by Rich Cimini and Gary Myers
New York Daily News
Edwards’ five-year run as the Jets’ coach is effectively over.
The Jets and Chiefs intensified negotiations yesterday on a compensation package that would free Edwards from his contract, according to two people with knowledge of the talks. The discussions were so far along that, even if they fell apart, Edwards wouldn’t be able to return because his relationship with the club has been irreparably damaged, one person said.
“It’s in everybody’s best interest for this to happen,” the person said.
The compensation deal, which likely will include two middle-round draft picks, could be approved as soon as today by the NFL office. It would enable Edwards to become the Chiefs’ coach.
Anticipating Edwards’ departure, the Jets have compiled a list of possible replacements.
Former Saints coach Jim Haslett, who was fired Monday after a 3-13 season, is on the list, two people confirmed. Former Giants coach and current Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel also is being considered. The Chiefs, covering their bases, conducted a two-day interview with Fassel. Other potential Jets candidates are Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, ex-Packers coach Mike Sherman and Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
As of last night, the Jets and Chiefs hadn’t agreed to compensation, a source said, but the two sides were progressing toward that end. Edwards, who vowed as recently as two days ago that he wanted to return, would become the fourth head coach in six years to quit the Jets.
The Jets’ brain trust – owner Woody Johnson, president Jay Cross, GM Terry Bradway and assistant GM Mike Tannenbaum – huddled yesterday to plot their strategy. Bradway, who is negotiating with Chiefs president Carl Peterson, and Edwards are scheduled to appear this morning at a season-ending news conference. But that could be scrapped.
Edwards has two years left on his contract at about $2 million annually, which puts him in the bottom quarter of head-coaching salaries. Anticipating a rebuilding job, he wants more security, and Johnson apparently isn’t willing to give it. If he signs with the Chiefs, Edwards could command up to $20 million over five years. The Jets would receive draft picks, perhaps third- and fifth-rounders. A first-round pick appears out of the question.
The Jets entered into talks with the Chiefs without ever broaching the contract issue with Edwards, according to a person close to Edwards. There was no offer, no negotiations, not even a vote of confidence, which annoyed Edwards, the person said.
At the same time, the Jets are miffed because they believe Edwards has wanted out all along. Some believe the organization has soured on Edwards because of the way he pushed the Kansas City issue. He has been telling coaching friends for weeks that he’s unhappy in New York.
“Herm wants out bigger than life,” one person with knowledge of the situation said.
The Jets began looking at potential replacements about the same time talks began Tuesday with the Chiefs. There’s been contact with Haslett, according to two people familiar with the team’s thinking. Haslett’s agent, Peter Schaffer, declined to comment, except to say, “The Jets have a coach and Jim has nothing but respect and admiration for Herman Edwards.”
The Jets might have to move quickly on Haslett, who is scheduled to meet tomorrow with the Lions with regard to their coaching vacancy. The Rams and Texans are also interested.
Edwards’ coordinators, Mike Heimerdinger and Donnie Henderson, could be interviewed, although neither is considered a serious candidate. According to people familiar with the team’s thinking, Johnson isn’t on board with the idea of promoting Heimerdinger. As for Henderson, he and Bradway have clashed on several occasions, seemingly ruining his chances.
Henderson is slated to interview with the Saints this weekend. If he fails to land a head job, he could conceivably follow Edwards to Kansas City, especially if a defensive-minded coach takes over the Jets.
Bradway, who has two years remaining on his contract, doesn’t appear to be in any immediate danger. Barring an extension, he’s in a short-term situation, which could make it difficult to attract top head-coaching candidates. That Bradway is brokering the deal with the Chiefs is somewhat ironic. He used to work in the Chiefs’ front office and some in league circles believe he may aspire to replace Peterson, who said this week he expects to retire when his contract expires in four years.
The Jim Haslett file
BORN: December 9, 1955.
COLLEGE: 1975-78: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 4-time defensive All-American, elected to college football hall of fame.
NFL CAREER: Second-round pick of Buffalo Bills, voted Associated Press defensive rookie of year (1979); All-Pro (1981); Played for Bills (1979-86) and Jets (1987).
COACHING HIGHLIGHTS: Leads Saints to first playoff victory in franchise history with 31-28 victory over Rams in 2000.
CONTROVERSY: Causes stir in March when he admits he used steroids as a player and says powerhouse Steeler teams of â€™70s were juiced up. Steelers vehemently deny that they were.
2000-05: Saints – head coach
1997-99: Steelers – defensive coordinator
1995-96: Saints – LB coach/defensive coordinator
1993-94: Raiders – linebackers coach
1991-92: Surge* – defensive coordinator
1988-90: U. of Buffalo – LB coach/defensive coordinator
* World League of American Footballâ€™s Sacramento Surge
2005 – 3-13
2004 – 8-8
2003 – 8-8
2002 – 9-7
2001 – 7-9
2000 – 10-6