Herm Edwards: A Head Coach?

For some reason, there's a large segment of Chiefs fans who aren't very fond of Herm Edwards. This is surprising considering he led the Chiefs to only their second playoff berth in the last nine years last season.

These "Herm Haters" wail and moan against Edwards for a variety of reasons. Your garden variety Hater will paint him as the destructor of KC's once-glamorous, high-octane offense. Their rally cry is "run, run, pass, punt!"

Then there's the "Herm can't manage a game" crowd, most of whom smell like New York Jets fans in disguise. This is because New York is where Edwards built a reputation as a coach who struggled with clock management and a plethora of other issues taking place inside the 60-minute arena of Sunday.

You can easily counter both flavors of "Herm Haters" with simple, rational arguments. The first crowd is easily defeated by the plain fact that the key components of Dick Vermeil's talent-infused offense either retired, got old or suffered injury in 2006. All good things come to an end.

The second is shot down by the fact that, despite Edwards' reputation, there were really no signs of bumbling, in-game moments for the Chiefs in 2006. There were no last-minute blunders wasting clock time and pulling defeat from the jaws of victory. Heck, Herm laid most of these fears to rest when he went for it on fourth down from his own 29-yard line against the Oakland Raiders last November.

But there is one criticism that requires more thought to rebut than the average "Herm is destroying this football team!" tirade. It concerns the nature of his role in the NFL.

Why is Herm Edwards an NFL head coach?

There are some Chiefs fans who think Edwards "lucked" into his head-coaching job with the Jets, and believe he's only a head coach in Kansas City today because he was in Carl Peterson's little black book. The two have been almost joined at the hip for 35 years now. Peterson recruited Edwards to play at UCLA and signed him as a rookie free agent in 1977 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Their Kansas City connection is obvious.

There are some that go so far as to callously say he's only a head coach because of affirmative action. If you look at the evidence, it's difficult to disagree with any of this.

Edwards has never been a coordinator, at any level. In college he was a defensive backs coach. In the NFL, he went straight from alternating roles as a defensive backs coach and player scout to a dual, assistant head coach/defensive backs role in Tampa Bay. Then he became a head coach.

Obviously, this is a concern. Twenty-nine of the 32 head coaches in the NFL previously served as offensive or defensive coordinators at some level – most of them at the pro level.

Edwards, Philadelphia's Andy Reid and Detroit's Rod Marinelli are the three exceptions. Marinelli had a brief stint as a high school defensive coordinator, but was passed over for another coordinator job at every level for the next 30 years, so we'll assume he didn't have the appropriate qualifications.

Prior to accepting jobs as head coaches, all three of these men spent the majority of their coaching careers as position coaches and assistant head coaches. Edwards coached defensive backs, Reid the offensive line and quarterbacks, and Marinelli the defensive line.

So the question begs: Why did these three coaches suddenly go from coaching a small group of men (their position groups) to a large group of men?

Even Edwards himself has admitted that perhaps he didn't want to make this transition.

"There was no way I wanted to be a head coach," said Edwards in an interview with Warpaint Illustrated last year. "I just wanted to coach my eight or nine guys. I don't want that head coaching stuff. I used to watch Marty and remember playing for Dick and I used to go, why do you want to do that? That's way too hard! You don't want to deal with all that nonsense. I just want to coach my players."

So why? Why are these men head coaches? What did they do to earn their respective positions? What made them qualified?

Certainly Edwards coached a terrific group of defensive backs in Kansas City and Tampa Bay. The Green Bay Packers fielded an outstanding offensive line in the mid 90's under Reid and Marinelli's defensive line in Tampa Bay was one of the league's best.

The fact of the matter is I don't know, and I can't begin to explain why, although I think teams would be well served to hire more head coaches with experience as NFL scouts (it's certainly turned around one franchise). As fans, nobody really knows. Only the men who hired Edwards, Reid and Marinelli know why they deserved to ascend.

Does it really matter? Twenty-eight NFL teams passed over Edwards in the NFL draft, but he enjoyed a 10-year career. Fifteen years after he retired, most of those same teams didn't care to hire him as a coordinator, but he's been at least partially responsible for some good defenses in New York and now Kansas City.

Edwards has visited the playoffs four times in six years, more than proving he's qualified for his position. Reid has done it six times in eight years, with a Super Bowl visit to his name. I'm not going to judge Marinelli on what he does in the NFL wasteland of Detroit, and neither should anyone else.

So to those fans who ask why the Chiefs hired Edwards a year ago, I offer this answer:

They shouldn't have.

They should have hired him in 1999.