Herman Edwards, HC, Kansas City Chiefs

by Terry Blount on January 11, 2006 @ 16:00:00 PDT

 


After two days of oft-tumultuous negotiations, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets agreed upon compensation that allowed the Chiefs to negotiate with Jets head coach Herman Edwards. Jan. 6, the Chiefs agreed to send their fourth-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft to compensate the Jets; this was the lowest compensation ever received for an NFL head coach. The Chiefs and Edwards agreed to a four-year, $12 million contract Jan. 8. While it is still unknown publicly why Edwards was allowed to leave the Jets, one thing is certain: Chiefs' president and general manager Carl Peterson hired the candidate he desired for the team's head coaching vacancy. Peterson reunited himself with an old friend of over 30 years by hiring Edwards, the candidate he truly wanted. Edwards also has ties to former Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil and the Chiefs' organization itself.

BACKGROUND

COLLEGE

Coming out of high school, Edwards was heavily recruited by a young receivers coach at University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) named Carl Peterson, who worked for a head coach named Dick Vermeil. This marked the first of many occasions in which the paths of Edwards, Peterson and Vermeil would cross. However, Edwards chose to begin his football career at the University of California-Berkley. He played cornerback for the Golden Bears in 1972 before leaving for Monterey Peninsula Junior College as a sophomore in 1973. He returned to Berkley in 1974 and earned All Pac-8 honors as a junior before rounding out his collegiate career at San Diego State during the 1975 season.

NFL

The Philadelphia Eagles signed Edwards as an undrafted free agent in 1977. Vermeil was the head coach in Philadelphia at the time with Peterson serving as the Eagles' receivers and tight ends coach. Both men were pleased to acquire the player that they coveted in 1972 at UCLA. Edwards started his first game as an Eagles rookie and went on to start 135 consecutive games at cornerback. Edwards was named to the All-NFC Second Team in 1980, and in 1982, he played in Super Bowl XV versus the Oakland Raiders (Oakland won 27-10). Edwards played a total of 10 seasons in the NFL; nine with the Eagles. He intercepted 33 passes while playing in Philly, one pick short of the career interception total in Eagles' history. Edwards moved on to the Los Angeles Rams in 1986 before completing his playing career with the Atlanta Falcons later that season.

COACHING

Edwards' coaching career began at San Jose State, where he worked from 1987-89. With Edwards coaching the defensive backs, the Spartans developed a hard-hitting, ball hawking defensive style. Opponents completed less than 50 percent of their passes against the tough Spartan defense.

In December of 1988, Edwards' success at San Jose State caught the eye of his old friend Peterson, who had just been named president and general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. Peterson wasted no time hiring Edwards and making him part of the NFL's Minority Coaching Fellowship program. Edwards began his stint on Marty Schottenheimer's staff in Kansas City as a talent scout and as an assistant to Chiefs defensive backs coach Tony Dungy. Edwards was named defensive backs coach in 1992 and worked with All-Pro players such as DBs Albert Lewis, Kevin Ross and Dale Carter. Under Edwards, the Chiefs defense was consistently among the top units in the league in pass defense as well as the turnover ratio. In 1992, the KC defense held opposing offenses to a NFL-best average of 159 passing yards per game. In 1995, Edwards became a scout in the Chiefs' pro personnel department.

Former Chiefs assistant Tony Dungy was hired as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1996, and he made Edwards his assistant head coach/defensive backs. During Edwards' tenure in Tampa Bay (1996-2000), the Buccaneers defense established itself as one of the top defensive teams in all of football. The Buccaneers' defense ranked near the top in several defensive categories and was among the top 10 versus the pass in four of the five years Edwards coached in Tampa Bay.

HEAD COACH HERMAN EDWARDS

After his successes with Tampa Bay, Edwards had established himself as an up-and-coming talent within the coaching fraternity and was named the new head coach of the New York Jets Jan. 28, 2001. Edwards piloted the Jets to a 10-6 mark and a playoff berth during his first season in New York.

The Jets got off to a 2-5 start to the 2002 season. During a mid-season press conference, a reporter asked if Edwards feared the team would quit on him after such a slow start. What followed became Jets folklore, as a prideful and nearly tearful Edwards replied with his incredulous response "You PLAY to WIN the GAME!" The team seemingly absorbed their coach's conviction after Edwards' spirited admonishment of anyone who would question his team's dedication. The Jets went on a 7-2 run to finish 9-7 and win the AFC East division title.

The Jets earned another wild card berth in 2004 and beat the San Diego Chargers 20-17 in the first round of the playoffs. The following week the Jets dropped a close game in the second round, losing 20-17 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Jets made the playoffs in three of the five years Edwards coached in the Meadowlands. However, the 2005 season was not kind to the Jets or Edwards. The Jets started the season 2-5 before their bye week, finishing 4-12. Injuries to key players such as QB Chad Pennington, RB Curtis Martin and most of their offensive line proved to be the team's undoing in 2005. Edwards ended up with a 39-41 regular season record while in New York, with a postseason record of 2-3.

COACHING PHILOSOPHY

While coaching the Jets, Edwards' team established a reputation for playing hard-nosed defense that emphasized turnovers combined with run-based, grind-it-out offenses. Edwards' teams in New York were consistently near the top of the league in pass defense and takeaways. The Jets offenses under Edwards were built around RB Curtis Martin, who rushed for 1,000 yards or more in four of Edwards' five seasons in New York.

Table: New York Jets - Offense (2001-05)

Year
Pass Yds
Rnk
Rush Yds
Rnk
2001
2871
29th
2054
4th
2002
3619
17th
1618
22nd
2003
3524
14th
1635
25th
2004
3231
22nd
2388
3rd
2005
2989
27th
1328
31st

Table: New York Jets - Defense (2001-05)

Year
Pass Yds
Rnk
Rush Yds
Rnk
2001
3170
5th
2154
28th
2002
3685
20th
1973
18th
2003
3243
11th
2294
28th
2004
3312
14th
1566
5th
2005
2755
2nd
2185
29th

POTENTIAL IMPACT IN KANSAS CITY

The Chiefs made wholesale changes to their defensive unit prior to the 2005 season, a unit that had been woefully porous during the four previous campaigns. The Chiefs signed numerous free agents, such as CB Patrick Surtain, S Sammy Knight and LB Kendrell Bell. KC also drafted Texas LB Derrick O. Johnson in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. While these additions seemed to improve a very poor defense, the Chiefs' 2005 defense still displayed poor tackling and coverage skills. KC's current defensive coordinator is Gunther Cunningham, and it is unknown at this time if he will be retained on Edwards' new staff in Kansas City. There has been speculation that Edwards might try to bring Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson to Kansas City.

Offensively Edwards will inherit one of most potent offensive attacks in the league, as the KC offense has been one of the premier units in the NFL over the last several seasons. While historically Edwards' offenses have been very run oriented, the Chiefs offense is usually a more balanced attack. The Chiefs will likely return such starters as QB Trent Green, as well as 2005 Pro Bowlers RB Larry Johnson, OLT Willie Roaf and OLG Brian Waters. Another Pro Bowler, ORG Will Shields, contemplated retirement following the 2004 season and hasn't confirmed if he'll return for the 2006 season. In addition, Edwards' offensive arsenal will probably include perennial all-pro TE Tony Gonzalez.

Edwards has vowed to keep this group intact to the best of his ability.

"Well, the one [offense] that's here is pretty good. Last time I checked, I walked out there, they beat us up opening day. Obviously, this offense has been prolific in the last three or four seasons. I mean they can score points," Edwards said. "And uh, look here now, I'm not dumb now. You don't change things just to change now. OK? I think sometimes people expect when a new coach comes in 'well, he's going to change this he's going to change that,'" Edwards added.

Edwards will inherit one of the hottest young backs in the league in Johnson - a tough, slashing back who currently has a streak of nine consecutive games with 100 rushing yards or more. Green brings four consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons to the table, while Waters, Roaf and Shields are part of what many call the best offensive line in the NFL

Edward's situation in Kansas City is reminiscent of Jon Gruden's arrival as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002. Gruden had been given the reigns of a team with an extraordinary defense and a less-than-stellar offense. Gruden didn't tweak the already-successful Buccaneers defense but focused his skills on improving the Tampa Bay offense. The result was a world championship for the Buccaneers in 2002.

In Kansas City, the defensive-minded Edwards will have the opportunity to improve the Chiefs defense while having the luxury of making few changes to an already capable offensive attack. It is probable that current Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders won't return to KC in 2006, especially when one considers that Saunders' name is being tossed about in the coaching world as a possible successor for one of the many available head coaching positions. If Saunders doesn't return, possible candidates for KC's new offensive coordinator include Jets offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, former Oakland Raiders head Coach Norv Turner, Chiefs offensive line coach Mike Solari or Chiefs wide receivers coach Charlie Joiner.

No matter who finally gets the job, there is an excellent chance that the current offensive system will remain status quo, even without Saunders at the helm. While many of the players on KC's offense are on the wrong side of 30 years old, their performance in 2005 seemed to indicate that the unit, while getting longer in the tooth, still has something left in the tank. The idea of scraping such a prolific attack and rebuilding seems unlikely. Making adjustments to the defense while leaving the offense intact will be a much easier task for Edwards and his new staff than rebuilding and installing new systems on both sides of the ball.

SUMMARY

While it is still unknown as to why the Jets and Edwards parted company, it is a foregone conclusion that Peterson is thrilled to have his old friend, as well as protege, aboard as the new head coach in KC. Peterson will ask Edwards to whip the Chiefs defense into shape. Edwards will try to bring his fierce "Play to WIN the GAME" attitude to the Chiefs in the hopes that the Chiefs will soon PLAY to WIN another game: the Super Bowl.

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About Terry Blount

Terry Blount has been a self-proclaimed fantasy 'GEEK' since 1991. Terry's writing tends to focus on NFL players, team analyses and various draft and team management strategies. His writing is both informative and entertaining but more importantly, educational for the fantasy viewer.

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