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A coach's market

Sports | The Chiefs hope former Jets' coach Herman Edwards will put them over the top

Issue: "What women want," Jan. 21, 2006

The NFL's salary cap acts like gravity, producing a steady and powerful draw toward 8-8 mediocrity. When NFL clubs are restrained from outspending other teams, what can separate the league's teams? Among other teams, the NFL's Chiefs, Redskins, and Patriots think they know the answer: coaching.

Last week, the Chiefs executed a sort of a trade with the New York Jets. In the deal, the Jets received a fourth-round pick and Kansas City got the right to hire away coach Herman Edwards. That's right-a trade for a coach. For the Chiefs, it's a classic case of buying low. Mr. Edwards, a formerly successful coach, led the Jets as they slid to a 4-12 record. The Kansas City gamble is that with a fresh start, Mr. Edwards, well-respected in the NFL, can help put the Chiefs over the top and back into the playoffs.

For Washington, its recent coaching gambit was more about standing pat. Before the start of the playoffs, the Redskins worked out a new deal with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, paying him $8 million over three years. The contract pays him more than some NFL head coaches and puts him in line to succeed aging head coach Joe Gibbs. Who is to say it's not worth it? After all, Mr. Williams helped the Redskins flex their defensive muscle, winning over Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round despite only gaining 120 yards on offense.

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Both teams are following the lead of New England. Six years ago, the Patriots traded a first-round pick to pry Bill Belichick, then a defensive coordinator for the Jets, away from a division rival. "I think that is a small price to pay for the right guy," legendary coach Dick Vermeil said at the time. "To me, there have been a ton of first-round flops. . . . You get the right coach, he will change your organization."

Comparatively speaking, the Chiefs may have gotten off cheaply. It cost Tampa Bay two first-round picks and a pair of seconds to coax Oakland into giving up its coach. The NFL ruled Kansas City had to pay St. Louis a second-rounder, a third, and $500,000 for hiring away Mr. Vermeil in 2001. For the record, the No. 1 pick sent to New York for Mr. Belichick roughly translated into Shaun Ellis, a talented defensive end. Six seasons and three Super Bowls later, who would argue with the Patriots' move?

Around the Horn

Olympic skiing favorite Bode Miller may have admitted he'll likely ski drunk again, but considering the recent firestorm his comments have stirred, he may have learned at the very least to keep his mouth shut. "Talk about a hard challenge right there. . . . If you ever tried to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy," Mr. Miller said on 60 Minutes. Since his comments became public, Mr. Miller has been roasted in the press for, among other things, seemingly advocating an activity that is dangerous if not deadly.

So much for following in his brother's footsteps. Former Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick, the little brother of Falcons star Michael Vick, will enter this year's NFL draft, but it won't be on his terms. The Hokies kicked the athletic signal caller off the team after he stomped on an opponent's calf during the recent Gator Bowl. But Mr. Vick now has much more to worry about than his draft status: He was arrested a few days later on alleged gun crimes for which he could serve 12 months in jail.

A man identified only as Raphael broke into the Montreal Canadiens practice on Jan. 9 apparently trying to earn a spot on the NHL team's roster. The 28-year-old skated onto the ice in full hockey gear, dropped a puck, and skated directly at Montreal keeper Jose Theodore. When the man tried to score, Mr. Theodore poke-checked him. The second time around, the goaltender easily stopped a weak wrist shot. Ever vigilant in goal, Mr. Theodore kept it all in perspective: "He couldn't beat me. That's the main thing."

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