Arizona State hires Herm Edwards as new head football coach

Posted: Updated:
Herm Edwards coaching the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) Herm Edwards coaching the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
ASU made the announcement on Sunday night. (Source: Sun Devil Athletics) ASU made the announcement on Sunday night. (Source: Sun Devil Athletics)

Give Arizona State credit. They stick to their “No. 1 in innovation” moniker even during coach searches.

On Sunday, the university announced that Herm Edwards will be the Sun Devils’ new head football coach. The 63-year-old Edwards comes to Tempe following the dismissal of Todd Graham after six seasons.

ASU’s hiring of Edwards has generated controversy for its unconventional nature. Edwards has not held a head coaching job since 2008 when he led the Kansas City Chiefs, and he has not coached at the college level since 1989. During his coaching career, Edwards’ agent was Ray Anderson, ASU’s current athletic director and the man responsible for making this hire.

One of the key elements of the hire is ASU's emphasis on continuity. As part of the move to fire Graham, Anderson stated that Sun Devils hope to retain much of the assistant coaching staff, with particular focus on offensive coordinator Billy Napier and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. There's been no official word on which assistant coaches will return.

A San Diego State graduate, Edwards played 10 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back, nine of those with the Philadelphia Eagles. Following his retirement, he coached at San Jose State for three seasons before joining the Kansas City Chiefs as a scout in 1990. Edwards would serve as an assistant coach with the Chiefs and later the Tampa Bay Buccaneers until 2001, when he was named head coach of the New York Jets. With the Jets, he posted a 39-41 record and took New York to the playoffs three times. Amidst growing tensions with the team’s ownership, Edwards was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006. After a 9-7 debut a a playoff appearance that season, Edwards’ Chiefs fell to 4-12 and 2-14 records over the next two seasons and he was fired.

He did not stay unemployed for long. ESPN hired Edwards as a studio analyst for their NFL coverage in 2009, and he has remained in that role ever since. He has also coached in the annual Under Armour high school All-American game for eight years. Renowned for his oratory skills, Edwards has also made appearances as a motivational speaker.

Edwards replaces Graham, who was fired just hours after leading ASU to a victory over archrival Arizona on Nov. 23. The contract buyout owed to Graham is reported to be near $12 million.

Over his six seasons in Tempe, Graham posted a 46-31 overall record, including a surprising 7-5 mark his season. Graham led the Sun Devils to the 2013 Pac-12 South title and was named the conference’s Coach of the Year that season. The next season, Graham’s Sun Devils reached No. 6 in the College Football rankings late in the season, but a shocking road loss to Oregon State derailed those dreams and put the program in a two-season tailspin. After posting a 28-12 mark over his first three seasons, Graham went 11-14 in 2015 and 2016. Amid intense scrutiny over his job status and dire preseason predictions, Graham led ASU to a 7-5 record this past season, with a bowl game yet to be played.

Off the field, Graham helped overhaul the culture after a difficult period under prior head coach Dennis Erickson. The Sun Devils’ team GPA rose from 2.2 when Graham arrived in 2011 to 3.0 this past semester, the best mark ever achieved by the program. Graham also placed a strong emphasis on bringing in high-character players into the program and fostered a culture to develop them as both good players and good people.

Yet the on-field slide over the last three was too much for Anderson to overlook. During the press conference to announce Graham’s firing, Anderson outlined his vision for the program’s goals. Those included being in the top three in the Pac-12 and top 15 nationally on an annual basis, better results in recruiting, and developing more players into high-caliber NFL prospects.

To reach those lofty goals, Edwards will inherit an experienced Sun Devil team that will return as many as 15 starters from this year, nine of which are on offense. 

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved