Depending on which report you're listening to, his employment status could change at any moment. In fact, it may have already changed by the time you read this. On the other hand, it may not change at all – at least not for another year.
Chiefs' General Manager Scott Pioli – it still doesn't seem real, does it? – was officially introduced during a Wednesday press conference. And despite having fewer than 48 hours on the job, a number of fans are already wringing their hands, wondering why Pioli hasn't pulled the trigger on the incumbent coach's dismissal.
Without question, there's any number of reasons to want Edwards replaced. Many cite the Chiefs' 6-26 record over the past two seasons, although that doesn't rank high on my own personal list. I don't blame Herm for the collapse of the aging 2007 roster, for instance, since he had little to do with assembling it.
To me, his most egregious offenses have occurred off the field. For example, telling us how important it was to find out if Brodie Croyle was the future of the team, and then saddling the young quarterback with a conservative, predictable offense, a blocking unit that couldn't protect him during the inevitable third-and-long situations, and a position coach that 31 other teams wouldn't touch.
Then there's the way Edwards used four first-day draft picks on the likes of Glenn Dorsey, Tamba Hali, Turk McBride, and Tank Tyler, only to put their development in the hands of someone known less for grooming defensive linemen and more for a hand-fighting drill so critical to foretelling a player's ability that USC's Pete Carroll – one of the best coaches in the nation – all but mocked it a year ago.
I could keep going, but I wrote about those topics and several others during the course of the season, and there's no need to rehash them all again now. The topic of this column isn't to debate whether or not Edwards should be fired. Instead, I want to point out something that's a much-ignored but largely inarguable truth about the exciting direction the Chiefs are headed in.
No matter how one feels about him as a coach, it should be acknowledged that if it wasn't for Herm Edwards and the way he forced the Chiefs to abandon the stale and failed approach of Carl Peterson, it is entirely possible – it's rather likely, in fact – that none of these changes would be happening.
Over the past year, Edwards managed to succeed at something no Chiefs' coach before him even bothered to try. He recognized that the Chiefs' standard operating procedure – throwing hefty money at mediocre free agents, trading draft picks for aging players, relying on quarterbacks groomed elsewhere – was getting the team nowhere.
He didn't merely take note of that fact, though. He took action and did something about it. Edwards changed the culture at Arrowhead so drastically that, compared to the previous 20 years under Peterson, the 2008 season was almost unrecognizable.
Over the past 12 months, the Chiefs made the draft their primary focus. Despite coming off a bad season, they didn't embark on another halfhearted attempt to fill holes by overpaying average players in free agency. They gave extensive playing time to their rookies and other young players. And – perhaps biggest of all – they actually opened the season with a starting quarterback who the Chiefs themselves had drafted, breaking a streak so long it pre-dated Peterson's tenure.
Edwards, with the blessing of Clark Hunt, was responsible for all of those changes. In fact, according to a December article in the Kansas City Star, Peterson didn't understand the concept of building around youth even after the Chiefs had begun traveling down that path. Proving that a leopard can't change its spots, Peterson suggested in the spring that the Chiefs sign some high-priced veterans to help "ease" themselves into the rebuilding effort.
Imagine how different things would be right now if Edwards hadn't objected to that proposal. Let's try to picture how things would have turned out if Edwards and Peterson had been on the same page.
Obviously, those changes I ran down earlier – focusing on the draft, going with youth – never would have happened without Herm's philosophy driving those changes. And there's no way the Chiefs would have opened the season with a young player at quarterback.
There would have been a time-tested veteran under center, be it Damon Huard or someone the team picked up in free agency. Chad Pennington is an obvious candidate, as is Jeff Garcia, who would have been available for the Chiefs to sign a year earlier. Heck, if Edwards and Peterson were always in agreement, maybe Trent Green wouldn't have left Kansas City.
Aside from the quarterback position, the Chiefs surely would have thrown money at free agents to help out in other areas. When you add everything together, all of those elements would have been responsible for a few extra wins this year.
How many more? Well, with an experienced veteran at quarterback and some of the team's holes patched through free agency, we can assume the Chiefs wouldn't have blown those games where they had significant leads, namely the ones against the Bucs and Chargers.
That lifts them to four wins right off the bat. From there – following the Peterson formula, with most of the young players on the bench and experienced, veteran replacements on the field – they could have picked up at least two more wins somewhere along the way. That would bring them into the realm of six wins.
That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that the AFC West was won by a team that finished with an 8-8 record. When the final month of the season rolled around, the Chargers had only won four games.
As ridiculous as it seems, if the Chiefs had managed to get themselves into that six-win range, they would have been competing for a playoff spot late in the year. If you think they could have squeezed more than two extra wins out of some veteran additions, all the better.
To the credit of Kansas City's fan base, even when the team has been under .500 and mediocre, Arrowhead Stadium tends to be full and loud when Chiefs are still in the playoff picture. It's that enthusiasm that Peterson was often accused of taking advantage of, as he routinely assembled teams that seemed to be built more for bringing sell-out crowds in December than for bringing home a championship.
So let's stop and think for a moment. If the Chiefs were still operating under Peterson's M.O. – no rebuild, lots of veterans, an outside chance at a playoff spot, and larger crowds at Arrowhead – would we be seeing any of the changes to the organization that we're currently seeing?
For starters, we can safely assume that Peterson would not have stepped down as general manger under those circumstances. And if you believe he was pushed out, Hunt would have had less of a reason to force the issue. That fact alone means Scott Pioli wouldn't be in Kansas City right now.
But let's take things a step further. Even if he didn't step down, we know Peterson's contract would have been up after the 2009 season. That means the team still would have needed a new general manager.
With the Chiefs competing in their weak division, and plenty of assurances from the team mouthpieces about how they'd be even better in ‘09, would Hunt have felt the same urgency to blow things up?
Or with Edwards, Peterson, and the entire organization all on the same page, would Carl's replacement have been found a little closer to home? Someone like Bill Kuharich, for example?
Maybe the GM search still would have ended on the east coast – just in New York, not in Boston, to bring Peterson's former protégé Terry Bradway back to the Chiefs. After all, if Peterson was still employed by the team, he might have had a say in finding his replacement.
If the 2008 season had followed the Peterson blueprint, it's not impossible to imagine Hunt still bringing about these drastic changes we're seeing – it just seems a lot less likely. The massive disappointment of the 2-14 season combined with the shakeups in the team's philosophy made it a much easier decision for Hunt to continue down the path of change by looking for "a fresh set of eyes" from outside the organization.
But if Chiefs' brass had been united behind Peterson, not only would Carl himself still be in the picture, it would have been remarkably easy for his legacy to continue on without him. By promoting internally or bringing in a Peterson-approved replacement, the Chiefs' "new" regime would have looked a lot like the old one – and it would have been business as usual at One Arrowhead Drive.
That didn't happen, of course, because it hasn't actually been "business as usual" at Arrowhead for quite some time. The credit for that belongs to Herm Edwards.
So for everyone who's giddy with excitement over the hiring of Scott Pioli and can't wait to hear the news that Edwards has been shown the door, it's only fair to acknowledge that the coach you want fired is the same one who made this all possible.
Without Edwards helping the Chiefs break free from the chains of Carl Peterson, there's no telling how things would have ended up. It's safe to say that his legacy on the field won't be remembered too fondly, but Herm's efforts to shake up the status quo and bring much-needed changes to the Chiefs will have a positive and long-lasting impact on the team.
For that, he deserves our thanks.
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