Not much is guaranteed this Chiefs season. But every Sunday morning, without fail, Coach Herm Edwards will get down on his knees and ask God for two things.
His requests never change. They're nothing like the wishes muttered in those prayer circles before games or the thanks offered by players who point to the sky after a score. Even though he brings a priest to team meetings every Saturday so he can take communion and he goes to Visitation Parish every Sunday in the offseason, he doesn't expect God to give him what the fans want most.
"God already knows the score before the game's going to be played. He just wants to see how you're going to act afterward," the 53-year-old coach tells The Pitch.
"I've never prayed to win. That's never my prayer. My prayer is to protect both teams. And let me handle the outcome in the right way and control my emotions during the game."
On that last one, God has apparently helped.
There's little to see when TV cameras pan to Edwards on the sidelines between plays. He wears the same stoic look, his eyes intense, his arms crossed, his lips pursed, his eyebrows stuck upward. It doesn't matter if the Chiefs are winning or losing — Edwards' expression always looks as though he has just clocked in at an insurance-agency job.
It makes you wonder what Herm Edwards is made of.
He never throws something, Bobby Knight-style. He doesn't cry after victories, like Dick Vermeil. He doesn't issue a red-faced scolding to problem players, the way Marty Schottenheimer did.
Edwards knows fans hate him for his conservative streak.
He says he doesn't care what the fans think. But then, he also knows he has to win — something he's never been particularly good at as a head coach.
Earlier this month, Edwards said November would determine whether his team could make the playoffs. Then the Chiefs dropped three in a row.
The dark wood paneling in Edwards' office gives the room a stately feel, like a dean's office or a smoking room. The paneling, however, also makes it feel as lonely as an empty library.
Edwards says fans don't like him because they haven't signed on to his philosophy. He has a simple goal: Score 24 points a game.
The philosophy can be infuriating to anybody who wishes the Chiefs were still a high-scoring team — a reputation that goes back to legendary coach Hank Stram, who put up 30 points or more six times in his first season. The high-powered offense continued with Joe Montana as quarterback and under coaches Schottenheimer and Vermeil. The Chiefs were exciting to watch in those days, but Vermeil lost his only playoff appearance, and Schottenheimer went 3-7 in the postseason.
When Edwards' teams score 24 points, they usually win. In his 112 games as a head coach, his teams have scored 24 or more points 38 times. Edwards has won three-quarters of those games.
But there's a reason that others haven't bought into his philosophy: Rarely — only about a third of the time — do his teams score 24 points. This year, the Chiefs have managed it only twice.
Edwards knows results aren't coming fast enough for Chiefs fans. "They like going to Las Vegas and gambling," he says. "We have a tendency to live in a society where 7-Eleven is much more convenient than going to the grocery store and standing in line. Because it's quick. We don't have patience in this society ... and I'm a very patient man."
Edwards sits alone in front of the flat-screen TV that dominates his desk. Several secretaries outside his office chat over a Tupperware container of oatmeal cookies. It's October 31, the Wednesday before the Chiefs play Green Bay, and Brett Favre is on the TV, his arm ready to fire a bullet of a pass. Edwards realizes he doesn't have a Favre on his team. One reason that fans haven't liked him in Kansas City, he says, is because of his aging offense.