Edwards Has His Team – Part I

Over the weekend we sat down with Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards for an exclusive interview and talked about cuts, his quarterback, his new coaches and the upcoming season. In less than a week his team will travel to New England to face one of the top teams in the AFC. Can the Chiefs win? Are they ready for the 2008 season? What type of team will they be?

While sitting in Edwards' new office, which oversees the new practice facility, it became apparent he was in pre-game mode. His office was clean, there were no papers around, and he calmly sat behind his desk.

With the Patriots looming on Sunday, Edwards' coaching staff has been preparing the gameplan. It's not the easiest of openers, but Edwards wouldn't want it any other way.

He's building his football team to go up against the best of the best in the NFL. If Edwards wants the Chiefs to be a playoff team and a championship team someday, then he has to look no further than what New England has done the last decade.

But there are people who don't know what to expect out of the 2008 Chiefs. Edwards, however, knows he has skilled players, some of which are ready for primetime and some who will learn on the job.

"We're less experienced, more athletic," Edwards said of his 2008 squad. "That's a doubled-edged sword. We're playing a team that's a veteran-laden team for the most part. Lots of guy that have played in a lot of games, a lot of playoff games, and won a lot of playoff games. They're Super Bowl champions, so that's what you're dealing with, but I think our inexperience and our youthful exuberance is something you can't quantify."

Edwards is right because you never know what young players will accomplish. One thing is certain with this football team – it will have plenty of ups and downs. How the young players react to those situations will determine how many games they win.

"That's what's great about these guys," said Edwards. "They have the ability to bounce back. They don't know what they don't know, and that's a good thing. But this team is way more athletic than it's ever been in the last two years. There are 19 players on this team with three years or less experience, and out of those 19 players from the last three drafts, 11 of them are starters. All of a sudden half your football team is your last three drafts. That's good for us because that's the direction we want to be in."

Ultimately, Edwards and his team will be judged on wins and losses. He knows that better than anyone, and he's not wavering in his belief that his players will be ready to play the Patriots this weekend.

"Now we have to get them to play well, and we've got to win with them," said Edwards. "That's the process of what you're dealing with. I'm enjoying it, I think the players are enjoying it and it's going to be, for us, a very exciting season."

Exciting? For Edwards, yes, because he knows that for the first time in his tenure as KC's head coach he a roster comprised of his players - rookies he drafted, lesser known free agents, and some wily veterans who still have game.

In order for all of that to mesh, Edwards had to put together the right combination of coaches this offseason. Despite the staff being smaller than the one Edwards had a year ago, it has a common theme.

"We're more unified on how we want to play," said Edwards. "That's what you always have to recognize, how you want to play football as a team. Not segmented - how is the whole team going to play to help each other? We have a sense of that. I think the players have a sense of it too, how we're going to play."

"Team football is about protecting each other's interests. When you go out on the field you understand there are some things you shouldn't do because you put the other team - that's about to get the ball or defend the ball or kick the ball off - in a bad predicament."

How the Chiefs break out of those predicaments will be on the coaches, who make changes during the game. That's one part of his staff Edwards likes, especially on the offensive side with Chan Gailey. He and the other coaches are flexible.

"I think Chan does a great job of adjusting," said Edwards. "He's a guy that can go in at halftime and say OK, here's what they're doing, here's what we're going to do. It's an offense that's simple enough where the players understand this is what we've got to do now. You can adjust as the game is being played."

"These guys are starting to realize how we play and what it's going to take for us to play and win. Our staff has done a great job of teaching. They're good at making adjustments. That's the first thing you learn. You've got to have a staff that can adjust."

And teaching is key for this football team. The entire offseason, in talking to all the coaches on both sides of the ball, it was clear that the level of success for the 2008 Chiefs will be determined by what happens in the classroom.

One of the primary examples of that is quarterback Brodie Croyle, and the maturity he's displayed thus far this preseason. Though he's yet to throw a touchdown pass, the Chiefs are prepared to give him complete control over the offense all year. There isn't any doubt in the coaching staff's mind that they have their future quarterback ready, and Edwards knows the role Croyle has on his team.

"You always wonder every week in this quarterback-driven league, of what the quarterback does," said Edwards. "If he throws touchdown passes, everyone's excited. For us, and for a lot of teams, it's not what he does so far as his personal stats, it's how he orchestrates what we're asking him to do that week against that team."

And what will the Chiefs ask Croyle to do? According to Edwards, it won't involve four touchdowns in one game or 40 passes. It's simply whatever's necessary to win that week. All Croyle has to do is control the game, manage it and good things will happen.

"Brodie's a quarterback, in my opinion, a very young quarterback, and what he's got to learn is don't lose the game," said Edwards. "Don't do things to lose the game, and that's what all young guys have to come to grip with. They all want to win the game, but don't lose it, and if you do that we've got a great chance to win."

Tomorrow – Part II - We talk with Edwards about his defense, special teams and the New England Patriots.

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