Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Patrick Gets at Truth in Edwards Affair, but We'll Go Him One Better

Sometimes it's easy to think that Dan Patrick is getting soft, that the ESPN superstar has become too much a legend in his own mind, that he's sucked up to one too many jocks. Then Patrick will redeem himself, as he did with today's radio assessment of the Herman Edwards situation. You're right, Dan: Herman Edwards (pictured, left) does owe New York Jets fans an apology—for hastily packing his overnight bag, leaving behind an overweight wife and a houseful of crying kids, and hopping the next available bus to Kansas City. Edwards' snide comments at his press conference, upon accepting the job as the Chiefs' new head coach, were also rather disturbing. "What happens in New York stays in New York," Edwards said. Doh! Really, Herm?

It's a matter of public record, actually. The Jets were 4-12. They sucked. They lost Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin to injury, and Edwards couldn't plug the holes in a leaky boat. Considering that the Jets were preseason favorites to vie for at least a wild-card spot in the playoffs, you'd have thought there was more here than 4-12 material, even with the injuries. Of course, a similar thing happened in Green Bay this year, but all Mike Sherman's 4-12 record got him was a pink slip.

In a gross example of "It's not what you know, but who you know," Edwards gets a new job—courtesy of his buddy Chiefs GM Carl Peterson—with more money, and he doesn't have to break a sweat wondering who his skill players are going to be for next year, as he takes over a playoff-caliber team with a solid QB (Trent Green) and a studly young running back (Larry Johnson).

But even if we can't fault Edwards for going where the grass is greener, we expect more from him in the way he departed New York. It's bad enough that we now see that coaches are as whorish as the ballplayers, but maybe this is worse because Edwards is (supposedly) an authority figure, and, unlike the players, who risk career-ending injury every moment they're on the field, his Jets contract was guaranteed, meaning he gets paid even if he sucks and even if he gets fired and even if he tears his ACL.

The deal is done. Edwards gets a pass on a lousy year, and he now starts fresh with a minimum of growing pains. He leaves a chaotic household in New York, where Jets GM Terry Bradway has his work cut out for him finding a new coach willing to step in to a tough situation.

It's also very ironic how Edwards has recently made comments regarding his blackness. According to him, he's living proof that the coaching business has finally gotten beyond the realm of the equal opportunity mindset, that a black man can now be considered fully on his own personal merits. Maybe so, Herm. Maybe so. And maybe your mediocre 39-41 record is the best evidence of that.

On the other hand, Edwards will never be the poster boy for the next Million Man March, a project that was designed to puncture stereotypes of the irresponsible African American male who can't be counted on to stick it out through his familial relationships or put bread on the table for wife and kids. Alas, Herm comes off here as a prime example of the image the MMM was aiming to deflate: an opportunistic sleazeball happy to leave a house in disarray just to make life easier for himself. And he did it all with arrogance. And he hasn't apologized, either.

What have we learned from this episode? That being a jerk is not an equal opportunity proposition, and that guys who take the easy way out come in all colors. (Also, that I won't be rooting for the Chiefs in 2006.)

What the Jets need to do now is find an energetic coach of whatever age—but of sure character—give him a five-year contract, and let him get to work rebuilding that team. Maybe it won't take as long as it seems. (The Jets, for example, sure got Edwards' picture off their Web site lickety-split.) And maybe they'll kick Edwards' ass in the playoffs someday. We can dream.

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