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Herm bails to the Chiefs

4th rounder is all Jets get

by Rich Cimini
New York Daily News

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the Jets’ wacky wild-card victory in San Diego. Even by Jets standards, it’s hard to fathom how quickly everything has crumbled since that starry night.
They went from Super Bowl aspirations in 2005 to a 4-12 disaster to an empty head coach’s office.

Herm Edwards is a goner, his departure to Kansas City all but sealed yesterday with the announcement that the Jets and Chiefs finally had agreed on compensation. After three days of discussions, the Jets let Edwards walk for only a fourth-round pick in 2006 – the lowest compensation package ever negotiated for a head coach.

Hoping to quell the public relations fallout, the Jets, trying to spin it forward, released a statement from GM Terry Bradway that said, “We will begin interviewing head-coaching candidates immediately.”

At that moment, Edwards still was employed by the Jets, but the club’s message was clear: Good riddance, Herm.

So ended a five-year relationship that turned nasty in the final days. In other words, a typical divorce.

One thing is certain: Edwards will emerge the winner. Upon receiving permission from the Jets, Chiefs president Carl Peterson opened negotiations with Edwards’ agent. Talks continued last night and, barring an unforeseen snag, Edwards will be introduced Monday in Kansas City with a five-year contract that could be worth $20 million. He had two years and less than $4 million remaining on his Jets contract.

As for the Jets, the franchise has reached another crossroads. It seems to repel good coaches; this marks the fourth time in the last six years that a head coach has bolted. In fact, they haven’t actually fired a coach since Pete Carroll after the 1994 season.

Bradway, holed up in his bunker at Weeb Ewbank Hall, didn’t make himself available to explain the thin compensation package. (He’s expected to address the media on Monday, when Edwards-to-Kansas City is official.) Despite the silence, the mood at the team’s complex was that of relief.

“The Chiefs did the Jets a favor,” said one person familiar with the team’s thinking.

The Jets had no intention of firing Edwards after the injury-ravaged season, the person said, but they became increasingly miffed by what they perceived as a coach who no longer wanted to be there. Owner Woody Johnson, who extended Edwards’ contract after the 2001 and 2003 seasons, was irked by the latest request – after a 4-12 season, no less.

When the Chiefs came calling, the Jets sought the chance to rid themselves of a disgruntled coach and gain a draft pick. Edwards consented to the compensation talks, according to the person.

“He wanted to pursue this,” the person said. “He never once stood up and said, ‘I don’t want to go to Kansas City.’ ”

Bradway’s leverage with the Chiefs was damaged by the perception that Edwards was a goner no matter what. Still, he should’ve managed something better than a fourth-round pick, based on the market. In 2001, the Chiefs surrendered second- and third-round picks to the Rams for the right to hire Dick Vermeil, who was retired but under contract.

By the end of the Jets-Chiefs negotiation, you got the feeling the Jets wouldn’t have been able to squeeze the Chiefs for an order of Arthur Bryant’s famous Kansas City ribs, let alone a high draft pick.

Edwards’ camp, of course, offered an entirely different view of the breakup. People close to Edwards say Jets management never approached him after the season about addressing his desire for a contract extension, that it started the Kansas City talks without even checking with him. His agent, Gary O’Hagan, insisted that Edwards didn’t quit the Jets.

According to a staff member, Edwards, in a Thursday meeting with his coaches, told them, “No one asked me if I wanted to be the coach of the Jets.”

Edwards, who actually showed up for work yesterday, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

What now? Bradway has several names on his not-so-short list of candidates, including Mike Sherman, Jim Haslett and Rams interim coach Joe Vitt. Haslett and Vitt are scheduled to interview Sunday and Monday, respectively.

Here’s a wild card: Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer, a close friend of Bradway. Schottenheimer and GM A.J. Smith reportedly have a frosty relationship, so perhaps Smith would be willing to listen to an offer.

The Jets have an extra fourth-round pick they’d be willing to deal.

And the next Jets coach is…

Possible replacements for Herm Edwards and the odds they’ll get the job: Mike Sherman (7-1): Former Packers coach enjoyed five straight winning seasons before the bottom fell out this year. Warning to reporters: Silence your cell phones.

Jim Haslett (10-1): Ex-Saints coach knows adversity and turmoil, so he’d fit right into the Jets’ culture. His New Orleans teams were known for underachieving.

Mike Heimerdinger (12-1): The Jets’ top in-house candidate. He was dealt a bad hand last season because of the injuries on offense. Owner Woody Johnson is said to be reluctant to promote ‘Dinger.

Al Saunders (15-1): Dick Vermeil’s offensive guru in Kansas City. GM Terry Bradway knows Saunders from his K.C. days. A Herm Edwards for Saunders trade?

Jim Fassel (17-1): He went to a Super Bowl and knows how to handle New York, but Jets could be wary of a recycled Giants coach.

Donnie Henderson (20-1): Fiery coach can get a defense to run through a brick wall, but might be too high-strung to manage an organization.

Cam Cameron (22-1): The Jets have a lot of respect for the way he has coordinated the Chargers’ offense. Too bad he couldn’t bring L.T. along with him.

Maurice Carthon (25-1): A Bill Parcells guy who was interviewed by Bradway in 2001. Carthon has paid his dues and might be ready to move up.

Eric Mangini (25-1): Patriots defensive coordinator is a chip off the ‘ol Belichick. Former Jets assistant is one of the top young coaches in the NFL. Turns 35 next week; Jon Gruden was only 34 when he got his start with the Raiders.

Joe Vitt (25-1): A Bradway crony, took over for ailing Mike Martz midseason and won four of 11 games with Rams.

Marty Schottenheimer (25-1): Chargers coach is also close to Bradway and may be on the outs with his GM in San Diego.

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