Shortly before the start of what would be his final season coaching the Chiefs, Herm Edwards called a meeting for many of his best young players: Tamba Hali, Dwayne Bowe, Jamaal Charles, Glenn Dorsey, Brandon Flowers and others.
Perhaps sensing he wouldn't be their coach much longer, Edwards told those players that the Chiefs eventually would be built around them.
"They were going to be the foundation of this football team down the road, and I told them that," said Edwards, now an analyst on ESPN. "They didn't understand what I was telling them. A lot of those guys were too young to think about it. A lot of them looked at me kind of funny"
Edwards, sure enough, was fired after that 2-14 season in 2008. But he was right in what he told those players that day -- and his legacy lives on with the Chiefs.
The Chiefs won the AFC West championship and will play Baltimore on Sunday in a first-round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium with many players acquired by Edwards filling key roles.
Charles and Bowe are Pro Bowlers. Hali led the AFC with 14 1/2 sacks. Dorsey, Flowers and Brandon Carr are fulfilling the vision Edwards had when they were acquired in his final draft. Branden Albert, Barry Richardson and Ron Edwards are starters.
Although the Chiefs won just 15 games in Edwards' three seasons, he can take some pride that the youth movement he initiated has finally paid off.
"I'm happy for what's going on there," Edwards said. "I'm happy for the fans. They had to suffer for three years.
"I tried to leave the team better than when I got here. We didn't win enough games. I get that part. But I always sensed we had the right kind of guys and they would give us a chance eventually.
"I knew the Chiefs had a chance (after Edwards left) because the cupboard wasn't bare. You've got to give Todd Haley a lot of credit. You've got to give Romeo Crennel a lot of credit. Charlie Weis, too. They came in and they had a plan and they were very good with the players. They acquired a quarterback. They've done some good things, too, along with having some pieces there."
Edwards used many of the Chiefs' best young players as immediate starters. They developed the necessary experience but couldn't win enough for Edwards to keep his job.
"We weren't afraid to let them play," Edwards said. "We knew there was going to be some heartbreak. We knew there were going to be some things they didn't get because they didn't have experience. That's the hardest thing. You want them to have experience, but the only way to get it is to let them play.
"Some of the guys we drafted were really young. We suffered through all of that. We were so young, and we had no veterans to hold on to. We lost some games in the fourth quarter because we just ran out of gas.
"Now all of a sudden a lot of those guys are in their third season and they've figured this football thing out. When you're young and you're asked to play right away, that's a burden. A lot of those guys had to mature as they played. They made errors. It wasn't because of (a lack of) talent. It was because of inexperience."
Hali was Edwards' first draft pick. He was selected as a defensive end to be a complementary pass rusher to Jared Allen but had to become the No. 1 rusher in 2008 after the Chiefs traded Allen to Minnesota.
Only this season, under Haley and after being moved to outside linebacker, did Hali flourish.
"He had a great upside," Edwards said. "Tamba was still learning how to play football and how to be a professional when we had him. Sometimes it takes guys a little bit longer to acquire a pass-rush move. The way they use him now helps him. They stand him up, they move him around."
Charles was a part-time player behind Larry Johnson in his only season playing for Edwards. But he averaged a healthy 5.3 yards per carry and caught 27 passes. Edwards indicated Charles would have played more the next season had he remained as coach.
Charles finished this season as the NFL's second leading rusher with 1,467 yards. He came close to setting an NFL record with 6.4 yards per carry.
"Jamaal Charles was 21 when we drafted him," Edwards said. "He was an immature guy. But you could tell he was going to be a great player. He was a home-run hitter in college. He doesn't have a big frame, but he's not afraid to run inside."
Bowe had solid statistics in his two seasons under Edwards. He caught 70 passes for 995 yards as a rookie.
His numbers this season, 72 catches for 1,162 yards, aren't significantly better. But he had 15 receiving touchdowns, leading the league.
Haley held Bowe to a high work standard, even to the point of benching him in the preseason last year. Bowe was more consistent this year.
"He didn't have to work real hard because he's so big and so strong," Edwards said. "He could get away with that in college, and it took him a while to figure it out. Even still, his rookie year, he almost had a thousand yards in receptions.
"Todd's done a great job with him. But I also think a lot of it is on Dwayne. He understood where he was in his career."
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