Has Herm Learned?

All during the offseason, Chiefs fans heard about Herman Edwards game-management problems. We heard all the horror stories: he has one assistant whose entire job is to manage time outs, he makes poor strategic choices and—worst of all—he plays not to lose the game.

Of course, Edwards has never been supported by a high-powered offense. Oh, he had some playmakers in New York. He had Curtis Martin and Chad Pennington, who, during his infrequent bouts of health, is actually a good field general. He had some good years from wide receivers like Laveranues Coles and Santana Moss. Even so, Herm's New York critics accused him of alligator arms when it came time to seize victory late in games. Exhibit A was New York's 2004 playoff loss to Pittsburgh.

When Herm came to Kansas City, he said all the right things. He said he would not change the offense. He claimed to like a unit that scored 27 points per game. He said he was not a fool.

Then we watched the formerly high-powered Chiefs score 10 and six points in their first two games.

There were explanations. There are ALWAYS explanations when things go wrong in the NFL. The team lost Willie Roaf in the offseason. The Bengals knocked Trent Green out of action before the barbecues had cooled on Opening Day. But one disquieting truth overrode all those words: when the Chiefs had a chance to put away the Broncos in Invesco, offensive coordinator Mike Solari crawled into a cocoon.

I admit, I panicked. I HATED Herm Edwards. I predicted doom and gloom for the 2006 season. I bolted a camper on the back of my bandwagon and tried to pretend I liked the outdoors. Then came last week.

Yes, it was only the 49ers (hardly a powerhouse). And, yes, I know that things are never as pretty as a 41-0 score leads you to believe. But what truly tickled my fancy were the decisions Herm made throughout the game.

Herm went for the throat at the game's most critical moments.

The question for this week's game against the Cardinals is: was it only a mirage? Will Herm use the pass to control the ball if he is up by three points in the fourth quarter and the Cardinals crowd the box, or does he only have that kind of courage when he's up by three touchdowns?

Watching these kinds of decisions will tell you more about the Chiefs than the final score will. Even if the Chiefs blow out the Cardinals, it will prove very little to the rest of the NFL. Cardinals head coach Dennis Green is in full panic mode after naming rookie quarterback Matt Leinart his starter on Monday and waffling on the decision by Wednesday. Leinart will play against the Chiefs and no one knows what happens after Sunday (including Denny Green). Meanwhile, prize free agent Edgerrin James is averaging a pathetic 3.1 yards per carry and the defense is one of the worst in the NFL through four games. This is a team in disarray.

Of course, if the Chiefs lose, we get to hear more explanations. Edwards will say his team needs to learn to win on the road. The other guys get paid too. And we will certainly hear how the players need to execute and play as a team.

If you really want to know this team's direction, pay attention to the decisions made along the sideline and forget about the empty words.

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