KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Jan. 9, 2006) -- Seventeen years after he was an intern with the Kansas City Chiefs, Herman Edwards is their head coach.
"I finally found my way back. You never plan on something like this until it happens," Edwards said at a packed news conference. "Fate has me back here. It's good to be back home."
After his playing career in the NFL ended, Edwards was a scout and later an assistant coach in Kansas City. He signed a four-year contract with the Chiefs after getting released from the final two years of his deal with the New York Jets.
His hiring, expected for more than a week, concludes intense, behind-the-scenes wrangling between the Jets and Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson, who has been Edwards' friend and mentor since he tried to recruit him to UCLA more than 30 years ago.
The Chiefs will give the Jets a fourth-round draft pick as compensation. But the 51-year-old Edwards said at the outset he would not take questions about what happened in New York.
"I believe in family. And what happened in New York stays in New York," he said. "So if you have any questions about what happened, I'll tell you right now, it stays with that family. ... It stays in that house, and I threw the key away."
Peterson called his longtime friend "without question, one of the most qualified head football coaches in the NFL today."
"From a personal standpoint, I have wanted to do this for many years," said Peterson, president of the Chiefs since 1989. "I think the future of the Kansas City Chiefs is in exceptional hands."
Edwards' hiring leaves seven coaching vacancies in the NFL: the Jets, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, New Orleans, Oakland and St. Louis.
In addition to Edwards, the other new coach hired is Brad Childress, Philadelphia's former offensive coordinator, by Minnesota, which fired Mike Tice on the day the season ended.
The Chiefs, 44-36 the past five years under the now-retired Dick Vermeil, were the only 10-win team not to make the playoffs this season. With an aging but still effective offense and a defense that finally has shown signs of getting better, it's one of the most attractive jobs to come open.
"The one thing I do know, the players that play on this football team will play for the name on the side of the helmet and not the name on the back of the jersey," said Edwards, who was 39-41 in New York but reached the playoffs three times.
Marvin Lewis, head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, went through the minority fellowship program with the Chiefs several years after Edwards. But Edwards is the first man to become head coach of the team he interned with.
"That does make me proud," Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt said. "Those things help. They create awareness."
Things are changing, Edwards said.
"I think you get to the point where I'm not an African-American coach. I'm a coach," he said. "Hopefully, our society has changed. It's giving the right people the opportunity to succeed."
Edwards' 2004 Jets team came within a field goal of reaching the AFC championship game. But starting with a loss in Kansas City in the season opener, the injury-wracked 2005 Jets fell to 4-12, and many fans became disgruntled.
On Dec. 31, when the 69-year-old Vermeil tearfully told the team he was stepping down, Edwards was still saying he wanted to remain in New York.
Days later, Peterson was dropping hints that he intended to be reunited with his friend and protege of more than 30 years, and the relationship between Edwards and the Jets quickly turned sour.
Peterson said that Jets general manager Terry Bradway, not Peterson, made the first move.
"Terry and I talk a lot, as all general managers do," he said. "But he's the one who said,
Hey, would you be interested (in Edwards)?' And I said,Certainly.' I never talked to him till I got permission. Now, Terry talked with him and I think, obviously, they shared some things amongst the two of them."
Peterson said he interviewed four other people and was not certain a deal with Edwards would ever get done.
"I called Herman and said I want to interview you," he said.