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Jets start looking for a new coach

NEW YORK (Jan. 6, 2006) -- Herman Edwards stopped by the Jets' facility for a short time to collect a few items before going on his way.

Now the Jets join a crowded group searching for a head coach.

The Chiefs and Jets finally agreed to compensation Friday, leaving Edwards free to negotiate with Kansas City to replace longtime mentor Dick Vermeil. The Jets, in turn, will receive a surprisingly low fourth-round pick from Kansas City.

Though Edwards technically remained Jets coach until a new deal with the Chiefs was finished, the organization started the process of replacing him. On their list of candidates are their three top assistants: defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, along with Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, former Saints coach Jim Haslett and former Packers coach Mike Sherman.

Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders could be added the list because of his close ties with Jets general manager Terry Bradway. Though there is no timetable to make a hire, the Jets realize they must move quickly because there are so many vacancies. For one, Henderson interviewed with the Saints in San Antonio.

Despite all the upheaval with the organization, Bradway was unavailable for comment but released a statement.

"We will begin interviewing head coaching candidates immediately," Bradway said. "We will comply with the guidelines set forth by the National Football League and we will conduct a thorough and complete interview process."

Heimerdinger, who was on vacation in Phoenix, expects to talk with the team when he returns next week. He was sad to see his boss go, especially after Edwards kept the team together this past season despite injury problems.

"I thought he was tremendous," Heimerdinger said. "I've been a part of a team that quit on us with about seven games left and being miserable as a coach. Herm got them to play every week. You knew they were going to bust their butts. He amazed me."

Cornerback David Barrett was completely shocked with the departure. When Edwards addressed his players for the final time Jan. 2, he told them he looked forward to seeing them in March for the start of the offseason conditioning program.

Later at his final news conference, Edwards said, "I'm happy to be the coach here and I'm going to be the coach here, like I said before."

"I'm very surprised," Barrett said in a telephone interview. "But I don't feel bad about it. I know this is a business. In a business anything can happen at any given time. I wish him the best."

It appears the Jets got below-market value for Edwards. When the Chiefs hired Vermeil in 2001, they were forced to give St. Louis a second- and third-round pick even though he had retired after leaving the Rams.

The Raiders received two No. 1s, two No. 2s and $8 million from Tampa Bay for Jon Gruden, and New England got picks in the first four rounds from the Jets for Bill Parcells.

But the situation in Hempstead became untenable for Edwards and the organization. Though owner Woody Johnson told the team in November he wanted Edwards to stay, he made few comments publicly to squelch the rampant speculation the Chiefs wanted his coach.

The idea that Edwards would ask for an extension after going 4-12 might have rubbed some in the organization the wrong way, leaving them no choice but to let Edwards go, no matter the small return. Edwards, who took the Jets to the playoffs three times in five years, is the fourth coach to leave the team without getting fired.

Parcells went to the front office after the 1999 season, Bill Belichick stuck around for a day before bolting for New England, and Al Groh quit after one year.

Looking to the future, the Jets might want to hire someone with previous head coaching experience. Sherman and Haslett recently were let go from their posts after extended stays. Fassel has experience in New York, having coached the Giants for seven seasons and taking them to the Super Bowl after the 2000 season.

Fassel declined comment on his situation.

Whoever gets the job faces big questions. Will they give Chad Pennington a chance to win the starting quarterback job despite his second rotator-cuff injury? Will Curtis Martin be allowed to stick around for one more season despite his age? How will they rebuild the offense?

Only time will tell.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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