Edwards would be wise to leave Jets
Saturday, November 26, 2005
By ADRIAN WOJNAROWSKI
Peter Roby of the Center for the Study of Sports in Society was on the telephone recently, talking about the courage it took for the Jets' Laveranues Coles to tell the story of a childhood scarred with sexual molestation. In the macho locker room culture of the National Football League, this was the kind of honesty that is rare, but Roby found it no coincidence that this admission had come under the watch of Herm Edwards.As Roby discovered, this was a different football coach for modern times, with different values, a leader who had invited Roby and his staff into Weeb Ewbank Hall to address his players about all matters of abuse that have long been byproducts of a violent football culture.
"From what I've seen, Herm Edwards is trying to develop people and not just win football games," Roby said. "He's trying to perpetuate a different stereotype, a caring citizen who can also be a really good football player who wins games.
"People in New York should know what they've got in him."
Of course, this isn't college football, where Edwards' exemplary graduation rates and an NCAA violations-free program can win him favor in a lost season. Jets fans aren't sociologists, they're belly-to-the-bar, ear-to-Joe Benigno football fans. And that's true of most sports fans, here and beyond. From the beginning, though, there's been a disdain for Edwards that's bordered on the illogical.Whatever he's done - three playoff appearances in five years, two postseason victories - it hasn't mattered. Somehow, it's been decided, Edwards is holding back this franchise. Somehow, everyone sounds so sure the Jets could be winning so much more with a different coach.No, people don't just want Edwards fired now, they wanted him fired last season after the Jets beat the Chargers in the AFC wild-card game in San Diego. With Edwards, it never matters. This promises to be an off-season of excessive coaching turnover in the NFL, where there will be untold firings, retirements and resignations.
It shouldn't have been a surprise that Edwards used one of his news conferences last week to throw out the possibility of chasing the inevitable opening with the Kansas City Chiefs. He backpedaled hours later, the way that owner Woody Johnson did on Wednesday after refusing to give his coach an endorsement Sunday in Denver.No one has ever done public relations as poorly as the Jets, and that never changes. Still, how much Edwards wants to stay - and how much ownership wants him - remains uncertain. After careful consideration, Edwards and Johnson did what was necessary to preserve the peace until this dreadful season ends, but the matter of Edwards' future, with two years left on his contract, is resoundingly undecided.
The Jets are 2-8 with quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler down, with a roster crumbling to injury and age. They'll be starting over next year, and Johnson, general manager Terry Bradway and Edwards need to sit down at season's end and decide if they want to do this together. If Edwards hits the free agent market, his success with the Jets would make him a valued commodity.With all that, Edwards would be wise to leave. Around here, no one will have patience with him overseeing the losing that comes with rebuilding this franchise. Criticism is part of the job, but it will get nastier and nastier for him. Deep down, he knows that too. And that's part of why his insecurity about the Jets' job came pouring out of him in a very public way.
No, Edwards isn't a perfect coach, but ask yourself this: Who would've done more here? Bill Parcells? Bill Belichick? Of course. Well, those are Hall of Fame coaches and they had chances to coach this roster. They didn't want it. They left town. The defense has developed under Edwards, and for goodness sakes, he was able to beat the explosive Chargers just a season ago using a quarterback with a torn rotator cuff.It didn't matter here. With all the Jets' sorry history, people didn't just want Edwards to beat the Steelers on the road, they would've demanded the Jets usurp one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history, the New England Patriots. Yes, every coach gets it, but close your eyes, listen, and ask yourself if Rich Kotite, Bruce Coslet and Al Groh ever had it worse here?
No one wants to drag race into an argument where it doesn't belong, but sometimes the tenor of criticism for Edwards is baffling. Sometimes, you wonder if New York was ever ready for an African-American football coach. The way it's going, it will be surprising to see Herm Edwards back with the Jets next season. Despite what they're saying, you wonder if the owner or the coach really want to see it.And when he goes, bringing to an end the most successful Jets' playoff run since Weeb Ewbank, you wonder if people will ever stop to consider what Peter Roby, the sports sociologist, had to say about the coach of the Jets. Perhaps by then, they'll all know what they had in Herm Edwards.