Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mixed Emotions

Buccaneer players hate to see Herman Edwards go, but are pleased that he has the opportunity to become head coach of the Jets

At approximately noon on Thursday, the New York Jets introduced the 13th head coach in franchise history: Herman Edwards. The press conference was carried live on a Tampa Bay area radio station, and not simply to please the large number of New York transplants in West Central Florida.

The Jets' gain will have a similarly large impact on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Edwards had served as the Bucs' assistant head coach/defensive backs coach for the previous five seasons, helping to transform Tampa Bay's secondary into one of the league's best. He will be sorely missed.

That is certainly the opinion of one of Edwards' prized pupils, All-Pro safety John Lynch. Soon to head out to his third Pro Bowl in the last four years, Lynch has risen to the top of his profession under Edwards. Now he knows it's time for Edwards to do the same.

"I think you come out of something like this with mixed emotions," said Lynch. "Selfishly, you hate to see him go for your team and for you personally. Unselfishly, though, and in terms of Herm not only being my coach but being a friend and, really, just like family to me, I'm just thrilled for him. I think he and his family are extremely deserving of this opportunity. Herm's very deserving of the opportunity to be a head coach and I'm fully confident that he'll go and do a great job."

Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks, who lost his own position coach this month when Lovie Smith was hired as the St. Louis Rams' defensive coordinator, echoes Lynch's encouraging words.

"I'm very happy for The Herminator, going back to New York," said Brooks. "I just told him when I saw him last the same thing I told Lovie: 'If you're going to leave us, make sure it's good and make sure you're going to happy.' My wish is just like it was for Lovie – I wish him the best. He's going to the AFC so we won't have to play him as much, which is good."

Tight end Blake Spence, who joined the Bucs as a waiver claim in August and spent most of the 2000 season on injured reserve, had less time to get to know Tony Dungy's right hand man than did Brooks or Lynch. However, Spence came to Tampa after several years in the Jets' organization and believes this is a perfect fit for Edwards.

"It's definitely going to be a challenge for Herm, but I think he's going to do some good things for that organization," said Spence, who played under another fine motivator, Bill Parcells, in New York. "They're making a lot of changes and I think it might be for the better. And Herm deserves it more than anyone to get a head coaching job. It should be a good opportunity for him. I think he'll be able to light a fire under those guys."

Jets General Manager Terry Bradway introduced Edwards to the New York media on Thursday in glowing terms, particularly praising his new coach's communication skills. Lynch believes Edwards' assets for the job go well beyond that.

"With a lot of coaches, there are certain things that are their strengths…they're a great motivator, perhaps, but they're not this," said Lynch. "Well, Herm seems like the whole package. First of all, he was a player, and a good player at that, so he gains the ultimate respect of his team. And he's a good man, so he gains respect that way. He's a great motivator of players. He demands excellence from his players and I think his track record of developing players speaks for itself. He has a great ability to just know people and group dynamics. There are different ways to push buttons on different guys. Some guys you have to pat on the back, some guys you have to kick in the butt. Herm understands that and has a unique ability to handle it. I think that prepares him to be very ready for this."

But is the Bucs' defense ready for life after Edwards, not to mention Smith? Brooks didn't want to minimize the impact of Edwards' loss but is confident that the Buccaneers will find suitable replacements and that the players will respond accordingly.

"It will put our team and especially our defense in a tough situation," said Brooks. "We had to overcome a lot of changes from a player standpoint last year, and we just couldn't quite get it there. This year, we have to overcome the absence of two of our coaches that set this foundation. It's going to be tough, but we've got to have a headstrong team to overcome it, and I think we will."

Lynch believes that, in addition to the talents of any new additions to the coaching staff, the Bucs will also continue to benefit from the instruction of Edwards and Smith.

"He left us with a great foundation," said Lynch of Edwards. "He's taught us well. My career path has coincided with his coaching - it kind of took off when I started playing under him. A large part of the credit goes to him for getting that out of me, but it doesn't stop now. We've just got to use what he has instilled in us in terms of character and all the skills that he taught us.

"We've got to move on. Between he and Lovie (Smith), we've lost some great coaches. But we also know that we've been extremely lucky to hold onto those guys for as long as we did. It was just a matter of time before it happened. It's happening now, and you're confident that the organization will find people that will come in and do a great job. There's no excuses anymore…we've got to make the best of it."

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