Although Coach Herm Edwards speaks to Jets owner Woody Johnson several times a week, Johnson has not given him a vote of confidence. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
In August, hope sprang eternal for the New York Jets. Players uttered “Super Bowl” phrases and there were promises of a gun-slinging offense which would galvanize the team for the first time in the Herm Edwards era. Training camp, the season, and the victories were simply a formality en route to a greater goal.
Four months later, the talk of how many wins it would take to swipe the division crown from the Patriots for the first time since 2002 has faded. The Jets are staring down the barrel of their worst season in nearly a decade, and now some of the chatter revolves around whether or not Edwards will be the fall guy.
Swirling rumors have Edwards, if he leaves, potentially landing in Kansas City as Dick Vermeil’s – who yesterday said he won’t leave Kansas City if they are winning – replacement.
Edwards first scoffed at the inquiry about the question mark hovering over his future, but did not completely dispel the notion of leaving. Edwards this morning said that if he is coaching out the stretch, hit won’t change his perspective.
“I’m OK with me,” Edwards said. “I’m going to be fine.”
But are the higher-ups as pleased with Edwards as he is? Yes, Edwards’ team is ransacked with injuries – nine players are injured reserve – and that puts an asterisk by the Jets 2-7 record. However, Edwards has two years remaining on his contract after this one, so he won’t be a lame duck entering next season. All he needs is a public vote of confidence from owner Woody Johnson, which has yet to occur.
Edwards and Johnson speak frequently, but the two have not spoken about his future.
“No, I mean, I talk to Mr. Johnson once, twice a week. He’s behind this football team,” Edwards said. “He’s behind our players.”
Does he back you, coach?
“I feel he is. I wouldn’t want to answer for him…. That’s a discussion between me and Mr. Johnson,” Edwards said. “That’s as far as I really want to talk about that.”
Edwards, as he often does, began philosophizing. Today he painted a bigger picture about his tenure with the Jets.
“The thing I always tell myself, when you leave, whatever the circumstances are, you always got to feel when you left you made it better for the next guy,” Edwards said. “It ain’t about you; it’s about the next guy. There’s going to be a next guy…It’s called making a difference.”
By those standards Edwards better not be going anywhere. At this rate, the Jets will be picking in the top 10 of the draft – a polar opposite of the team coming off a 9-7 season that Edwards took over in 2001.
Over the past two seasons, Edwards’ coordinators have taken the bullets for him. Two years ago, defensive coordinator Ted Cotrell took the axe. Offensive coordinator’s long-awaited exodus came after last season, making this season do-or-die for Edwards.
Now, Edwards could use the injuries as a caveat to extend his coaching tenure. But for a team which day-dreamed about Lombardi trophies in the wretched heat of August two-a-days, a two-or-four win season will have repercussions.
“Well, you feel you had a goal coming in here and you didn’t quite reach it,” Edwards said about leaving on a sour note. “If that should be, I will feel bad for this organization. I would feel bad for the players, but then I also know that I did everything I could to not let that happen.”
Edwards is adored in the locker room for being a players coach. In a season characterized a distraction, Edwards is trying to deflect the rays of attention.
“I don’t address it with players because they know that unless it’s something of utter importance I don’t address it,” Edwards said. “You have to live what you talk. They are watching to see how I handle it.”
Players today averted discussing the possibility of Edwards’ departure, collectively saying they are focused on the last seven games of the season. If Edwards does leave, he will leave a void in the locker room.
“I’ve seen him take a lot of guys and help them mature,” DE John Abraham said. “If he was to leave I’d like to go anywhere he’d like to go.”
After going punch-for-punch for three quarters with the Panthers, the game avalanched into a 30-3 loss where the jets turned the ball over five straight times. Panthers CB Ken Lucas said the Jets quit during the closing minutes of the game by choosing to run the ball at the end of the game. In a season as dreadful as this, players quitting on a coach is more a reality than ever.
Guard turned center Pete Kendall said the Jets effort in practice dismiss that notion. “I don’t think that happens when you quit on a coach,” he said.
RB Curtis Martin expressed his sentiment about Edwards’s leaving.
“I hope not,” Martin said when asked about Edwards leaving. “Everyone on the team loves playing for Herm.”
The coach continued, saying: “It’s never about Herman Edwards.”
In a lost season, it’s all about Herman Edwards.
-Rookie RB Cedric Houston ran the ball 10 times for 53 yards on Sunday and will continue to get more work. Seven of Houston’s carries came when the Panthers knew the Jets had waived the white flag, an accomplished feat, according to Edwards.
“He had to run the ball when people knew he was going to run it,” Edwards said. “We lose sight of that…Guess what, that’s hard running.”
Houston, who battled a thyroid condition while at Tennessee, said he feels better now than he has in a long time.
Edwards added that Houston will get one or two entire series to run the ball at Denver.
-Expect rookie CB Justin Miller to again start for CB David Barrett. Miller, whose fumble on a kickoff was part of a dreaded 15-minute stretch for the Jets, fumbled a kickoff in practice today.
The New York Jets yesterday signed T Drew Strojny to the practice squad. Strojny (6’-7”, 327) was released in August by the Eagles after he spent the entire 2004 season on their practice squad. The former Duke Blue Devil was originally selected in the seventh-round of the 2004 NFL Draft with the 203rd selection overall by the New York Giants before being released on final cut-downs.
Center Pete Kendall didn’t practice today and is questionable for Sunday’s game at Denver. In case he can’t play, G Jonathan Goodwin would move to center and T/G Steve Morley would fill in at guard. CB David Barrett’s eye laceration is taking slower to heal than originally presumed, so he may experiment with new medications. As mentioned above, Barrett will not play against Denver and again will be replaced by rookie Justin Miller.
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): Out
-RB Derrick Blaylock (foot): Out
-T Jason Fabini (pectoral): Out (IR)
-CB David Barrett (eye): Out
-LB Kenyatta Wright (ankle): Questionable
-FB B.J. Askew (ankle): Questionable
-C Pete Kendall (back): Questionable
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): probable
The team continues it’s preparation for Denver tomorrow. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for all the latest NY Jets news.