In a press release Sunday night, Arizona State laid out its reasoning for hiring Herm Edwards as its new head coach, replacing Todd Graham. The school sees Edwards as a “CEO” and “central leader” of Arizona State football that is “similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure.”
Edwards, who has served as an NFL analyst for ESPN over the last nine years, was introduced Monday. What was laid out Monday should leave Arizona State fans equal parts inspired and skeptical.
Edwards provided greater detail to the vision for ASU football along with athletic director Ray Anderson, Edwards’ former agent during his time as an NFL coach.
The whole arrangement is completely unconventional and Anderson didn’t shy away from that fact.
“Some people will say that this is a very unusual move for anyone to make,” Anderson said. “Someone in Herm Edwards’ situation, they will say, ‘This is a very weird move, in fact, for someone to make.'”
And in an effort to combat folks (of which there are many) who believe this weird setup is destined for failure, Anderson brought out Edwards’ current agent, Phil de Picciotto, to explain why he is the right man to lead the Sun Devils’ program.
As if an agent would ever speak negatively about their own client, de Picciotto offered up praise for Edwards that would make Butch Jones blush.
“He feels he can help students here, especially those student-athletes who play football. He feels he can make the right kind of difference. Herm Edwards just fits here. I have no doubt that he will put a lot of points on the scoreboard of life for everyone in this community,” de Picciotto said.
Anderson compared the ASU football program under Edwards to a train “leaving the station,” and he’s urging everybody, even the doubters, to hop aboard.
Edwards is a passionate guy, and he brought it on Monday. He was on board with the train metaphor, too.
“I’m on the train, by the way. I’m on the train,” he said, with his voice raising in volume. “And I’m gonna ride it. I will ride this train until it stops. It’s not going to stop. We’re going.”
The Herm Edwards era has officially begun at @FootballASU.
He's got us 'ed up! pic.twitter.com/csvn6iPGuu
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) December 4, 2017
Edwards, who made sure to emphasize his history in the Pac-12 (he played at Cal in the then-Pac 8), hasn’t been a coach in nearly a decade, but he made it known he hasn’t just forgotten how to coach. He said even in his role at ESPN, he was always coaching football.
The man loves football.
“Pat Tillman said when he talked about passion, he said it ‘ignites your soul.’ Football ignites my soul. It’s what makes me go. This is what I do. I’ve done this my whole life,” Edwards said. “Some people will say, ‘Well, you haven’t coached in nine years.’ You don’t forget how to coach.
“They’re not bringing me here to play. I can’t play, though I’ll tell you I got one hit left. I’m not here to play. I’m here to build a program.”
But for all of the rah-rah spirit from Edwards, there were a few head-scratching moments.
He went on a few tangents, including one where he ranted about the lack of NFL rivalries when asked about the Territorial Cup and another where he used a football huddle as some overarching metaphor for society.
“Before I open it up for questions, I’ll tell you this about football. The thing you miss most, when you don’t play and you don’t coach, is the huddle. You miss the huddle,” Edwards said. “You miss the ability to walk in the room where collectively players are from everywhere. Every race, every religion, every color. It don’t matter, because you’ve got a common goal. You’re trying to be something special as a team.
“We don’t huddle anymore in our society. That’s the problem with it to be quite honest.”
And there was another moment where a reporter from Devil Digest, the Arizona State Rivals.com affiliate, asked Edwards a question. The reporter, Hod Rabino, gave his name and affiliation as requested by the moderator.
Before Rabino could ask his question, Edwards seemed taken aback by the “Devils Digest” (as in Arizona State Sun Devils) name.
“Devils Digest, huh? I’m Catholic now, I’m Christian, watch out for them Devils,” Edwards said. “I’m just saying. We’re good brother, we’re good. I ain’t takin it personal.”
Here’s the initial exchange between @DevilsDigest and new Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards.
Edwards: “Devils Digest? I’m Catholic now, I’m Christian, watch out for them Devils. I’m just saying. We’re good brother, we’re good. I ain’t takin it personal.”
This is gold. pic.twitter.com/mvTSTUorIf
— Stu Jackson (@StuJTH) December 4, 2017
Did Edwards not know ASU’s nickname is Sun Devils? Or was he just caught up in the moment a bit? That could lend credence to the thought that Edwards might not be too in tune with the happenings of college football, as Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel laid out last week:
The overwhelming feeling among athletic administrators, between chuckles, is that this hire will turn into a Lovie Smith Sequel – an out-of-touch NFL coach returning to college for one last pay bump before retirement. And potentially paying more than $11 million as a parting gift to Graham to bring in Edwards is the topper.
“It’ll be a learning curve for a guy who has never been an X’s and O’s specialist,” said a veteran NFL executive familiar with Edwards. “There’s some real danger in terms of playing against the schools in that conference that know what they’re doing. It’s one thing to have a good motivational speaker, it’s another thing to have a good football coach.”
Maybe Anderson and Edwards will ultimately be proven right and ASU will go from the middle-of-the-pack Pac-12 program it was under Graham to a contender. Whatever happens, ASU has more eyes on it now than it did a few weeks ago. That’s for sure.
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