TEMPE – Football coaches’ days are infamously long and meticulously structured. They are jam-packed with meetings, player and staff evaluation, practice- and game-planning, media obligations, NCAA compliance education, recruiting, teaching, community building and so much more. There is no time for inefficiency.
Somewhere in that space, a coach must carve out personal time to eat and exercise.
TheSunDevils.com had the chance to spend a day with new coach Herm Edwards to see how he manages his schedule, to glean some insights into his philosophy, and at times, to stay out of his way so he could tend to other responsibilities.
Edwards was enlightening, engaging and chock full of riveting anecdotes in our time with him, but we don’t want to mislead you. His alarm clock goes off early in the morning. While we slept in, Edwards had already checked off several tasks on his daily to-do list.
Here is a look at a typical Herm Edwards day.
4 a.m.: The day begins.
4:15 a.m.: Edwards, 63, is out the door of the hotel room in which he has been living for the past month-plus since Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson named him coach on Dec. 3. The sun won’t rise for 3½ more hours, but aside from sleep, this is Edwards’ biggest chunk of me-time. He likes to get in a 90-minute-plus workout.
6:30 a.m.: Edwards visits the Starbucks on Mill Avenue, although he admits he is more of “a tea guy.” Along the way, he greets a number of newfound friends who call him ‘coach.’
“I know a bunch of street people, now,” he says. “Every once in a while, I go down to Starbucks and buy some guys some coffee.”
7 a.m.: Edwards likes to arrive before his assistants and staff so he can check his schedule, plan his day and gather his thoughts for each of the tasks ahead. Today’s docket is meeting heavy.
8 a.m.: Coaches staff meeting. Edwards is a notorious practical joker. When he hired wide receivers coach Charlie Fisher, Fisher forgot to text him back and say thanks, so Edwards decides to mess with him.
“He comes in here to our meeting and I say, ‘Coach, are you on our staff?’” Edwards says with a practiced quizzical expression. “He’s looking at me like I’m crazy. I said, ‘Man, 10 days went by and I know my phone was working and I didn’t hear from you so I didn’t know!’”
When the newly hired assistants met Ray Anderson for the first time, Edwards convinced them it would be a good idea to shake Anderson’s hand after he addressed them. He hinted that Anderson was a stern man so it would be a good way to get in his good graces.
“When everyone’s done talking, my coaches are trampling over people to shake his hand first,” he says. “I’m in the corner laughing and one of the coaches looks at me and says, ‘Coach, you got us.’”
8:30 a.m.: Recruiting meeting. This is the first of two recruiting meetings, which will produce the lifeblood of the program: talented players. Edwards knows the Sun Devils have ground to make up. It’s always that way when a new coach is hired, but his contacts are nationwide from his NFL days and ESPN days. There is no sense of panic.
"I'm not a big meeting fan but right now, because these guys are new, it's important," he says. "Here's why. Let's say you coach the wide receivers and I coach the DBs and in your [recruiting] area there's four DBs. Unless you know the DNA of what we want in a defensive back it's really hard for you to evaluate the guys you're seeing because you're the running backs coach. This is a chance for us to all get on the same page."
It is during this meeting that Edwards hands out his personal handbook that includes his philosophy on working with players, the structure and goal of positional meetings, on-field expectations for coaches and players, his purpose for being a coach, a reminder that they are all teachers and some coaching tips.
“These guys don’t know me,” he explains. “From soup to nuts, it’s who I am.”
Noon: Arizona recruiting meeting. The entire coaching staff watches film of the their top in-state targets, compares notes, exchanges ideas and finalizes plans on about a dozen Arizona prep players.
Edwards asks for information on three separate players, but he mostly watches film and listens to his coaches talk and compare notes. This meeting will inform the staff as they embark on a 50-school tour de force around the Phoenix Metro Area.
10 a.m.: Athletic department staff meeting.
11 a.m.: Lunch.
12:30 p.m.: Media interview. This is our first chunk of sit-down time with Edwards. For the next 90 minutes we ask a total of eight questions. Edwards fills the rest of the time with anecdotes from his NFL days, personal philosophies and the lessons he gleaned from three great mentors: Dick Vermeil, Tony Dungy and Marty Schottenheimer.
2:30-4 p.m.: The second half of our exclusive conversation begins, and Edwards is somehow even more energized than he was at the start. The anecdotes are flowing like wine now and it feels like dinner with a friend.
Edwards recalls studying for the NCAA compliance test on a flight from ESPN headquarters (after his last day on the job) to Phoenix.
“I was sweating bullets when I was getting ready to come here,” he says, laughing. “I leave Bristol on Friday after this great send-off and I’m sitting next to a guy on the airplane and he says, ‘coach, whatcha’ doin’?’ I said, ‘I got a compliance test tomorrow. I’m supposed to go on the road the next day and if I don’t pass this I can’t go.”
Edwards knows the prevailing narrative surrounding his hire. He knows people believe he has been out of the game too long.
“I think every coach should just step away for a while,” he says. “What happens is this. When you watch the game from the booth or as an analyst, you don’t watch one game. You watch 20 games. You see it from afar.
“When it’s your game as a coach, it’s just your situation, but when you watch a lot of games, you see a coach make a decision and the light goes on and you think, ‘hmm, I agree with that’ or ‘I don’t agree, but that’s interesting. I learned something.’
“I grew up in an era with Dick Vermeil, Marty Schottenheimer and Tony Dungy where it was: ‘We’re going to run the ball, we’re going to play physical and we’ll pass every once in a while, but now that I’ve been away, I’d do some things different. If I hadn’t been away, I probably would not have evolved because you don’t see the big picture.”
5-7 p.m.: It’s time for a meet-and-greet with about 50 former players at the Coach’s Club at Sun Devil Stadium, the same place where Edwards held his first press conference after being hired.
This is where the coach shines. He moves from table, chatting with every generation of Sun Devil, sharing stories and laughter.
"You're drawn to him right away," says former Sun Devils defensive back Anthony Parker, who had Edwards as his position coach in Tampa for his final two years in the NFL. "He makes you feel comfortable. I think he will do great with recruiting and I think he'll be able to become that CEO and get this program where it needs to be.
"Once you're a coach, you don't lose it. It's not like you're an athlete and you're losing your ability. He's still got his mind, he has the ability to analyze and he's gained even more wisdom. I truly believe he will come in here and turn things around for us."