Chantel Jennings, TheAthletic.com (https://theathletic.com/209364/2018/01/12/herm-edwards-qa-arizona-state-football-coach/)
The All-American: What do you believe is your best asset or advantage in terms of being a head coach at the college level?
I think my strength is as a communicator. There’s no doubt about that. Delivering a message. I’m very detailed and organized as far as what we’re going to do. My consistency as far as who I am and how I coach is important to me. I think it’s important to players, too. I look at it in this perspective as a coach, and I told the team this: I view things through a player’s eyes. I don’t view things through a coach’s eye. I view things as a player, as a former player.
I always go back to when I played and what were the things that were important to me? I have been around a lot of good coaches and I’ve taken things away and watched how they coached and really kind of built my résumé that way. Now, I’ve done some things a little different as well, but for the most part, players want to know you care and you care about their best interest on the field as well as off the field. I think they feel that when I speak. It’s important that I back those words with my actions and that’s critical and I don’t think I have a problem doing that.
Arizona State president Michael Crow and athletic director Ray Anderson wanted this structure to be a new structure, one that was sort of modeled after an NFL team with you acting as a quasi-GM. After a month on the job, and having worked in all levels in the NFL, what piece is most similar?
When you talk about CEO, you realize you are responsible for everything under the umbrella of football. I report to two people: Dr. Crow and (Ray) Anderson. The first thing I have to do is make sure that when I hire coaches, that they’re very qualified, they’re great teachers. But, also this, that I delegate them responsibilities.
I’m a big believer in delegating to people and giving them opportunities so they have ownership in what they’re doing. I don’t micromanage anybody. I’ve seen coaches who’ve done that as a former player. I think that you give them the ability to think, you give them the ability to explore things that maybe sometimes when you’re an assistant coach you don’t have an opportunity to do that.
I’m a really good listener. Sometimes when you sit in that leadership seat, you don’t listen. You have to have answers, but I think the more you listen, the more knowledge you gain. I’m a big why guy. I say ‘why’ before ‘how’ and ‘what.’ Why to me is knowledge.
Having not worked with either of these coaches before, how did you go about getting to know them?
I spoke to the coaches the first time in a coaches’ meeting and went over a lot of things about who I was. A lot of these guys have never coached for me, so I wanted to tell them who I was as a coach. And, I gave them a pamphlet of some things about how I do things.
But, more than anything else, I told them my purpose of coaching. I said, ‘Eventually we’re going to get around this room and have every guy stand up and tell the rest of the coaches his purpose for why he’s a coach.’ I think that’s important so that everyone understands how you got into this profession. Most of the coaches I’ve been around played football at some level, but it’s the journey of getting here — how did they get here to become a coach? What is your purpose as a coach?
What is your purpose as a coach?
It’s two things, and I’ve always told coaches and players this: It’s not your right to coach or play this great game of football, it’s a privilege. The thing we can never lose sight of is in how we coach players and how the players play, we’ve got to honor the game of football. That’s important. If you do those two things right, you’ll have a lot of success.
What’s your approach to recruiting, both in terms of philosophy but also how you’ll break it up?
We’ve got coaches in certain regions, but then as we define the guys we go position-specific with the coaches. One coach will have a regional part of an area, but then he’ll say, ‘There’s a running back in that area.’ That position coach will eventually be a part of that area. I’ll see all these guys for the most part. I’ll make as many house visits as I can as we try to close the deal on these guys.
But before you even get into the recruiting, one thing you have to realize is: What is your DNA? What type of players are you looking for? That’s the big discussion right now. Philosophically, what type of players are we looking for? … That’s what the big meeting was about (Wednesday) with all the coaches being in the room. So, we could define our DNA at certain positions. If you’re a running back coach and you’re in an area where there are three defensive backs, if you don’t know what the coach’s DNA is for the defensive back, how are you truly going to evaluate that guy? When the coach in the room stands up in the room and tells you, ‘When I’m looking for a defensive back, these are the traits I’m looking for,’ now you know. That’s the kind of guy coach wants.
We don’t want to waste time in this. To me, time is very valuable. It’s critical.
What are you currently reading?
My guide, my manual that I gave out to these coaches. It took me two weeks to do. There are a lot of pages in this thing. It’s pretty thorough.
What’s your caffeine of choice?
I’m a tea kind of guy. When I’m really bad, I’m Pepsi all the way.
What’s the first thing you put up in your new office?
A picture of my family and the Ten Commandments.
What’s your morning routine?
It starts this way — 4:15 wake up, 4:30 in the gym, done at 6:30 and then I walk into my office and start my day.