Herman Edwards made his mark as a player in one game against the New York Giants. Now he has a chance to pull off another Miracle of the Meadowlands as coach of the New York Jets.
Until he was hired Thursday to replace Al Groh, Edwards was best known for returning Joe Pisarcik's fumble 26 yards for the winning touchdown in the Philadelphia Eagles' 19-17 win over the Giants in 1978. The play, with 31 seconds left in the game, was dubbed the Miracle of the Meadowlands.
"At one time, I thought Giants Stadium held about 70-something thousand," Edwards said during his news conference at the Jets complex at Hofstra University, "but the longer this thing goes the more people that have been at that football game ... every time I talk to someone, `Hey, I was there!'"
Edwards also noted the significance of the play.
"We were floundering that year, losing games at the end and all of a sudden that play comes about," Edwards said. "There's something about plays like that turning around your fortunes. From that point on we had a four-year playoff run. A play like that makes players believe they can win."
And that will be Edwards' job with the Jets, although he said former coach and director of player operations Bill Parcells left a solid structure.
"These guys know how to win," Edwards said. "This organization is strong, and my task is to keep it going. Two years ago, they knew they needed one more win to get to the Super Bowl. They fell a little short of the playoffs last year, but with one or two wins at the end maybe I'm not up here talking to you."
It has been a tumultuous two months for the Jets, who dropped their final three games to blow a playoff berth. Groh resigned on Dec. 30 to become the coach at Virginia, his alma mater. Then Parcells resigned. The Jets were back to their dysfunctional selves, just like earlier last year when Parcells stepped down as coach, Bill Belichick took over for a day and resigned and Groh was promoted.
But Johnson went out and hired Terry Bradway from the Kansas City Chiefs as his general manager, and the two drew up a list of four candidates - Edwards, Jacksonville defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Buffalo defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and Jets assistant Maurice Carthon.
Edwards becomes the third active black head coach in the NFL and the sixth overall. The other current black head coaches are Minnesota's Dennis Green and Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy. Edwards is the first black head coach of a pro football team n New York.
Johnson noted the significance of the hiring, but said, "That really didn't come into play. We were simply looking for a coach who could get us where we want to go."
Said Edwards: "I don't want to use that as a crutch. I want to say that I got hired because I was qualified to get hired. I worked my way up the ranks like any good solider. I did it without stepping on people, without talking about people, without bellyaching it wasn't my turn.
"I live by this: Work hard and when it's your time, it's your time. I'm an Afro-American and if I didn't get my show, I want to make sure that I dotted all the i's so when the next guy came along he's got a better chance."
Edwards is considered one of the brightest assistants in the game. He spent the past five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as Tony Dungy's assistant head coach/defensive backs. Before that, he worked with the Chiefs under Marty Schottenheimer, and also played 10 seasons - nine for the Eagles - from 1977-85.
Even though Bradway knew Edwards from their years with the Chiefs, the GM was convinced he had the right man after a daylong interview earlier in the week.
"He was even more impressive then I advertised," Bradway said. "He's the best man to lead the Jets on the path to the world's championship. He has great respect not only for the game, but for people. His experience as a player, personnel evaluator, a position coach and an assistant head coach has prepared him for the challenges that lie ahead."
Tampa Bay players spoke highly of Edwards.
"Herm has got everything. He's a detail guy," Bucs Pro Bowl safety John Lynch said. "He's as organized and meticulous as anyone you'll ever find. He demands excellence from his players, but knows how to have fun, too."
Added cornerback Ronde Barber: "They've got someone who's not going to give up on them regardless of what happens. He refuses to lose. He refuses to be mediocre. He does not want to fail, and he pushes that on his players."
Edwards has yet to finalize any staff decisions. He said he planned to meet shortly with current Jets assistants, including Carthon, who could end up as offensive coordinator.
He has not evaluated the players but said Vinny Testaverde is his No. 1 quarterback, and also had high praise for Chad Pennington, who along with Ray Luca are the backups.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Edwards added a kicker to his fumble return. Noting that Pisarcik ended up with the Eagles the next season as a backup, Edwards continued: "And the poor guy, he walks into the locker room and the first thing that they do is throw the ball on the floor and Bill Bergey says, 'Play it again, Joe.'"
©2001 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 2001 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.