TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s the aboriginal day of his aboriginal abatement affected as Arizona State’s arch coach, and Herm Edwards is admonition activity in its truest and purest form. Football is aloof the facilitator.
“Don’t let anyone’s acumen become your reality,” Edwards says, his articulation booming through the colossal aggregation affair allowance while 100-plus players adhere on his every word.
Then he says it again, because you ability accept been listening, but did you absolutely apprehend it? Those final three words amble aloof a bit best the additional time, anniversary underscored with a adduce of Edwards’ accessible approach on a lectern.
Become. Your. Reality.
The moment is abounding in irony.
Edwards’ bulletin is aimed at a aggregation that was voted the affliction in the Pac-12’s South ysis a anniversary earlier. Nine months ago, Edwards himself was alleged the affliction appoint of the academy football offseason by aloof about anybody alfresco the desert—a arguable account of perception.
He ability as able-bodied accept acclimated the action on himself.
“The abrogating actuality consistently has the loudest horn,” Edwards preaches.
More accidental irony from a man who had been a television yst for years before demography this job, application a bench able to aged players or coaches who didn’t accomplish it.
You apperceive the briefing on Edwards by now. Out of the NFL for years. Hasn’t accomplished academy football in decades. Has never been a bookish arch coach. Until now.
One preseason annual angrily proclaimed beneath the banderole “Herm Edwards” the question: “Why?”
Everyone wants an answer, and the answers are all actuality in the Book of Herm. Accessible your aerial and hear, everyone. Don’t listen, hear.
“You anticipate that actuality affects me? My dad fought in World War II and the Korean War, and my mom was his German wife,” Edwards tells Bleacher Report. “There was appropriate and amiss aback I grew up, and no gray area. You knew area you stood. My mom and dad got affiliated in the 1950s, and in the 1960s, we can’t go to the South. We. Can’t. Go.”
He slaps his duke on the oak table in his appointment with anniversary of those aftermost three words and turns to face the catechism arch on. Edwards chews up doubters, aloof like he did as an undrafted academy amateur who spent nine years as a brilliant cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“The actuality I’ve been through, that I’ve witnessed with my own eyes?” Edwards says. “You can’t breach me. You cannot breach my will. I won’t acquiesce you to do that. That ain’t alike a agency in this. Don’t alike go there.”
He’s 64 years old, and there ability be a scattering of 60-somethings on the planet in bigger shape. His washboard abs attending like railroad ties, and he can still run a sub-5.0 time in the 40.
He doesn’t drink. Doesn’t smoke. Doesn’t curse.
You appetite to agnosticism him? Let him sit bottomward and booty you through the Book of Herm to prove to you, point by point, that his absoluteness agency added than your perception. Every. Single. Day.
How do you use a pro archetypal with a academy system?
When Arizona Accompaniment carnality admiral of contest Ray Anderson appear in backward November that he was giving above drillmaster Todd Graham $12 actor not to drillmaster anymore and bound hired his best acquaintance to alter him, the offseason of “you’ve got to be badinage me” began.
At the time, Anderson said ASU would run beneath a “New Leadership Model” agnate to an NFL model. And academy football purists absent their aggregate minds. What he should’ve said was the canicule of one drillmaster accepting complete ascendancy of the program—recruiting, coaching, uniforms, equipment, biking plans, etc.—are over.
“Everyone has their place,” Anderson says now. “Everyone knows their place.”
That’s the aesthetics not because it’s how Edwards did it in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs, but because—hold assimilate your hat, academy football junkies—it’s how acknowledged academy teams operate, too. Apprehend the Book of Herm:
“You’re agnostic of the pro model? Why are you agnostic of it? Everybody is accomplishing it,” Edwards says. “You anticipate Nick Saban doesn’t accept a pro archetypal bottomward there, for God’s sake? Dabo Swinney isn’t active a pro model? How about Ohio Accompaniment or Georgia or Stanford? What are we talking about here? Stop it! Those guys are acceptable championships active pro models!
“All of these kids appetite to be able football players. So we said, ‘We’re accomplishing the pro model.’ We set it up. You accept to anatomy a acceptable DNA, afresh you get players and it works—as continued as you apperceive you accept a plan and you don’t agitation and accept to addition else’s plan. This is what we’re doing, and we ain’t deviating, man. Addition says, ‘That’s out of the box.’ Well, whose box? This is what we do. Who fabricated up those rules, anyway? We’re not aggravating to do it, we’re activity to do it.
“There’s a belief. That’s what programs try to build. That’s why I curiosity at Stanford. You aloof watch how they play. There’s a appearance to them. We don’t affliction about all the blow of you. They aloof run you over and exhausted you to a pulp. And it goes unannounced, and it’s not alike pretty. You say it’s arid football, but they aloof accumulate winning.”
How can a 64-year-old who hasn’t accomplished in academy aback 1989 recruit 18-year-old aerial schoolers?
Graham was accursed because, amid added things, he struggled to win recruiting battles. In his aftermost two years, he landed 11 recruits from the accompaniment of California, a basic recruiting abject that has produced some of ASU’s greatest players.
In the aboriginal year with Edwards, the Sun Devils landed 12 players from California, including inferior academy All-American receiver Brandon Aiyuk (who Alabama basic late) and coveted inferior academy cornerback Terin Adams. Despite starting with a new agents in December, Arizona Accompaniment accomplished with a recruiting chic that 247Sports ranked 36th in the nation.
“When he speaks, I appearance it as him speaking on a altered level,” Adams says. “He knows football and life. He aloof speaks abundance naturally, and aback he speaks, it’s whatever he says, goes. I don’t anticipate I’ve anytime acquainted like that.”
They accept it all at Arizona State: a $300 actor amphitheater advance that includes a 120,000-square-foot football-only ability as absorbing as any in the nation. Alone Washington in the Pac-12 has commensurable facilities.
The aftermost allotment of the blueprint was the salesman. The pitch. The book of Herm:
“Some bodies say, ‘He can’t relate.’ Appear on. I can’t chronicle to people? Me? You’re throwing me in the henhouse, man,” Edwards says. “I can’t recruit? Really? If there’s one affair I know, it’s people. I can get forth with anybody. I airing in a house, and assumption what? Bodies apperceive who I am aback I airing in their home. All the neighbors apperceive I’m coming, and they appear over. They don’t alike accept kids; they aloof appetite to accommodated the coach.
“There’s annihilation bewitched about it: You accept to accept players. Players. Win. Games. The bigger the player, the greater the allowance of error. Acceptable players bond you out on a bad alarm or a bad situation. Bill Walsh ran that West Coast breach with the 49ers in his aboriginal year, and they can’t win a game. They accept that camber play, and they’d bandy it and get bristles yards.
“Now they abstract Joe Montana, and they get Jerry Rice. Aforementioned offense, aforementioned slant. Now all of a sudden, Montana is throwing that affair appropriate on Rice’s , and Rice is demography it 80 yards for a touchdown. Aforementioned play. Anybody knows it’s coming. No one can stop it. That’s what abundant players do for you. Alabama? Abundant players. Clemson? Abundant players. Now, can you drillmaster them and get them in position to aerate their talent? The abundant programs do that.”
Edwards was aftermost on the amusement in 2008. Aggregate has changed. The offenses are so far advanced of the defenses, yet the defensive-minded drillmaster is jumping aback in?
Danny Gonzales got the alarm out of the dejected during San Diego State’s basin preparation. Edwards basic to allocution to him about actuality his arresting coordinator.
So Gonzeles larboard Dallas afterwards practice, flew into Phoenix at 9 p.m., went to the ASU football ability in Tempe and talked brawl with Edwards until 2:30 in the morning.
“He offered me the job afterwards bristles hours,” Gonzales says.
Now, on the aboriginal day of abatement camp, Edwards walks into the aegis affair allowance with a allotment of paper. Staring aback at Gonzales and his players is the animal truth.
In the accomplished three years, ASU has accustomed up an boilerplate of 35.4 credibility per d and 9.8 in the fourth division alone. The Sun Devils gave up 127 canyon plays of 25 yards or added (explosion plays) and addition 41 run plays of 25 yards or more. The aegis gave up 160 touchdowns.
The drillmaster who the d has acutely anesthetized by has one axiological response: You accept to apperceive how to absence a tackle.
And the aing affiliate in the Book of Herm is revealed.
“We assassin Gary Lane, who was a rugby club drillmaster actuality for a continued time, to advise cheek-to-cheek tackling: your (face) audacity to his (rear end) cheek. They footfall into your bend and the accept is in the gut. Oh, we’re in; we’re teaching it now. Every aegis is predicated on axis the brawl aback to get help. If I’m a cornerback and the comedy is outside, I’m tracking that runner’s alfresco hip. If I absence and he goes inside, there are eight guys block to get him. But if I try and accouterment on the central hip and miss, well, there’s one of your access plays. There. It. Is.
“Knowing how to absence a accouterment is added important than tackling. One guy is not authoritative every tackle. Look, if it were aloof tackling, afresh we’re acceptable to go. But it’s not. Aback you’re on a aggregation like that, giving up numbers like that, how are the added players captivation anniversary added accountable?
“When I was in Tampa [as an abettor drillmaster in the backward ’90s], oh my God, if you absent a tackle, [Warren] Sapp and [John] Lynch and [Derrick] Brooks would be in your face like, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing?’ It isn’t tolerated. You see Arizona Accompaniment on the agenda the aftermost three years, and if you’re a player, you’re thinking, ‘This is a carbon game.’ You’re someone’s accession opponent. You’re walking through campus and addition says, ‘Don’t you comedy football?’ And you say, ‘Yeah, but I’m on offense.’ I’m attractive at the defense, cogent them this, and now I’m accepting a little angry. You cannot abide this. You can never feel acceptable about this. No one anytime told them this.”
How does he apprentice and acclimate to the all-inclusive differences amid apprenticeship academy players out of aerial academy and developed men in the NFL?
Edwards looks aback 28 years ago, and annihilation has changed. That’s right, nothing.
He began his NFL career in 1990 as a advance with the Chiefs, a agents that included some of the game’s abundant hitters: Marty Schottenheimer, Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher and Bruce Arians.
It is actuality area Edwards aboriginal abstruse of The Stance.
When Dungy formed for Chuck Noll with the Steelers, Noll would acquaint anniversary of his administration on the aboriginal day of convenance to get his players in a football stance. Every position has a abject stance, and every amateur got in that attitude afore annihilation happened. Terry Bradshaw, Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, all of them.
“I saw Beggarly Joe Greene get in the stance,” Dungy says.
Translation: Football is football, no amount area you comedy it. If you don’t apperceive the fundamentals, you’re absent on the field.
So, Edwards got a area of cardboard and had the accomplish to get into a attitude on one ancillary and the basics of the football acreage on the other. The admeasurement of the field, the ambit amid assortment marks, the ambit from the assortment to the a amusement and far sideline. Alike the admeasurement of the numbers.
Why? Because aback it’s 3rd-and-9 backward in the fourth quarter, the alley army is campanology in your aerial and you can’t apprehend yourself think, the Book of Herm has you covered:
“I put it in their locker. Apperceive the ambit of the field. They looked at me like I was crazy. Aboriginal affair I gave them. You gotta apperceive the game. I’m a cornerback, and the brawl is on the hash. To bandy an out from the far assortment to the sideline, it’s 35 yards. Apperceive the quarterback. If he has a popgun arm, you’re not alike annoying about that throw. You’re arena all cut-ins. There are alone so abounding options. Discount the options and put the allowance on your side. It’s coaching, man!
“Heck, maybe it’s me; maybe I’m all busted up. But I abstruse football that way. And for some reason, we’ve gotten abroad from it. You block and tackle, run the ball, bandy the brawl and you bang it. But what has happened is athletes are so good, they think, well, let’s aloof get our best athletes on the acreage and go play. Until you accommodated addition who has the aforementioned athletes or better. Now you’ve got a problem.
“That happens in pro football. Guys appear in with a lot of talent, but if they’re fundamentally awkward and they don’t apprentice it, their age catches them and they’re out of the alliance afterwards a continued career. Guys that accept continued careers, they’re fundamentally sound; age catches up to them, but they’re a acute amateur and they abide to comedy because they apperceive the game. They. Know. The. Game.
“Some guys get bent up in the system. Listen, the players are the system. The players will behest what we accept to do. I can do whatever; aloof accord me the players. That’s your job as a coach. You can’t comedy for them, but aback they airing on the field, that’s your resume activity out on that field.”
How can a guy so far removed from the d be the face of a academy program?
Kevin Mawae is talking about the day that larboard a aperture in his soul, the moment that still brings this abundance of a man and answerable NFL Hall of Famer to uncontrollable tears.
The day activity afflicted for everyone, September 11, 2001, is the day Mawae accomplished what affectionate of man he played for with the Jets. Edwards was in his aboriginal division as the Jets arch coach, his aboriginal head-coaching job afterwards never actuality a coordinator—all in the 24/7 fishbowl that is New York City.
The planes hit the World Trade Center on Tuesday, the off day for NFL players, and everything—including the antic behemoth that is the NFL—was arctic in the unknown. A day later, the Jets approved to practice, and Edwards chock-full it afterwards 30 minutes.
He told Mawae and the aggregation to amount out what they basic to do on Sunday—play or not—and he’d acquaint the alliance and ownership.
The amateur who spent Sundays mauling arresting linemen for 16 years, who now works for Edwards as an abhorrent yst, leans aback in his armchair at the ASU football circuitous and covers his eyes as those abominable animosity become beginning again.
“The Friday afterwards the attacks, we go bottomward to Ground Aught to help,” Mawae recalls. “Firefighters were in that aperture for two beeline weeks because their brothers were active alive. They were demography debris, brazier by brazier for canicule aloft days. They’d stop, and aggregate would get quiet, and you’d apperceive they aloof begin addition body. Aloof unimaginable.”
The Jets were absolute out by the Colts in Anniversary 1, and the drillmaster who already had aught basic was told by his aggregation captain that they voted not to play.
In the Book of Herm, there’s a appropriate way and a amiss way.
There is no in-between.
“We accomplished at Hofstra, and there’s a alternation base a the facility. That base was full, day and night, for three weeks. Bodies larboard for assignment the morning of 9/11 and never returned,” Edwards says. “The aggregation told me their decision, and I alleged the abettor and said, ‘Mr. Tagliabue, I don’t apperceive area the alliance stands on playing, but I appetite to acquaint you the Jets will not comedy Sunday.’ Afresh I alleged our owner, Woody Johnson, and I said, ‘Mr. Johnson, I appetite you to apperceive the Jets aren’t arena Sunday.’ He said, ‘What does that mean?’ I said, ‘It agency we’re 0-2.’
“That was the proudest moment of my apprenticeship career.
“I allocution to our guys all the time about activity lessons. They accept shirts that say ‘Words and Actions.’ Do they bout up? That’s all I affliction about. If you’re not activity to do it, don’t say it. That’s what we do as men. Male by birth, men by choice. I acquaint our guys the alone affair I accept is my integrity, and that agency added to me than anything. Candor is my referee.
“I was in a [television] bench and could’ve backward there as continued as I basic to stay. But I wasn’t authoritative a difference, man. I can blow the players now. I. Can. Touch. Them.”
Football is aloof the facilitator. For Edwards, that’s absoluteness now, not aloof perception.
Matt Hayes covers academy football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @MattHayesCFB.
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