“You play to win the game. Hello? You PLAY to WIN the GAME! You don’t play it to just play it. That’s the great thing about sports. You play to win.” — Herm Edwards, October 30, 2002
Herm Edwards gets it.
And he should get it. In a career spanning nearly 40 years, Herm Edwards has held the job titles of NFL cornerback, NFL head coach of the New York Jets and the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. His current job is an ESPN analyst. But, like most men, he is also a husband and a dad.
He gets life.
“You come to Disney World, you can’t have a frown. I’ll yell at dads in Disney World – hey! There’s no frowning! That’s not allowed! I know the kids are cranky and gettin’ tired. Mickey is here! There’s no frowning!”
Herm doesn’t need to yell pep talks to people at Disney World. His presence will always receive welcome attention. So much so that Herm allows at least 30 extra minutes before he has to be somewhere. He knows he will be stopped for pictures and autographs. He will never say no to a fan because the one time he says no, his reputation is done. He becomes that celebrity.
Herm doesn’t see himself as a celebrity. He doesn’t even believe his current job as an ESPN analyst is a job at all.
“I don’t have a job. I’ve never had a job. We all have a talent. You see, when your talent matches your passion, you don’t have a job anymore. I’m on recess.”
We all know Herm Edwards can coach. There’s the talent. His passion might surprise you – it’s storytelling. Herm Edwards is a teacher. His classroom is a TV studio that reaches millions. Football from the perspective of a coach is a story to be told.
Herm cannot watch football as a fan because he has never been a fan. He’s never been to a tailgate. He’s never sat in a stadium. A fan sees the quarterback throw the football to a receiver’s hands in the end zone. Herm can only see why it happened.
“My eyes go directly to the line of scrimmage. Why are those guys going that way when we’re going that way? Now my play isn’t going to work. My job as a coach is to fix things. I never watch the ball. Fans get so hung up on watching the ball, they don’t see the game. As a fan, why do you keep your eyes on the ball? All the ball tells you is the play is going to start.”
Fans are in the position to watch the head coach too. They will always voice their opinion on how their team’s head coach fixes things on the field. Fans rarely see how the head coach fixes his team on days when it’s not game day. A coach and a teacher have the same job – to educate, to make people understand, to make people better. The majority of their behind-the-scenes work goes unnoticed. If they’re good at what they do, they will mostly listen.
“When you have the ability to talk to someone in person, talk to them. I’ve never had a cell phone as a head coach. I want to be able to listen to the person I’m speaking to.”
One of the job requirements as a coach is to build his players up. Coaching the Kansas City Chiefs was a team-building experience. He had a team composed of 11 starting rookies. That’s unheard of in the National Football League. Rookies make mistakes. Mistakes lose games. But that’s all Herm had. He had to teach his losing team to like football again. But first he had to teach them to like who they are as a person.
“At the end, coaching is about the players. You’re making them better men. Giving them opportunities. The wins are the wins. The losses are the losses. I get it. Here’s the hand I got dealt. You take the nonsense and just play.”
Coaching reaches far beyond the game of football. Herm has been thanked for saving one player’s life. He receives hugs from players when he walks in a room. His mentors include Tony Dungy, Dick Vermeil, Mother Theresa and the Pope. He gets calls from players in the league, begging him to come back to coaching.
His answer is always “nooo! No no no – you got the wrong number, man! I’m good.”
Herm has a couple reasons. Herm believes there is a window in life. His window was 30 years of coaching. If he went back to coaching, he would be denying a young guy a job. His second reason is actually two reasons – two little girls, named Gabrielle and Vivian Edwards, ages 7 and 8.
“I want to be around to raise my girls! Take them to Disney World!”