened on Garrett Hartley's missed field goal?
"I believe he just missed it."
How big of a drive was that with Pierre Thomas' touchdown being called back and then Hartley's missed field goal?
"That was a huge sequence in the game. Going from a touchdown to missing a field goal is obviously a lot of points missed."
Objectively, with a 0-3 record and heading to Green Bay you are facing a tough slate. How do you see it?
"Every game in the NFL you have a chance to win if you do the right things. If you look around the league and automatically take wins and losses for granted, then all these things that have happened the last couple of weeks to teams wouldn't have happened. So who is to say that we don't have a chance in Green Bay? I refuse to say that. I really think that we will go up there and have a good effort."