Icy Issue #2: the NFL's worst coach

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 01, 2008



 
It finally feels like football season. The exhibition games are over. College football has already kicked off. And Labor Day is over, which means that all you poor saps with "jobs" and "careers" have left the "second home on the beach" to return to work.
 
The dawn of football season is like a jolt of amphetamines to the Cold, Hard Football Facts crew. We're going to crank it up 10-fold over the next six months, starting today and ending with yet another season proving that we lord over the seedy underworld of online gridiron analysis.
 
We're publishing a series of Icy Issues today and tomorrow, tackling the biggest questions with the toughest, most emotionless answers. We'll also have our predictions, and a look at the Redskins-Giants kickoff game, all by Thursday. It will get only better from there.
 
So sit back, enjoy the season, and bathe in the raw, chilly wisdom of the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
 
Icy Issue: Who's the worst veteran coach in football?
 
Icier Response: Our money is on Kansas City's Herm Edwards, who apparently subscribes to the same stagnant offensive theories used so ineffectively by the trench-warfare advocates of World War I.
 
The deconstruction of the prolific Kansas City offense in two short years under Edwards would make Jacques Derrida flinch with jealousy.
 
The Chiefs ranked No. 1 in either scoring offense or total offense every year from 2002 to 2005 under head coach Dick Vermeil.
 
But last season, after just two years of the Edwards regime, the Chiefs had plummeted to 31st in both categories.
 
The speed of the downfall has been so shocking we might use it to jumpstart the old ticker after our next heart attack.
 
Sure, Edwards apologists can cite the injury to starting quarterback Trent Green in 2006. But Damon Huard was brilliant as his replacement, tossing 11 TDs to just 1 INT, while posting a 98.0 passer rating. Over the last two years in Kansas City, Huard has completed 354 of 576 passes (61.5%) for 4,135 yards, 7.2 YPA, 22 TDs, 14 INTs, and an 85.7 passer rating in 18 starts (9-9). Most coaches would be happy with that kind of production.
 
Sure, Larry Johnson's injury last year didn't help the cause of the Kansas City offense, either. But in 2006, LJ's first year playing in the Edwards system, he ran for a franchise-record 1,789 yards on an NFL record 416 carries.
 
And, lest we forget, Kansas City's offense also boasts a future Hall of Fame tight end in Tony Gonzalez, who's caught an amazing 172 passes in the last two years.
 
Still, despite all the talent and all the individual production, despite the efficient quarterback, the HOF tight end, and the record-setting running back, the Kansas City offense has grown from brilliant to pathetic in two short seasons.
 
In the one year from 2005 to 2006, the Chiefs offense had fallen from dominant to mediocre. The 2006 season ended with an Edwards-ian offensive implosion for the ages and a sign of things to come in 2007: The 9-7 Chiefs reached the playoffs, but mustered a woeful 126 yards of offense in a 23-8 loss to the Colts in the wildcard round. The game was so boring that we watched Bill Belichick press conference highlights instead.
 
If you're still looking to make excuses for the Edwards regime, you could also cite the loss of former stalwart offensive tackle Willie Roaf, who retired at the end of the 2005 season. His loss coincided directly with KC's sudden fall from offensive grace.
 
But the loss of one offensive lineman, even one as talented as Roaf, does not explain the stunning downward trajectory of the Chiefs offense.
 
After the fall from dominant to mediocre in the one year from 2005 to 2006, the Edwards offense fell from mediocre to historically pathetic in the one year from 2006 to 2007.
 
Put most simply, the Chiefs were consistently one of the most dominant offenses in football for four straight years under Vermeil. They were one of the very worst in football last season, after just two years under Edwards.
 
As we noted in our Fillability Index this week, the pathetic, ineffective nature of the Kansas City offense is evident everywhere, not just in its 31st ranking in both scoring offense and total offense. For example, the 2007 Chiefs also ranked:
 
  • 28th in Passing Yards Per Attempt
  • 32nd in the Offensive Hog Index
  • 32nd in the Big Play Index
  • 32nd in Scoreability, our measure of offensive efficiency
  •  
    You have to work hard to be so bad in so many areas.
     
    And for downfalls that dramatic, you typically have to look at structural changes – like those brought about by a new coaching staff.
     
    And there's no denying that the KC offense went in the tank the day Edwards took over. The lack offense, of course, has certainly impacted the bottom line.
     
    The Chiefs were just 4-12 last year, tying a mark for the worst record in franchise history. Only the existence of true bottom feeders like Miami and St. Louis prevented the Chiefs from being the worst team in football last year.
     
    Of course, the 4-12 must have felt familiar for Edwards. It was the same record he posted with the Jets in 2005, his last season in New York before he was snapped up in a regretful move by the Chiefs. Despite the fact the Jets were 4-12 and had continually struggled to move the ball with Edwards at the helm, the Chiefs traded a fourth-round pick to the Jets for their coach and for the honor of destroying their offense with record speed. (The Jets used the pick on RB Leon Washington).
     
    Here's guessing that another team won't make the same mistake, and that Kansas City is Edwards' last stop on the coaching carousel.
     
    Until that day, it looks like the Chiefs offense in stuck in the Stone Age of Edwards-ian offense theory. We're hoping this year he'll modernize the offense by breaking out the Notre Dame shift and the flying wedge and at least give fans in Kansas City something to talk about.

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