For the Buffalo Bills, being near the end of an investigation into Aaron Kromer’s July 12 arrest on charges of punching a teenage boy at least gives them clarity on what to do about the offensive line coach with training camp starting in a little more than a week.
For Kromer, who is due in court on Aug. 12, the timing doesn’t appear to be quite as favorable.
A pre-camp resolution would strongly signal the Bills aren’t concerned with how the criminal case turns out. According to an NFL source, they are pretty well satisfied with the information gathered in conjunction with the league, and what they have learned doesn’t make the situation look any brighter for Kromer than what was contained in a disturbing police report.
A decision on his future with the team could be known before the end of the week, The News has learned. If he’s dismissed, the Bills are prepared to promote assistant offensive line coach Kurt Anderson to offensive line coach, an NFL source said.
That would bring closure to a bizarre case that apparently stemmed from neighboring teenagers using Kromer’s beach chairs without his permission.
However, it is far from ideal for the Bills.
Rex Ryan hired Kromer last January, after he was fired as offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, because the Bills’ new coach firmly believed he was the best available coach to fix an offensive line that struggled badly last season.
New Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman had actually pegged Chris Foerster as his first choice to coach the offensive line, a league source said. The Bills received permission from Foerster’s previous employer, the Washington Redskins, to interview him for a lateral move as a replacement for former offensive line coach Pat Morris.
But Ryan wanted Kromer even though neither he nor Roman had any history of working with him. Through offseason workouts, Kromer was making the decision look smart. They had rave reviews for his technical guidance and teaching skills as the Bills shift to a more complex running game that calls for linemen to master both man-to-man and zone blocking.
Players felt the same way after spending an offseason with a coach who repeatedly tells the members of his position group that the starting five won’t necessarily be the “most talented” but rather the ones who show the best understanding of how to do the job.
“It’s awesome just learning something every day and just being able to take something and really always having a way to solve a problem every single day,” tackle Cordy Glenn said at the end of the Bills’ minicamp last month. “And there’s always something where you say, ‘Oh, I never thought of that before.’ ”
Now, there is ample reason to speculate the Bills’ line will be led by someone with only two years of experience as an assistant position coach.
The fact the Bills retained Anderson, who had assisted Morris, spoke volumes about the strong impression he made on Ryan and Roman. The main reason Anderson wasn’t immediately promoted to offensive line coach was that Ryan and Roman didn’t know all that much about him. Before former Bills coach Doug Marrone hired him in 2013, Anderson spent five seasons at Eastern Michigan University, serving as run-game coordinator from 2010 to 2012.
Ryan and Roman have since discovered that he has at least sufficient enough know-how to help them out of the potential jam that would be caused by Kromer’s firing.
Should the Bills be considering other options? There aren’t many attractive ones out there. Morris is still available, but his blocking scheme varies greatly from what Roman has employed. Two other available veteran offensive line coaches, Bob Wyley and Tony Wise, have superb reputations but don’t seem like good fits, either – even if they were inclined to go back to work.
The Bills, who are scheduled to open training camp at St. John Fisher College on July 31, have worked closely with the NFL in investigating Kromer’s arrest on a misdemeanor battery charge in Walton County, Florida. They put the 48-year-old Kromer on indefinite paid administrative leave two days later, and, the league source said, are solely responsible for any disciplinary action with Kromer.
Kromer is expected to enter a plea. However, the Bills are not obligated to wait for that or any plea deal the coach might work out with prosecutors, according to the NFL source, and they likely won’t.
Kromer’s son, Zachery Kromer, 21, also was charged with misdemeanor battery connected with the incident involving his father. The younger Kromer has entered a written plea of not guilty, and is due to appear in court on Sept. 2 for a pretrial hearing.
The source said that if the Bills dismiss Kromer, they would follow a course of firing him with cause and, therefore, not pay him his salary, believed to be slightly more than $1 million annually. Kromer then could file a grievance.
But the Bills don’t seem the least bit concerned about that right now.
With the start of training camp just around the corner, they are concentrating on getting their offensive-line coaching house in order.