Herm Edwards has already been approved by Arizona State Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson, he just needs a nod from president Michael Crow to become ASU’s next head coach.
Crow will fly back from China to speak with Edwards the weekend of Dec. 2-3.
Anderson is putting all his marbles on Edwards
Destin: Todd Graham wasn’t given a contract extension for the first time in his tenure after a 5-7 season in 2016, which means Anderson has pondered this for over six months. There are plenty of college or NFL coaches he could have reached out to. Anderson didn’t make up his mind days after firing Graham to bring in Edwards. This is his biggest move as an athletic director and if it goes wrong, he may be fired.
He’ll take a CEO-type approach
Destin: Edwards is expected to keep offensive coordinator Billy Napier, defensive coordinator Phil Bennett and the rest of Graham’s staff.
“They’re football guys who just happen to know Todd Graham. They’re married to football,” Edwards said in an interview with ArizonaSports.com.
The eight-year NFL head coach may have the right pieces to win. Napier’s offense wasn’t the issue this season, and though ASU gave up just over 30 points per game under Bennett, that average is a touchdown less than ASU’s defense gave up last season.
He’s 63 years old
Destin: Anderson’s guy is not a long-term Sun Devil. The last ASU coach to lead the program ofcover a decade was Frank Kush who ended his tenure in 1979. David Shaw (45), Chris Peterson (53), Clay Helton (45) and Mike Leach (56) run the premier programs in the Pac-12 (for the time being). Nick Saban is 66, but began his college head coaching career in 1990. Rocky Long is 67, but his college coaching career began in 1998 with New Mexico. This would be the beginning of a new era for Edwards who is poised to be the oldest coach in the Pac-12.
Tempe will be under a microscope
Destin: He’s energetic, motivational and iconic. ”You play to win the games!”
Tempe is no Los Angeles or San Francisco, but it will receive large doses of attention with Edwards at the helm moving forward. Win or lose, the national media will be on Edwards. Catch the Sun Devils on ESPN next season a bit more than you’re used to.
Has yet to recruit, but may bring success
Destin: Todd Graham’s recruiting was dismal at best. Anderson wants the program to to be in the Top-15 consistently and to be in the top-3 in the Pac-12 regularly. In his five recruiting classes, Graham didn’t bring in one top-3 class in 247 Sports’ Pac-12 rankings. After a 2016 class that ranked fourth, his 2017 class ranked sixth and ASU’s current class ranks ninth.
Edwards, being who he is, may be able lure four to five star athletes regularly like Anderson wants. While his 54-74 NFL record isn’t pleasing, he spent 18 years coaching NFL talent as a head coach, defensive backs coach and assistant. Most recruits are eyeing the NFL after college. He may be an outlet to get them there.
His players may give him a legit winning chance
Destin: Ron Wolfley of ArizonaSports.com asked Edwards “Do you have a burning desire to win?” His response: “C’mon you know who I am. You kidding me?”
The Sun Devils potentially return 16 starters. He’s equipped with a veteran quarterback in Manny Wilkins with a solid receiving core of Jalen Harvey, Kyle Williams and N’Keal Harry. His offensive line loses just A.J. McCollum. Defensively, DJ Calhoun and potentially Christian Sam will leave, but Koron Crump may stay, along with J’Marcus Rhodes. Three of four players in the secondary and two of three defensive line starters return. What Graham left him with isn’t bad to work with.
He has zero college head coaching experience
Madden: It’s extremely difficult to find an example of a coach moving from the NFL to coach in the collegiate ranks to become elite - which is of course what Anderson thinks will happen with this move.
Even the coaches that did make the transition — Jim Harbaugh, Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, etc. — all had previous college coaching experience before they tried their hand at the pros. They were all relatively successful in the NFL as well, unlike Edwards.
Ray Anderson is hiring his buddy, but there’s a catch
Madden: The optics of this move aren’t great. Anderson fires a coach that will leave Tempe with an overall positive legacy — paying an absurd amount to do so — to bring in a man that he was once an agent for. It’s clear-cut nepotism and a bold move for an athletic director that fired an extremely-likable coach.
There is a catch, though. Anderson doesn’t just want to see his friend on the field leading his program, he wants him to win. A lot. Anderson’s expectations for Edwards are sky-high, by his logic the head coach has to out-recruit two of: USC, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon and Washington on a consistent basis.
He also wants top-15 production, which by this years’ standards by the College Football Playoff Committee likely means at least ten wins — only two teams within those rankings managed just nine.
Coaching the Under Armour All-America game does not equate to collegiate player development
Madden: This is a point that’s brought up way too much. Often people will mention that he’s worked with the most talented high-school players in the country and helped them transition to the college ranks.
The players in that game are tremendous young athletes that have been cultivated, developed and coached their entire lives to become among the elite in the nation and selected by ESPN to showcase their talents. Edwards is a talking head in that game, delivering a televised pregame speech and receiving airtime for standing on the sidelines.
What happens if this move fails?
Madden: Let’s project this move not working out after three to four years of mediocre, — or even possibly good, not great football which is not the expectation — and Ray Anderson gives his buddy the boot, where does the program go from there?
ASU will then be six years removed from its back-to-back double-digit win seasons, without a head coach and an athletic director possibly on the hot seat while fan interest plummets to an all-time low.
Sure, it’s speculation, but does anyone actually believe Edwards is the guy to help ASU jump over Stanford and UCLA?
If he doesn’t, Arizona State football will be in disarray, more-so than it already is.