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Now, at the combine, he had to recast himself as a 22-year-old who was mature enough for the NFL.
As Tyler lined up to run the 40-yard dash, he looked over and saw Herm Edwards watching.
Edwards was standing with Tim Krumrie, the Chiefs' defensive-line coach. Krumrie had been a fairly unknown coach before HBO's Hard Knocks filmed a behind-the-scenes documentary at the Chiefs' training camp this year. Krumrie became a star on the show, mostly because, during routine drills, he yelled at his players until he lost his voice.
Before Tyler could begin his sprint, Edwards approached and took out a dollar.
"I bet you my man here can beat you," Edwards said, referring to Krumrie. Edwards stuck the dollar bill to his forehead. For a guy this conservative, a dollar bet is big. "Tim is going to whoop you."
Recalling the race after practice November 7, Tyler won't say what happened next or who won. "He didn't get the best of me," is all he'll say.
On draft day, though, the Chiefs picked up Tyler in the third round and put him on the roster as a second-string defensive tackle.
Tyler tells the story about the bet with clear admiration for Edwards. Many of the players seem to share this feeling for their coach — something beyond the standard respect.
That close association with his players, however, could also be costing Edwards victories. Like many former players turned coaches, Edwards often builds a bond with his players that can blind his ability to judge when a starter should be pulled or when somebody isn't cutting it.
Since coming to the Chiefs, Edwards has regularly boasted that he has taken a liking to running back Larry Johnson. This year, that friendship seemed to help him ignore Johnson's lackluster performance. Johnson averaged just 3-1/2 yards per run and scored only four touchdowns before an injury sidelined him in the Packers game.
Behind Johnson was veteran Priest Holmes, who was coming back after a neck injury kept him out of the game for two years. Holmes says he met Edwards for the first time right after the Chiefs hired the new coach. Holmes was on injured reserve, and it looked as if he might never play again. When Holmes told Edwards that he wanted to come back, Edwards answered quickly: "I hope to see you back."
Just the same, while Johnson was healthy, Holmes carried the ball only seven times. Holmes and Edwards kept saying the rehabbed running back was ready to play, but it appeared Edwards' friendship with Johnson led the coach to favor him.
Likewise, Edwards stuck by his starting quarterback long after many observers called for a change. Huard had thrown only eight touchdowns — and 11 interceptions — before Edwards decided on November 12 to make Brodie Croyle the starter.
Even though Edwards hasn't given him much of a chance to win the starting job, Croyle has always been one to defend his coach. Croyle says he liked Edwards after their first meeting, during the 2006 Senior Bowl, a game for college players trying to make it into the NFL. Croyle says he figured out right away that Edwards was a players' coach. "He always says, 'You take care of me, and I'll take care of you.' He knows how to help people because he's done it himself."
Edwards also became attached to kicker Justin Medlock. The team drafted
Medlock this year and was so confident in his ability that it traded away veteran kicker Lawrence Tynes.