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Debating Herm's Future
Pat loves Herm. I hate him.
|With Carl Peterson’s resignation, Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards is now on the hot seat. Will he be fired? In this collaboration, Pat Clifton argues for Edwards to be retained as head coach, while C.E. W. (name withheld) argues against his retention.|
CLIFTON - Don’t Punish Herm For Previous Mistakes
One of the main reasons Herm Edwards deserves another year as the head man in Kansas City is the state this team was in when he got here. Dick Vermeil and Carl Peterson foolishly stocked the cupboard with high-priced veterans in an attempt to win a Super Bowl. While making the big game your ultimate goal is no sin, selling out the future of the franchise certainly is.
Willie Roaf and Trent Green were great acquisitions who made significant differences during Kansas City's successful 13-3 campaign, but players like Shawn Barber, Vonnie Holliday, Chris Bober and Kendrell Bell stunted the growth of the franchise. Patrick Surtain had some meaningful years in Kansas City, but was overpaid. Let's also not forget Peterson's tiff with John Tait that sent a young, talented tackle away, and Vermeil's lack of interest in giving Donnie Edwards a long-term deal.
Throughout the Vermeil era, fans and media members constantly referred to a “window of opportunity” for winning a Super Bowl. As Green, Priest Holmes, Roaf, and everyone else aged, that window slowly closed. Have you ever heard the phrase “window of opportunity” uttered in reference to Pittsburgh, New England, Philadelphia or Tampa Bay? No. Even after the retirement of Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan, the Giants are still a viable championship contender.
Carl and Dick sold out the future of the franchise in an attempt to give Lamar Hunt one more championship, and though a valiant effort, it failed and now we're left with the aftermath. Herm Edwards was charged with the unfavorable and thankless task of rebuilding this team from the ground up, and has only been allowed to truly do that for one season now. He deserves one more year to see his vision come to fruition.
There’s no arguing with Pat’s premise that the cupboard was relatively bare when Herm Edwards arrived in Kansas City. The Chiefs drafted horribly during the Dick Vermeil era, and most of the viable talent on the roster was aging, or already well past its prime. However, should that really net Edwards another year three seasons after the fact?
Herm has had three years to reshape the roster as he sees fit. Obviously Carl Peterson had some say in it, but it’s worth noting that the best players of the Herm Edwards era – Jared Allen, Larry Johnson, Tony Gonzalez – all came from the Dick Vermeil era.
Herm’s had three seasons to find his own franchise-caliber players. Where are his superstars? Where are the players he can point to and say, “He’s a reason we’re on the right track?” Dwayne Bowe is close, but hasn’t had a season like Gonzalez or Johnson previously enjoyed.
Besides, what are the Chiefs really going to accomplish in one more year? There are still so many holes on this team – offensive line, defensive end, linebacker, safety, maybe quarterback, and tons of depth issues – it’s going to be tough for the 2009 Chiefs to impress anyone barring an enormous acquisition of talent in one offseason.
W. (name withheld) - Herm Is Overrated As A Judge Of Talent
When he was hired, there was a lot of talk that Herm Edwards really knew how to identify and cultivate talent. People pointed to a few players he drafted in New York, and at the time, everyone was pretty happy with his first draft in Kansas City.
Three years later, that draft doesn’t look so good. Tamba Hali is having an awful year, Bernard Pollard is still struggling despite some recent strides, and Brodie Croyle can probably be considered a bust. The second day of that draft is embarrassingly bad apart from seventh-round pick Jarrad Page. Apart from Dwayne Bowe and Tank Tyler, the Chiefs’ 2007 draft isn’t all that impressive, either.
But Herm was ready to go to battle with some of these players. He thought so much of Hali, he signed off on his move to right defensive end this year, which obviously completely flopped. He thought so much of Croyle, the Chiefs felt their quarterback depth chart was fine going into the season despite awful training camps from Damon Huard and Tyler Thigpen.
How about the Chiefs’ terrible free-agent signings over the last three years? Obviously we can’t place the blame for every wasted signing completely on Herm, but as the head coach he has to have some input. And we know he loves Jon McGraw, whom most people are pretty unsatisfied with on defense or special teams. The point is that Herm may realize the benefit of playing young players, but he may not know how to pick them especially well.
I have to disagree on this point here altogether, starting with Tamba Hali, who excited many fans his first two seasons with the Chiefs and understandably so. He outsacked Jared Allen in 2006 and registered 7.5 sacks in 2007. He's obviously playing injured this season, and that's really hampered his ability to get after the quarterback. Another thing that excited fans about Hali was his knack for forcing fumbles. He has 12 in three years. While his production has been limited this year, and he's not yet lived up to his first-round ability, he’s being hampered by injuries in his third season, which is supposed to be the coming out year for NFL players.
Secondly, I'll agree that Brodie Croyle is considered a bust, but he was just a third-rounder. Herm took a shot on a fragile guy who had every ability required to be an NFL quarterback except for the ability to stay healthy. If he was playing behind the lines Trent Green played behind, who's to say Croyle wouldn't flourish?
When it comes to Jon McGraw, he was a castaway who's now the Chiefs’ special teams captain. Not only is he a good locker room influence, but he makes a ton of tackles on coverage teams. Yes, KC's return teams are wretched, but McGraw is the lone bright spot.
I won't sit here and claim that Edwards is a draft guru, but I don't think it's fair to judge his drafts just yet. Generally drafts aren't fair game for retrospective evaluation until three years after the fact, and that leaves only Edward's first draft. Some of those players, like Pollard, have underperformed immensely, but finding a solid and possible future pro bowl safety in the seventh round is unheard of. Give Edwards kudos for that. Let's also not forget the accolades cast upon the Chiefs after the '08 draft.
CLIFTON - Players Love Herm
Edwards' popularity among players is another reason he ought to be kept around. Recently, a poll was conducted among NFL players about who would be their favorite coaches to play for. Edwards was fourth, and has drawn some criticism for his reputation as a player's coach, but I would argue that it's a positive thing.
With the Chiefs somewhere around $30 million under the salary cap and with lots of holes to fill, they're going to have to be aggressive in the free agent market. For a lot of free agents out there, a la Ty Law, money isn't the sole deciding factor on where to sign. If a player likes the coach, it makes him a little easier to woo.
The Chiefs have one of the most popular coaches in the league in Edwards, and if his retention means they're more likely to snag a high-level free agent this spring, then I'm all for it. Herm's experiences as a player in the NFL and his understanding of a player's needs are a bonus when trying to lure free agents, and it's a bonus that's often overlooked.
In addition to the fringe benefits of Edwards’ popularity in free agency, he still commands the respect of the locker room. Edwards has motivated a terrible team with nothing to play for to fight like they’re in the middle of a playoff race for the last half of the season. If he can demand that kind of play out of this bad of a team, imagine what he'll be able to do with a good squad.
As popular as Herm may be, players don’t always know what’s best for them. If they did, there would be little need for coaching. What’s the old saying? The inmates shouldn’t run the asylum?
A little history lesson goes a long way in countering this point. When the Chiefs dumped John Mackovic following the 1986 season, the Chiefs’ players rallied together in support of Frank Gansz, their special teams coach, to be their next head coach.
Kansas City’s brass completely bought it. Gansz was named head coach and the Chiefs went on to win eight games in two years. Still, that’s better than Herm has done recently. Does anyone know if Gansz is looking for work?
As for free agency, is the popularity of a head coach really going to matter? It certainly didn’t help the Chiefs this year when they lost out on Josh Brown and Jeff Faine. Herm may be Mr. Popular, but looking at the terrible free-agent signings the Chiefs have made under his watch, you wonder if it means much.
W. (name withheld) - Herm Not The Defensive Guru We Thought He Was
The first day he was hired, Herm Edwards made a grand speech about defense. He told us all that his Chiefs would play defense, and they would get dirty. Three years later, the players are dirty, but without much to show for it. The Chiefs returned to the lows of the Greg-Robinson era on defense this year and currently rank 31st.
Why? Sure, the Chiefs had plenty of injuries on defense this year, but even when they were completely healthy, they struggled immensely. The only thing Kansas City really lost on that side of the ball was Jared Allen. Obviously, Allen is a great player, but is the absence of his impact alone enough to drop the Chiefs from an above average defense to the league’s worst?
Good coaching finds ways to get the most out of the talent on the field. Look what Chan Gailey did with an offense that was putting up bottom-of-the-barrel numbers for weeks, simply by switching schemes to the spread. And he did it with an inexperienced quarterback to boot.
Where is the defensive equivalent of this? And what is Herm’s real worth to the Chiefs if the biggest improvement during his tenure has come on offense? Is he even the right coach to manage the sort of team that leads with its offense? To make matters worse, Edwards has been quoted as saying he wants this year’s entire defensive staff to return next season. Really? The entire staff on the 31st-ranked defense in the NFL is doing a bang-up job? I find that hard to believe.
There is undeniable validity to the argument that Herm hasn't turned the defense around like expected, but look what he's had to work with. In 2005, KC's leading top 10 tacklers were as follows: Kawika Mitchell, Sammy Knight, Derrick Johnson, Greg Wesley, Jared Allen, Eric Hicks, Kendrell Bell, Patrick Surtain, Eric Warfield and John Browning. Of those 10 players, only two remain on the team, and of the departed ones, there are only two who anyone could argue the Chiefs should have retained: Allen and Mitchell.
The thing a lot of people forget is that this defense wasn't just terrible when Edwards arrived, but rather it was terrible and terribly old. Everyone talks about the offense aging and that hurting the team, but no one acknowledges how old the defensive players were. When a player crosses over the hill, his play generally gets worse. So, take a bad player and make him worse, and there you have the Chiefs’ defensive players left for Edwards to work with.
Yes, this year's defense is bad, but look at its makeup. There are only three starters with more than three years of experience, and I don't think anyone's going to tell me that Jason Babin, Rocky Boiman, or Demorrio Williams are defensive leaders in terms of skill. Give Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, and Tank Tyler more time to season, then replace Pollard, and you've got yourself a potentially good defense. Also, add another draft that could likely bring a highly rated rush end and a starting linebacker and we're looking pretty good. Old players get worse, save Tony Gonzalez, and young players get better. These players will get better.
W. (name withheld) - Herm’s Attitude Is Tiresome
Forget the on-the-field, gameday problems. What’s really been disturbing this year are Herm Edwards’ press conferences. Every week, there’s someone new to blame, whether it’s a veteran or an undrafted free agent cornerback who’s playing without the benefit of a real pass rush. Nothing is never Herm’s fault.
Most of the time, sitting through one of Dick Vermeil’s press conferences was tolerable, because after a loss he always stood up and said he and his coaching staff had to do a better job. When was the last time Edwards said anything like that? It was absolutely refreshing to hear Detroit Head Coach Rod Marinelli humble himself in front of the media the other day after the Lions’ 15th loss.
The only thing that separates Edwards and Marinelli this year is two wins (one over a team with JaMarcus Russell at quarterback). Yet this week, Edwards was telling us all how well-coached the Chiefs are. Does Herm have a giant, untapped reserve of coaching genius at his disposal? If the Chiefs are supposedly well-coached now, it’s going to take the best coaching effort in the history of the NFL to bring them from winning two games to competing for the playoffs. It’s not all about talent.
Edwards has continuously talked about the encouraging play of many of his young players day in and day out. Many people are only privy to the gameday press conferences, but privately I've been lucky enough to listen to him gush over players like Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers, Branden Albert, Tyler Thigpen and Tony Gonzalez.
Herm has never once thrown his players under the bus. Even after veterans Patrick Surtain and Jarrad Page screwed up coverage on the go-ahead scoring drive in the meltdown against San Diego last week, Edwards refused to name the player who made the mistake, leaving media members to guess which player blew the coverage.
Edwards is a stand-up guy, and he believes in his football team. He has a team full of young players, and he openly admits they are going to make mistakes, but they should be attributed to youth, not inability.
As far as the statement that winning requires more than talent, I couldn't agree more. That’s precisely why I believe you have to commend the job Edwards and his staff have done with such a lack of talent this year. They've not won many games, but improved, and they've gone down to the wire many good teams.