They've been dancing this dance for months, stealing glances and fluttering eyelashes from halfway across the country. Herm Edwards has gone back and forth in public about his desire to make a run for the Kansas City Chiefs coaching job, but he ought to do himself and his career a favor and go balls-out after it.
It won't be long until Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson asks the Jets for permission to negotiate with Edwards, banking on close relationships with Jets general manager Terry Bradway and Edwards to make a rare NFL coaching transaction happen. Edwards shouldn't think twice. Five years with the Jets, three playoff appearances and two postseason victories later, his run is over with a broken-down old team.
He wanted a contract extension to allow him a chance to be part of the rebuilding process, but that's a waste of his time and energy. Unless he were rebuilding off a Super Bowl champion, there would be no public patience with this forlorn franchise. The Jets have a frustrated, ne'er-do-well fan base, desperate to win and win now. Edwards ought to run out of there, and never, ever turn back.
In Kansas City, there's a team that's better, younger and more talented than the Jets. Dick Vermeil has left his program in good shape, left it in the hands of a good GM in Peterson. Trent Green and Larry Johnson are a profoundly more appealing backfield than what's left of Chad Pennington and Curtis Martin. The Jets are the home office for bizarre departures, beginning with Bill Parcells and Al Groh and immortalized by Bill Belichick.
The Jets lose coaches the way kids lose balloons at the state fair. They just fly away. Edwards used a Jets news conference several weeks ago to throw out the possibility of pursuing the Chiefs vacancy, suggesting that perhaps he wouldn't be wanted with the Jets. He was angling for a contract extension, believing he's underpaid with two years left at $2 million apiece.
Sometimes, I'd love to see Edwards take a major college job. I could see him thriving in a cool Pac-10 job. He has so much Pete Carroll in him, another ex-Jets coach who swears now that New York didn't get him, nor did he get it. Yet Edwards brings a different perspective to the NFL, different sensibilities.
Peter Roby of the Center for the Study of Sports in Society had been talking to me about the courage it took for the Jets' Laveranues Coles to tell the story of a childhood scarred by sexual molestation. In the machismo-suffused locker room culture of the NFL, this was the kind of honesty that is rare, but Roby found it no accident that Cole's confession had come under Edwards' watch.
As Roby discovered, this was a different football coach for modern times, with different values, a leader who had invited Roby and his staff into the Jets facility to address his players about all matters of abuse that long have been synonymous with the violent football culture.
"From what I've seen, Herm Edwards is trying to develop people, and not just win football games," Roby said. "He's trying to perpetuate a different stereotype, a caring citizen who can also be a really good football player who wins games.
"People in New York should know what they've got in him."
Edwards should take the money and run, leaving the Jets with Kansas City draft picks. Why would they want a guy who doesn't want to be there, anyway? A lot of fans and a lot of talk radio voices have dispatched an uncommon viciousness his way, and after this 4-12 season and what awaits next year, it's hard to believe he would survive 2006 as Jets coach.
This is a broken-down team, a coach killer in a profession that's about staying one step ahead of the posse. Edwards owes no loyalty to the Jets. He isn't a college coach responsible for honoring his promise to recruits, but something rare on the coaching market in this offseason: a head coach with a winning playoff pedigree.
Of course, this isn't college football, where Edwards' exemplary graduation rates and a clean program can win him favor in a lost season.
Edwards is a rah-rah college coach in a cynical pro market. He's entertaining, but that never has been a fit in New York. When he's gone, the Jets will miss him. They're destined for a spiral, one Edwards could sidestep if he's smart here.
And when he goes, bringing to an end the tenure of the most successful Jets playoff coach ever, you wonder whether people will ever stop to consider what Roby, the sports sociologist, had to say about the coach of the Jets. Perhaps by then, they'll all know what they had in Herm Edwards.
Adrian Wojnarowski is a sports columnist for The Record (N.J.) and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPNWoj10@aol.com. His new book, The Miracle Of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley And Basketball's Most Improbable Dynasty, is available nationwide.