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Old 08-14-2006, 09:17 AM  
Nzoner Nzoner is online now
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SI.com:Edwards & LJ form winning relationship

Did a search and didn't see anything on this thought it was a good read so enjoy if you haven't seen it.


When Edwards sees the progress he's made with Johnson, that lesson should ring true. He knows Johnson doesn't trust people easily. He also knows that Johnson is a product of a hip-hop-influenced generation. But that doesn't daunt Edwards. In his eyes, it doesn't matter when you grew up, because football is football, regardless of your age.


Winning bond
Chiefs' Edwards, Johnson form winning relationship

The smartest move Herm Edwards has made since becoming the Kansas City Chiefs' head coach was also his first. Shortly after being hired last January, he called Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson into his office, closed the door and invited him to sit in a comfortable leather chair near Edwards' massive oak desk. Edwards then sat down, smiled and said, "Let me ask you something. Are you ready to carry the ball 30 times a game?"

Johnson smirked in a manner that's typical of a player who's cynical and distrustful of a new head coach. But once Edwards had ample time to work on him, Johnson left the meeting beaming. He called his father to break the good news.

This is why Edwards will win games in Kansas City. He brings much-needed energy, a track record that includes three postseason appearances in five years with the New York Jets and, most importantly, an ability to connect with younger players.

That is what Johnson needed most -- a coach he could relate to. Former Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil was a great communicator, but he never reached Johnson. Edwards, on the other hand, already has earned the trust of a 26-year-old running back whose moods are harder to read than hieroglyphics.

There's rarely a practice that ends without Edwards and Johnson chatting about something. Sometimes they carry on like a spry uncle talking to his favorite nephew. The subject is often football, such as how Johnson needs to prepare for a heavier workload now that he's the feature back, how he doesn't have to gain 150 yards a game for the Chiefs to win or what to expect from people now that he's coming off a 1,750-yard season. But the conversations also focus on life issues, like how to handle situations that Johnson has screwed up in the past.

The key is that Johnson listens intently.

"When you're around the right people, you just feel it," Johnson says. "I don't need to spend three or four years getting to know Herm, because I've seen enough to like him. He's open with me. When Vermeil would try to connect with me, he would always say something like, 'How's Penn State [Johnson's alma mater] doing this week?' Herm will ask me how I'm doing. He'll ask me how my family is doing. And I know he won't run me down in public. I know he'll defend me no matter what, because he said he would."

That last comment is a reference to one of the main issues Johnson had with Vermeil (aside from the fact that Johnson spent nearly three years sitting behind Priest Holmes): Johnson always felt the coach didn't like him.

Vermeil denies this. "Nobody was against Larry Johnson," he says.

But the fact remains that Johnson and Vermeil wore on each other's nerves, mostly because they couldn't communicate with one another. The most notable example came in 2004, when Vermeil said Johnson needed to "take off the diapers" and get ready to play after an injury had sidelined Holmes. Johnson lashed back in print, and any hopes of a warm relationship between the two men vanished soon after.

Johnson always felt that Vermeil favored his veteran players. He senses that Edwards is just as willing to understand the younger generation as he is those who've put in 10 years. The 52-year-old Edwards says he prides himself on remaining in touch with that younger generation, especially the rebellious types, because he knows what it feels like to be in their shoes.

Edwards wasn't always the smooth-talking, high-energy man he is today. In college he was as stubborn and outspoken as Johnson has been throughout his career. Edwards played at three schools and left his first stop -- the University of California -- after a run-in with a coach. So when Edwards sees a guy like Johnson, he knows how important it is for that player to be heard and to feel connected to the process.

As Edwards says, "I've been a guy who's questioned authority in the past and that's OK. You can be the authority, but you still have to explain why you're doing things. Some people don't like that mind-set. I don't mind it."

When Edwards sees the progress he's made with Johnson, that lesson should ring true. He knows Johnson doesn't trust people easily. He also knows that Johnson is a product of a hip-hop-influenced generation. But that doesn't daunt Edwards. In his eyes, it doesn't matter when you grew up, because football is football, regardless of your age.

"Larry is very smart," Edwards says. "He sees a lot, even though he doesn't say much. And he's finding his way. He knows I have no hidden agendas with him. It's like I've told him before, we're all in the same boat. Whenever things go wrong here, the first people the fans are going to blame are the quarterback, the head coach and the running back. So we have to be on the same page."

That's the best news that Chiefs fans could ask for as these two start their run together.
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Old 08-14-2006, 09:29 AM   #2
Bob Dole Bob Dole is offline
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...how he doesn't have to gain 150 yards a game for the Chiefs to win...
Yeah. That would be just horrible if LJ felt like he needed to gain 150 yards every game.
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Old 08-14-2006, 11:03 AM   #3
greg63 greg63 is offline
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Originally Posted by Bob Dole
Yeah. That would be just horrible if LJ felt like he needed to gain 150 yards every game.
Here's to horrible!
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Old 08-14-2006, 11:08 AM   #4
Mr. Laz Mr. Laz is offline
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not sure we really want LJ happy...
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Old 08-14-2006, 11:25 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Laz
not sure we really want LJ happy...
That was going to be my comment. He seems like a malcontent, so even though Vermeil is gone, my guess is he'll find something to be bitter about to drive him to produce.
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