Move #7: Giving the Rock to Larry Johnson

In this edition of the Top 10 moves of the off-season, we take a look at Herman Edwards' decision to announce that running back Larry Johnson would be his 2006 starter. Days after he took the job, Edwards had no idea that Priest Holmes status would still be up in the air. But he knew that LJ deserved an opportunity.

There is no question that Larry Johnson has paid his dues playing behind Holmes, Derrick Blaylock and anyone else that the Chiefs threw at him that kept him off the field. Under Dick Vermeil, Johnson struggled for respect despite the fact that he's been Kansas City's best running back the last two years.

Edwards didn't want to go into the season giving the impression that a running back rotation was in his team's best interest. Edwards' climb through the coaching ranks was based on his defensive abilities, but he knows a great thing when he sees it. Johnson is a great thing.

With that mindset, Edwards told Johnson that he was the starter. He also made it clear what he expected out of his young running back. It was time for him to step up and be a leader.

The move ended a three-year odyssey that began when Carl Peterson drafted Johnson in 2003. In hindsight, it wasn't a popular decision, but it was a shrewd move, and it might have salvaged a franchise that has failed to live up to its potential in recent years.

Holmes' tenure as a productive NFL running back is over. He might play again in a Chiefs uniform later this season, but he'll never again be the back that ruled the NFL from 2001 to 2004.

There might not have been a better player in the Red Zone than Holmes. But in the last two seasons as a part-time starter and back up, Johnson rushed for 2,331 yards and scored an amazing 29 touchdowns. If he stays healthy, he could post similar numbers in one season alone.

That has Edwards drooling with anticipation. He saw right through Johnson and knew that his angry running style was best suited to run an offense that controls the ball and takes time off the clock.

Armed with one of the NFL's best offensive lines, Edwards has a running back who is easily capable of shattering many rushing records. But to Johnson, records don't mean much.

He wants to get guys like Willie Roaf, Will Shields and Trent Green to the Super Bowl. He understands his time will come, and he may break records, but winning games for his team and making a statement in the post season are far more important.

I've said many times that I think Larry Johnson's career will mirror that of Jim Brown's. At 26, he's entering the prime of what could be an amazing three-year run. Chiefs fans will be witnessing something that only happens once every couple of decades in the NFL.

Johnson is already a hero in Kansas City. Fans can't get enough of him and NFL defenses can't stop him. With Edwards in his corner, the Chiefs offense could be more predictable this season, but there are few NFL teams that can stop Johnson.

I think that Johnson is the best running back in the NFL, and I'm certain that he'll have Eric Dickerson panicking over losing his rushing record in Week 15, 16 or 17.

Johnson is one of those rare athletes who is his own man off the field while being devoted to his team on the field. That's the way Brown did it back in the 60's and that's the way Johnson is doing it now.

Edwards is a players coach. He knows a great thing when he sees it. He challenged Johnson to be a leader, and he's responded. He's ready to take the helm and guide the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.

Edwards has given him the keys to the offense, and it's doubtful after three years of uncertainty and politics that he will let his head coach, his teammates or his legion of fans down. Top Stories