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Bears’ new OC showed knack for improving his linemen

NEW ORLEANS LA - SEPTEMBER 09:  Interim head coach AarKromer New Orleans Saints reacts during game against WashingtRedskins during

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 09: Interim head coach Aaron Kromer of the New Orleans Saints reacts during the game against the Washington Redskins during the season opener at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Redskins defeated the Saints 40-32. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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Updated: February 25, 2013 12:59PM



MOBILE, Ala. — New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and right tackle Zach Strief have mixed emotions about losing offensive-line coach Aaron Kromer to the Bears.

“We hate to lose him because we love him, but it’s awesome to see him get a chance to go and move up in this league,” Strief told the Sun-Times. “The organization wants to see you get better and improve and grow.”

Added Payton, “I think the world of Aaron.”

On the same day the Bears announced Marc Trestman as coach, the Bears also finalized a deal with Kromer to become their offensive coordinator/offensive-line coach.

Kromer hasn’t been made available for comment, but he has a strong track record of protecting quarterbacks and contributing to explosive offenses. The offense ranked 1st in yards in 2011 and 2nd in 2012, and the Saints allowed just 50 sacks during that span. Over the last two seasons, the Bears have allowed 93 sacks.

Kromer joined the Saints as the running backs coach in 2008, but he’s been the offensive-line coach/running-game coordinator since 2009.

“The last four years have been the most fun I’ve ever had in my career,” said Strief, who just wrapped up his seventh NFL season. “Most of it is because coach Kromer let us enjoy ourselves while we were working.

“He expects you to do what a professional should do, unless you give him reason to do otherwise. He gave us a tremendous amount of respect.”

And the Saints linemen obliged.

In those four seasons under Kromer, five players earned nine Pro Bowl selections.

A two-time captain at Miami, Kromer was an offensive tackle, and Strief said his playing experience helps him as a coach.

“He understands that sometimes you do need to scheme a guy,” Strief said, referring to an opposing ­defensive lineman. “There are guys who are good players, and being on an island with them is not the best thing.

“That doesn’t mean you’re a bad player or you can’t play. But, as a team, we’re better off figuring out a way to block individual personnel or individual looks.”

Kromer also highlights the strengths of his players, and then works to address the weaknesses.

Strief also said Kromer doesn’t impose his technique on his players, although he does have a preference, and he’s open to ideas from others.

“Sometimes its, ‘Hey, can we try something different?’ Then we’ll work on it, and if it works, we’ll take it into a game,” Strief said. “But he knows there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Under Kromer, the Saints have placed a lineman from each offensive-line position on the Pro Bowl roster.

Naturally, the Saints lost linemen to free agency.

“Their talent base has changed, they’ve lost some really good linemen during the course of that time,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said. “They’ve had different people at left and right tackle, so it tells me that there’s a certain aspect of the system — where you place people, how quick you get the ball off and how well you protect.

“So that was a factor in looking at all the candidates, and specially the offensive ones.”

In Chicago, Kromer might have to pull off his greatest coaching feat yet. The unit has been among the league’s worst the last couple of seasons, and the club clearly needs an infusion of talent to the position.

But Strief said he’s happy for Kromer taking a step in his career.

“It’s cool to say, ‘You’re a coordinator now, and part of it is because we did a pretty good job,’ ” Strief said.



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