It was an easy choice, and probably the most logical choice the Chiefs have made since hiring Hank Stram. The hiring of Herman Edwards came as no surprise to anyone in Kansas City, especially at Warpaint Illustrated where we accurately predicted it would happen in October of 2005.
The way it happened might have shocked some people who thought the Chiefs could pull it off – especially those in New York. But Edwards was destined to become head coach of the Chiefs years ago when he was an assistant in the mid 90's.
In an upcoming interview we did with Edwards for Warpaint Illustrated's Season Preview Edition out next month, he revealed that this was the second time he interviewed for the Chiefs head coaching job. When Marty Schottenheimer suddenly retired, Carl Peterson talked to Edwards about the job before he settled on Gunther Cunningham after the 1998 season.
Edwards said he wasn't ready to be a head coach. Instead, he went to Tampa Bay and became defensive backs coach and assistant head coach, working under Tony Dungy. That led to a stint in New York as the Jets head coach and that set the training ground for the Chiefs.
"When I left to go to Tampa Bay," said Edwards, "Carl Peterson told me that he was letting me go on loan."
When Peterson introduced Edwards as the teams' new head coach back in January, there was a sense of irony that the worst kept secret in the NFL had come to fruition. Edwards took the podium and very clearly set the tone. His days in New York were behind him and he was now focused on turning the Chiefs into one of the NFL's elite, a team that wins division titles, playoff games and contends for the Super Bowl every season.
His words were so moving that at the Arrowhead Club that afternoon, former Chiefs linebacker Bobby Bell stood up on his surgically replaced hips and knees and told Edwards that he was ready to play for him.
Knowing Bobby Bell like I do, he could probably still make plays. But that single moment left no doubts that just minutes after his press conference, Edwards was in charge of the team.
Over the course of the next several weeks, Edwards made some much-needed coaching changes, cut veterans and laid the groundwork for the free agent market and NFL Draft. He started making preparations for organized team activities (OTAs), mini camp and the upcoming training camp in River Falls, Wisconsin.
During those early months on the job, Edwards rejuvenated and energized this team and put them on his shoulders. He changed everything, including where his players sit in the locker room. The offense and defense are no longer separated. This is a team, and every player has a role. Cornerback Patrick Surtain sits next to running back Larry Johnson and so on. They were going to win and lose as a team, with no single player carrying more importance than another.
It was Edwards' way of uniting this team, and it worked. Players have enjoyed the attitude that he brings to practices. Meetings are scheduled before practices so players can get their homework done.
The practices are crisp, fast-paced and every second is accounted for. When the team practices 11-on-11 drills, defenders scream and yell and exchange high-five's after taking the ball away from the offense.
I even saw veteran John Browning getting into the act when Derrick Johnson grabbed an interception during a May practice. This is a man who is so soft spoken that I don't think he's said anything to the media since he became a Chief ten years ago.
Edwards brings enthusiasm and experience to the coaching staff. He's infectious, to say the least, and when he gets out on the practice field and throws passes to wide receivers you wonder how fortunate fans and players are to have him in town. You just have to marvel at his energy. It has to rub off on his players and coaches.
It's certainly different from Dick Vermeil, and the players seem to have made the adjustment to Edwards quickly. This is a different team compared to the one that ended the season 10-6, a play or two away from getting into the playoffs.
Can Edwards get this team over the hump in 2006? I wouldn't bet against him, nor would I bet that the team he takes to River Falls is the same one that lines up against the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener. I foresee a couple of surprises along the way.
Edwards has said that the best players will play, regardless of age, talent or attitude.
As a player, what more can you ask out of your head coach? As a fan, you'll finally get to see some young, talented players get a chance to prove themselves on the field. Everyone will be involved and it'll be Edwards job to make the final call on the 53-man roster.
That kind of approach could give the Chiefs that one extra win that might get them into the tournament in January.
Next Move: Gunther Cunningham
Move #10 – Carl Peterson Hires Herman Edwards
Move #9: Herman Edwards Succeeds Dick Vermeil
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