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In the NFL, Edwards started to mellow. He remembered what his father had taught him about how to succeed. Herman Edwards Sr. served in World War II. Afterward, he was working as a checkpoint guard at an Army base in Gelnhausen, West Germany, where Martha Gerstner was a switchboard operator. They dated for six years before she agreed to return to the States and marry him. Edwards Sr., who died in 1978, warned his son that, with a black father and a white mother, he was sure to face prejudice — but he could beat it by working hard.
Herm Edwards was never a star in the NFL. He never made the Pro Bowl. Instead, he took his father's advice about hard work and didn't miss a game for nine of his 10 seasons — 135 consecutive starts.
He made a name for himself by being in the right spot at the right time in one game, on November 19, 1978, just months after his father's death.
Edwards' Eagles were behind the Giants, 17-12, late in the fourth quarter. The Giants' quarterback fumbled a handoff, and Edwards scooped it up and ran it back for a touchdown. Eagles fans would remember the play as "the Miracle at the Meadowlands."
Edwards offers a simple explanation for how he ended up with that ball. "All you can ask is for an opportunity, and then you have to take it," he says. "I've never squandered my opportunities, and I don't take them lightly."
After he quit playing, Edwards went to work as a scout for the Chiefs in 1990. Edwards found a mentor at the Chiefs in defensive-backs coach Tony Dungy. When Dungy took over as head coach in Tampa in 1996, he took Edwards with him. Dungy taught Edwards his conservative style of play calling and sold him on a new philosophy: abandoning the field-general style of coaching and instead treating players almost as equals. It took Edwards about a decade to work up to a job as head coach, but in 2001 he took the helm of the New York Jets.
Edwards made it to the playoffs three out of his five years with the Jets. But in 2005, the Jets managed just four wins and put up 24 points (or more) only three times. Injuries likely contributed to his team's poor performance. But no city is tougher on its coaches than New York, and Edwards was blamed for turning a playoff-quality team into a loser.
In Edwards' first season in Kansas City, the Chiefs made the playoffs. The playoff game was painful to watch. Kansas City couldn't get a first down in the first half — something that hadn't happened in the NFL in nearly 50 years. Indianapolis rolled over the Chiefs, 23-8.
This year began much like every year for Edwards: poorly. In his seven years as an NFL coach, he has won only two opening-day games. And things typically don't get better for him until it's too late; in six of his seven seasons, he had a losing record by the seventh game.
Herm the Germ might have taken some chances at a time like this, but today's Edwards defends his simple — and conservative — style.
The press conference is supposed to be over, but Edwards has a good story to tell. Three reporters have stopped him in the hallway outside the locker room. It's Thursday, November 1, three days before the Chiefs fall apart in the fourth quarter against Green Bay.