Bucs cornerbacks Kelly and Barber say coach will be missed.
By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001
TAMPA -- Herman Edwards made an impression on the Jets ownership, but he also left a lasting one with those he coached here.
Reached late Wednesday after word that the Bucs assistant head coach/defensive backs was leaving to become Jets coach, cornerbacks Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly expressed deep appreciation for what Edwards did for their careers and an even deeper joy that he was finally getting a head-coaching position.
"I'm happy for him, very happy for him," Barber said. "He was a player and a player's coach."
"It seems like he's been waiting for this opportunity for a while. Now, you have to pay your dues and there are a lot of qualified guys out there, but he's been through the rungs. He's ready."
Known for his engaging personality, comic nature and uncanny ability to reflect on experiences, Edwards' reputation with the players for teaching the rudiments of playing defensive back was overshadowed only by his reputation for telling unique stories.
"There are so many instances when we've been sitting in the defensive backs meetings and Coach Herm would say something truly profound," Barber said. "He always had such a unique way of putting things in perspective that I think his players quickly understood what he was trying to say. He's a great coach."
Barber, a third-round pick in 1997 considered a long shot to make the team, credited Edwards' ability to share experiences from his 10-year career as one of the reasons why Barber not only became a starter but is considered one of the marquee free agents this off-season.
Kelly, a second-round pick in 1998 from Southern California and the Bucs nickel back, said the Jets are getting a "people person" whose communication and teaching skills go beyond the field.
"To me, he was a great coach, and a great people person," Kelly said. "He also played the game for so many years. And whenever you have someone who knows the game that well, who knows the ups and downs of playing in the NFL, it's a positive thing."
Kelly said he's particularly grateful for the role Edwards played in helping him get over the the 1999 NFC Championship Game loss at St. Louis. Kelly was the cornerback victimized by the 30-yard winning touchdown from Kurt Warner to Ricky Proehl.
"His approach to dealing with it was so helpful," Kelly said. "He didn't pay much attention to it. Didn't make it an issue. If it came up it, it was because I brought it up. I think that kind of approach lets players know that there's always another chance and that no one play makes a season."
Asked how he would describe Edwards to a Jets player, Kelly responded: "I'll tell him, 'You're getting a great player's coach. A guy who can help you win, teach you the game and teach you how to be a professional every time.' "