Posnanski: Herm Edwards likes passionate players
RIVER FALLS, Wis. | One of my favorite things to do in the sports world is talk football with Chiefs coach Herm Edwards. People may have different feelings about Edwards as a coach, a strategist, a motivator, whatever. And, as even he says, nobody will know if he’s a Super Bowl quality coach until he takes a team there.
But nobody should question the man’s intense and fun-loving passion for the game. He is a real character. Even his critics admit that he has a unique way of looking at football. He has a lot to say. All week, we will try to take you inside Herm Edwards’ inimitable football mind as the team prepares for its first preseason game at Cleveland.
(As you will see later in the week, Edwards doesn’t even view preseason games quite the way other coaches do.)
Monday: Dwayne Bowe arrives.
Dwayne Bowe is led out to meet the media for the first time as a Chiefs receiver. He has just signed his contract and is ready to begin a brilliant career. He is fronted by HBO cameras, escorted by Chiefs personnel, and he walks slowly toward an eager bank of Kansas City reporters and broadcasters. You can almost hear the NFL Films music playing in the background as he marches to his “I have arrived” press conference.
That’s when Dwayne Bowe hears the voice.
“Hey, No. 82,” Herm Edwards yells. “Hey! Stop. Get back inside. I want to talk to you first.”
Instantly, the parade stops. The cameras come down. The waiting reporters groan. Bowe and everyone turn back around and head back into the training facility. It is as if a director had yelled, “Cut!” Herm Edwards smiles to himself as he watches the scene collapse. He likes being the director.
After a minute or two, Edwards walks into the facility, and he puts his arm around Bowe. Edwards is a close talker — he likes to get his face close to the person he’s talking with. Sometimes, this is because he’s angry and he wants to get into a player’s face. More often, though, it is times like this, when he simply wants to get close.
Here is what Edwards tells Bowe (as recounted by Edwards moments later):
“I just want you to know that I’m not going to let you practice right now. I know you. I know how you are. If I put you on the football field, because of who you are, you will want to compete. You will want to play at the same speed as everyone else. Son, you have missed 16 practices. Our receivers have had more than 200 reps. They are way ahead. You will want to compete straight up with them, but you’re not ready to do that yet. That’s how people get hurt. I’m not going to let that happen.
“So, I want you to watch what’s happening. Watch everything. Listen. You’ll get your chance real soon. Take your time. I was a player once, and I know what it’s like, you want to get out there and show everybody what you’ve got. Don’t worry about that.
You’ll have plenty of time to show people. All right now, go enjoy this moment.”
He then hugs Bowe and watches him repeat his fateful walk into the media spotlight.
“He’s going to give us something we don’t have,” Edwards says.
I suspect he’s going to talk again about how Bowe is big and strong, how he’s an excellent blocker and has the ability to break tackles downfield. This is what Edwards said the day the Chiefs drafted Bowe in the first round, and he has repeated the sentiment numerous times. But this time he means something else.
“When Dwayne is playing, you can feel him,” Edwards says. “Do you understand what I’m saying? It’s like the ground shakes just a little. He’s that kind of guy. He’s the kind of guy that goes over the middle, stretches out, makes a catch, gets hit, and then he gets up right away and says, ‘Yeah! Let’s go!’ Players look at that. That’s contagious. We need that energy.
“Defensive guys, you get a lot of defensive guys like that. We’ve got a bunch on our defense now. It’s just a different mind-set on offense. Offensive guys, especially your offensive linemen, your running backs, they’re more laid-back. They’re into the moment. Like I say, it’s a different mind-set. You play offense more with control than emotion. But I want a little more emotion on our offense. A little more bravado. And you usually get that from your receivers. Dwayne, he’s got that sort of persona.”
This, to me, is a fascinating insight. I’ve long had this theory that everyone who loves football is either an offensive or defensive person. To tell, ask yourself this question: Would you rather be down one point with the ball at the 20 and 2 minutes left, or would you rather be up one point with the other team having the ball at the 20?
Edwards is very clearly a defensive guy. And, like every other coach in football, this leaning drives his coaching personality. Edwards is drawn to players with a defensive mentality — players who are ferocious, emotional, instinctive, players who play close to the edge. This is what he saw in Dwayne Bowe.
“The more I saw him on tape, the more I liked the way he played,” Edwards says. “He had like a defensive mind-set when he was playing football. Now, it’s a fine line because on offense you can’t get all caught up in things. But I like players who bring that energy. I really think we could use some of that on offense, defense, special teams, everywhere.”
Bowe, as mentioned, probably will not practice much, if at all, this week. But his arrival at camp lifts Edwards’ spirits — he thinks Monday morning’s practice was a bit sluggish. He cannot wait to see how Bowe’s dynamism and talents affect the way the offense plays. He believes that things will change just a little bit.
“There are receivers around the league — I’m not going to name any names, but you know who they are — and they are just different,” Edwards says, referring undoubtedly to players such as Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Roy Williams and others. “They just have this presence or whatever you call it, and everyone feeds off their energy. Dwayne is just a young pup, but he has some of that bravado, presence … heck, I don’t even know what you call it. I just know I like it. And we need it.”