Herm Edwards: Martyr?

With Carl Peterson having made his official farewell, and the Chiefs' closely-guarded search for a new GM still in progress, attention now turns to the fate of Head Coach Herman Edwards. What does the future hold for Edwards, and is it the future he deserves?

Kansas City's disappointing 2008 season, paired with the announcement in December of Peterson's departure, had many Chiefs fans calling for Edwards' head weeks ago. Despite competitive showings in several games during the second half of the season, the Chiefs posted a franchise-worst 2-14 record.

However, the team held a lead in most games through November and December. Quarterback Tyler Thigpen showed initial promise, though his production diminished as the season came to a close. The defense regressed to embarrassment. The large rookie class, meant to be the symbol of this season's showcase of hope for the future, largely failed to meet the expectations heaped upon it.

Were all of these factors the fault of Herm Edwards? Would replacing Edwards turn the team around? The case can certainly be made.

When Edwards arrived in January of 2006, the Chiefs were coming off the high-octane Dick Vermeil years in which the offense set a high standard of excellence and broke numerous records. Many of the offensive pieces were still in place -Trent Green, Willie Roaf, Will Shields, Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann, Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez, Eddie Kennison, Dante Hall - but Edwards could see that the celebrated offense didn't have much tread left on the tires. The writing was on the wall.

Edwards, for his part, preached what many Chiefs fans had been wanting to hear - running game and defense, and vowed to restore the defensive swagger that had abandoned Arrowhead years before. Now at the end of his third year, Edwards has not followed through on his stated goals.

Despite losing Roaf to an unexpected retirement prior to the 2006 season, and after losing Green for much of the year due to a concussion in the team's first game, the last vestiges of the Chiefs' high-scoring offense held on long enough to keep the team competitive. Behind a still-strong offensive line, Johnson racked up 1,789 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, and the Chiefs squeaked their way into the playoffs. Year one was deemed a success.

Year two, the wheels fell off. Shields retired. Hall, no longer the "Human Joystick" and without his Vermeil-led support group, was sent packing. Green was traded in the offseason, making room for Edwards' chosen successor, Brodie Croyle, who failed to win the starting job in the preseason.

The defense, despite two full years of re-tooling, could not pick up the slack for a faltering offense. The Chiefs looked old, the offense looked predictable, the defense looked soft. Heading into the 2008 season, Edwards had compiled enough evidence to move forward with his full-scale, youth-infused rebuilding plan. Clark Hunt and Carl Peterson signed off on a new direction, and Kansas City became a place where "the kids would play."

Foregoing any real venture into the free agency market, the Chiefs instead piled all of their eggs into the draft choice basket. Trading Jared Allen, the 26-year old league sack leader from the previous season, was the riskiest move of all, and also the most paradoxical.

Yes, there were the public and private clashes between Allen and Peterson, but we can only wonder exactly how hard Edwards and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham really fought to keep Allen in Kansas City. If Edwards had stepped up and opposed trading Allen, would things have gone the way they did?

Subtract Glenn Dorsey from the 2008 Chiefs defense, and add Jared Allen (with the Chiefs still being able to use their initial first-round draft choice on a left tackle like Branden Albert), and the team would have been no worse, if not better. Instead, the organization traded away an impact player who plays a premium position while entering the prime of his career.

Don't get me wrong, I was in favor of the Allen trade. His disagreements with Peterson aside, I still feel the entire situation was about money. Allen could have easily foreseen that, had he stayed, he would have outlasted Peterson.

If the acrimony with Peterson was truly Allen's only gripe with the Chiefs - as Allen said - then would it have really been impossible to last just another year or two under Peterson's watch? Instead, Allen forced the Chiefs' hand, the trade was made, and we will continue to study the results.

I just can't help but wonder - did Edwards even try to keep Allen in town? Or was the idea of adding even more of his own chosen young players too tempting?

In any event, things went on to happen the way they did. The Chiefs brought in an impressive haul of rookies, with many experts praising the draft class. Even more rookies were added to the team as undrafted free agents, with players like Dantrell Savage and Maurice Leggett showing promise. The Chiefs had successfully implemented Edwards' plan for the future.

The problem? The plan crashed and burned. Miserably.

Croyle's inability to remain healthy threw the quarterback position into flux, where it remains today despite the potential Thigpen demonstrated. The offensive line, left nearly untouched other than the addition of Branden Albert, underperformed for much of the season, allowing too many sacks and failing to consistently pave the way for a running game.

The defense descended further into the abyss, rivaling the dreadful Greg Robinson defenses of 2001-2003, with an all-time record low in sacks for a season as bad icing on an awful cake. There was no strong defense. There was little evidence of the game-controlling running game Edwards pledged to stick to. He failed to deliver on his own stated goals.

There are those who make the case that the Chiefs should retain Herm Edwards, giving him "one last chance" to mold the players he chose into the team he envisioned. But as a Chiefs fan, judging from these last three seasons (each of which was worse than the one before it), I can only wonder - have we not seen enough? Edwards tried to get the job done. Unfortunately, the results are simply not there.

Now, with a new administration soon to arrive, it is a perfect time to make a clean sweep. With new leadership - and a new coaching staff - the Chiefs can take steps in the coming months to wash away the awful taste of the last two years.

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