Herm Edwards hasn’t been a part of college football since he was the defensive backs coach at San Jose State from 1987 to 1989, but Arizona State still wanted him to help change everything.
The last three seasons, the Sun Devils are 18-20, and that level of mediocrity got previous coach Todd Graham fired last season after six years at the helm.
ASU athletic director Ray Anderson used to be Edwards’ agent, so that prior relationship resulted in a high level of trust between the two over the years.
Anderson thinks so highly of Edwards, who has never been a college head coach, mind you, that he trusted him to oversee a program reboot like we’ve never seen before.
For Arizona State, that means changing the culture of the program to run like an NFL franchise.
From the outset, Edwards has been firm in how he plans to transform the Sun Devils. At his introductory press conference in early December, Edwards compared being a head coach to being the CEO of a company.
On how his role with ASU may differ from other traditional coaches, he said, “This is where you have to learn how to delegate, that’s what good CEOs do.”
Anderson echoed that sentiment in the school’s official release announcing the Edwards hiring.
“Our goal for this football program is to reach unprecedented heights, and therefore we need to find a way to operate more innovatively and efficiently than we have in the past,” Anderson said in the release.
“In the spirit of innovation, our vision for this program is to have a head coach who serves as a CEO and is the central leader with a collaborative staff around him that will elevate the performance of players and coaches on the field, in the classroom and in our community. Equally important, the head coach will be a dynamic and tireless recruiter.”
Long story short, there’s been a different vibe in Tempe, Ariz. from the day Edwards got there. Last week during spring practice, things got even stranger, when Edwards suggested that there will be roster cuts coming in the future.
Most college coaches aren’t as honest when it comes to the structure of their rosters, but Edwards isn’t exactly wrong here. It’s not uncommon for a new head coach, to put it lightly, to run off players he doesn’t want.
The reasons for not wanting an inherited player may vary, but most of the time it comes down to whether or not the player fits in the new system–this is most common for quarterbacks.
Most of the time the conversations between coaches and players happen privately, and word comes out that the player is deciding to transfer.
Being so open about roster cuts, and calling out players is a harsh and cruel way to run a program, but it’s similar to how the NFL operates.
There’s no question this mentality will rub some players the wrong way, but senior safety Jalen Harvey didn’t seem to have a problem with Edwards’ comments.
“To be honest, [cutting and evaluating players is] the coach’s decision,” Harvey told azcentral.com. “At the same time, I feel like if you’re not performing as a player, what’s the reason of being on this football field, putting this jersey on, putting that helmet on? There’s no reason.”
The Sun Devils return their starting quarterback, Manny Wilkins, in 2018, and the redshirt senior appears to have bought in to what Edwards is selling.
“It’s professionalism at its finest,” Wilkins told azcentral.com. “There’s got to be competition at every single point. When there’s not competition is when people get stagnant, and being complacent is when things start going bad.
Wilkins has seen firsthand how average this program has become over the last three years, so it’s easy to see why he supports Edwards’ new approach.
In all honesty, I like the fact that Arizona State is taking a new approach to college football. It puts the Sun Devils in the national conversation because people are genuinely curious to see how everything shakes out.
While the players seem optimistic, Edwards’ 54-74 record as a head coach in the NFL (running an NFL system like he’s trying to implement at ASU) is less than stellar, would worry me if I was a Sun Devils fan.
But it’s an intriguing race in Pac-12 south, with two other teams breaking in new head coaches (Arizona and UCLA), and USC and UCLA dealing with the losses of likely top-10 draft picks in quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, respectively.
Where does ASU, which finished second in the division in 2017, fit into all of this? Your guess is as good as mine.