Herm Is An Upgrade

Watching HBO's Inside the NFL last month, I was struck with a sudden revelation as Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards went about his business on the sidelines.

Edwards is known as a defensive head coach, and rightfully so. He's been the major catalyst for the improvement of KC's defense.

But against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, Herm was dabbling on the other side of the ball.

Running back Larry Johnson came off the field hot. The 49ers had just stuffed him, and he was visibly frustrated. He hurled an expletive at no one in particular as he ripped off his helmet, fuming.

Edwards immediately offered his support.

"It'll come, it'll come," said Edwards, patting Johnson on the back.

Later on, with Johnson sitting on the bench, Edwards took the time to go one-on-one with his star player. He leaned over and stared right into Johnson's face.

"Just be patient," said Edwards. "You're going to be okay. It's okay. We're gonna be fine."

And things ended up turning out just fine that day. The Chiefs blasted the 49ers, 41-0. Johnson ripped off 101 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Was Edwards to credit for that offensive explosion? Absolutely not. He had a far larger hand in the dominant performance of the defense.

But what struck me was how Herm cared enough about Johnson and the offense to spend time with them during the game. I believe that's a stark contrast to his predecessor, Dick Vermeil.

I hate to throw Vermeil under the bus, but in my opinion, he wasn't a complete head coach. He cared far too much about the offense, to the detriment of the other side of the ball.

I can't ever recall seeing Dick sitting down with a defensive player on the sidelines. It's almost comical to envision him kneeling in front of Ryan Sims, telling him to relax and rush the passer.

Whenever we saw highlights of Vermeil on the sideline, he always had his nose stuck in the business of his quarterback, or maybe the offensive line. He was content to let his position coaches handle the defense.

So as I saw Herm sit down with Johnson, I wasn't reminded of Vermeil in the least. I was reminded of Marty Schottenheimer.

You've probably seen the famous NFL Films clip of Schottenheimer and the late Derrick Thomas together. Thomas is mad about something, so mad that he can't even concentrate on the head coach mere inches from his own nose.

Schottenheimer looks deep into Thomas' eyes, his arms resting on his superstar's shoulders. He tells Thomas to look at him. He says Thomas needs to forget whatever it was that just transpired on the field. If Thomas doesn't let it go, Schottenheimer says, he won't be able to perform in overtime.

Now, you might say, "hey, that was a defensive player!" And you'd be right. But here's the thing. Marty used the same approach with an offensive player years later.

There's another NFL Films clip that shows Schottenheimer as San Diego's head coach. In a scene that's eerily similar to the one with Marty and DT, Schottenheimer conducts a one-on-one with Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.

I realize that many Chiefs fans aren't too thrilled about this Marty-Herm comparison, but if you look at that same 49ers game, Edwards also exhibited one of Vermeil's best traits. The Chiefs went for the jugular when they had a chance to put the game away. They attacked downfield immediately after a turnover.

It's clear to me that Edwards is a definite improvement over Vermeil. He's a complete coach, and it will serve Kansas City well in the future.

The rebuilding of KC's offense has already begun. Edwards has his handpicked offensive coordinator to facilitate the transition. Mike Solari and Edwards go way back.

I realize Edwards is no offensive genius, but at least the Chiefs coaching staff is on the same page. Everyone sees eye to eye. There's a groupthink philosophy on Edwards' staff. Everyone's ego is held in check for the greater good of the team.

But most importantly, Edwards cares about the entire team. Even though he was an offensive coach, do you think Vermeil and Johnson were ever comfortable enough with each other to express their feelings, as Johnson and Edwards have already done?

Johnson would later score a touchdown in that 49ers game. As he came off the field, a giddy Edwards greeted him.

"It's okay, baby," said Edwards excitedly. "I ain't gonna give up on you, now!"

And Johnson smiled, with good reason. His last head coach had once told him he would never break a 40-yard run in the NFL. He had given up on him from the very beginning.

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