Herm The Workaholic

"Five things come to mind when I think of Herman Edwards: First is leadership, second is vision, third is conviction, fourth is a passionate pursuit of personal excellence, and fifth is that he's rarely, if ever, satisfied with things as they are." - Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue

Herm Edwards got raked over the coals pretty good the other day. It's not hard to see why. He definitely put his foot in it when he compared scoring 30 points in an NFL game to Arena Football.

As much as I'd like this moment to be Herm's "You play to win the game," KC-style (hey, it'd be entertaining), it's not. Where the Chiefs head coach is concerned, actions always speak louder than words. There was no better testament to this fact than HBO's Hard Knocks miniseries, which concluded Wednesday night with the fifth and final episode.

There's been quite a few entertaining moments packed in over the last 35 days. From defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham's inspiring tirades, to Larry Johnson's return, to the amazing scenery (Arrowhead Stadium, Kelli Croyle and October Gonzalez), dull moments were hard to find. But here's what stood out to me the most:

Herm Edwards might be the hardest working head coach in the NFL.

It wasn't until the final episode that we really saw Herm relax, as he and Carl Peterson dined with their wives at a restaurant in Kansas City. It was a well-earned night out for the head coach. I think he's busted his rear end as much as any player since training camp began.

Hard Knocks started with Edwards running the stairs at Arrowhead Stadium. We saw him sprinting the fields at River Falls and running a treadmill as the series finished up. This might seem like a silly thing to praise an NFL coach for, but let's be honest – how many of these guys are really in great shape?

At 53 years old, Edwards could have easily ballooned up to unhealthy proportions like Denny Green (who used to bring bags of fast food and candy bars to his press conferences according to a friend in Arizona), Romeo Crennel, Bill Parcells, Art Shell or Andy Reid. Instead, he's in great physical condition. Don't discount the importance of this. NFL head coaches are required to put in long hours. It's an exhausting profession. Being fit can't hurt, and it also sets a great example for your players (Jared Allen's beer belly is gone, anyway).

Herm prepares his body for the rigors of NFL coaching. That's why he's able to exude such an energetic persona on the practice field.

During training camp, it was fascinating to see him work with a different position group almost every day in the early stages of a practice session. Sure, he loves working with defensive backs, and clearly relished the opportunity to do so as often as possible. But the day I hit River Falls, Edwards was working firsthand with his punter and long snapper. Another day, he'd be with the offensive line, wide receivers, running backs or linebackers.

Off the field, HBO clearly showed us how Herm's nose is constantly against the grindstone. Here's a man who makes millions of dollars, and yet personally drove the eight hours to Wisconsin, before any player hit camp. Upon arriving, he made a sign to welcome his team to River Falls.

Amusing? Perhaps, but don't trivialize the significance of boosting team morale. When Kansas City's chartered buses pulled up to the dorms, it was a nasty, rainy, grey day, and few NFL players look forward to strenuous two-a-day's. When they saw their head coach goofing around, it had to lift their spirits just a little bit.

Herm pays attention to every player on the roster. He could have easily shunned Priest Holmes this summer. No one would have blamed him for attempting to eliminate the potential distraction Priest's comeback posed to his football team. And yet we saw him do just the opposite, almost to the point of babysitting the running back at times.

And it's not just the big names. In the final episode of Hard Knocks, Edwards was shown dispensing quasi-fatherly advice to third-string quarterback Casey Printers, who didn't even make the team. He could have easily left that responsibility to his quarterbacks coach.

The most glaring example of just how hard Herm Edwards works – and how much he cares about his football team – came in episode four. Edwards apparently slept on his office couch for two days while he agonized over the starting quarterback decision, surviving on vending machine food and drink in between film review.

Watching the bleary-eyed head coach labor over his choice, I felt like stepping through my TV screen and into his office to say, "Herm! It's okaaaaaaaay! At the end of the day, these quarterbacks will still be here in the morning. Go home."

No one asked Herm to camp out at the stadium, and no one would have questioned him had he left the facility to go home to his family. That's dedication.

This is a profession where guys like Mike Tice bet on games. It's a select fraternity of only 32 individuals, and yet people such as former Dolphins coach Nick Saban cast aside the responsibility after only two years, retreating into the college ranks and leaving half-built teams in their wake. Not Herm.

During camp, it seemed like his only release was laughing at Bernard Pollard dance videos and jovially sending Dwayne Bowe off on donut runs. Can you imagine what his schedule must look like?

All of this was reinforced when I met Edwards this summer. During an appearance on Warpaint Illustrated's Out of Bounds Podcast it was clear he was enjoying himself, but was reminded by an aide toward the end that it was time to wrap up. A few minutes later he was whisked away to take care of another responsibility – I'm guessing it didn't involve donuts or dancing.

But what really hit home was the brief conversation we had. Edwards commented on a column I wrote a few months earlier that discussed questions people have raised about his qualifications as a head coach (he's never been a coordinator). He was only too happy to relate a fact few people outside the organization know – Edwards was offered seven coordinator jobs during his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneeers.

Now, I'm a nobody in the world of Chiefs media coverage. Rufus Dawes probably has a better chance of getting an interview with Larry Johnson or Ty Law, and if I got on the wrong side of someone at One Arrowhead Drive, they could easily squash me like a bug. Herm didn't have to give me the time of day, but he did.

So, Herm's a hard worker. He had to be disappointed when the Chiefs were blown out by the New Orleans Saints in the third preseason game. What did he say immediately following that game?

"I did a bad job," said Edwards.

Herm wasn't pointing the finger at anyone but himself after that loss. Is it any wonder so many of his own players (Tamba Hali, Larry Johnson, Boomer Grigsby, Damon Huard) emulate his hard-working nature? And it's got to rub off on his coaching staff (I hear Herm and Gunther hold competitions to see who can stay awake the longest).

I guess we shouldn't be surprised. All Edwards has ever really known is hard work. As an un-drafted free agent, he had a tough NFL path ahead of him, yet still became a starting cornerback and never missed a game in nine seasons.

So in light of all this, I think it's been a long, hard offseason for Kansas City's head coach. What's next?

HBO wrapped it up beautifully.

"I'm watching," said Edwards. "And the guys that care, the guys that are doing the right things to get better, those are the guys that will play. Period."

"Let's go to work."


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