HERM EDWARDS issurrounded by red and gold, yet all the Chiefs coach sees is orange and white.Those are the colors the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wore in 1996, when Tony Dungytook over that team and hired Edwards to oversee the secondary. The Bucs werecoming off a losing season and were committed to building with young playersafter years of relying on veterans. They featured two first-round draft picksfrom '95: defensive tackle Warren Sapp and linebacker Derrick Brooks, thefoundations of a perennial playoff team and eventual Super Bowl champion.
Now Edwards isthinking about his team—how the Chiefs are coming off a 4--12 season, had twofirst-round draft choices and made a commitment to rebuild with youth afteryears of relying on veterans. "When Tony and I got to Tampa, we talkedabout what we were going to do: We were going to draft players and play them[soon]," Edwards says. "We were going to be positive with them, keepreinforcing what we wanted, and eventually it was going to happen. I see thatwith these kids."
Of the 80 Chiefsplayers who reported to camp this summer, 30 were in their first year, whileonly a dozen had six or more years' experience. That was a dramatic change fromprevious seasons, when the organization favored veterans even though it knewthere could be a price to pay. "It was like a carton of milk [past] theexpiration date," says one club official. "You try to get a couple of[extra] days from it before it goes bad."
If the personnelevaluations were right, the new roster should have years of shelf life. TheChiefs used their two first-round selections on the top defensive tackle in thedraft, Glenn Dorsey of LSU, and a highly rated offensive lineman, BrandenAlbert of Virginia. Both are slated to start. With their 10 other selections inlater rounds, the Chiefs added corner Brandon Flowers of Virginia Tech, anotherwho's expected to start early, and several reserves who'll see significantplaying time.
"You realizein this league, and in life, that if you don't stick to your plan, you reallydon't have a plan," Edwards says. "It's easy to set forth with a planwhen you're sitting in an air-conditioned room and picking young players, andthen when you show up for training camp and the work starts of preparing theseguys to play, you quickly divert from that. You don't have any conviction. Ithink this organization has conviction."
LinebackerDerrick Johnson, entering his fourth season, is viewed as one of the teamleaders. He supports the direction the Chiefs are taking. "We were 4--12last season," he says. "We've got to do something different."
The primary goalis to establish a system in which the offense, defense and special teamscomplement one another. Not surprisingly, Edwards mentions the old Bucs as themodel he'd like to follow. Those teams had a strong, ball-hawking defense; apowerful, chew-up-the-clock run game; and consistent special teams.
But Edwards haswork to do to remake the Chiefs in that image. Third-year quarterback BrodieCroyle is in his first season as the full-time starter. The offensive line hasnew starters at four of the five positions, and Albert was hobbled early incamp with a sprained foot. No one has jumped out as the No. 2 receiver behind2007 first-rounder Dwayne Bowe. At linebacker, veteran Donnie Edwards wasslowed in camp by a hamstring injury, and the middle, where Napoleon Harrisstruggled at times last year, is a question mark. And on the defensive line,Tamba Hali moves from left end to right end in his third season in hopes ofreplacing the production of Jared Allen, who was traded to Minnesota afterleading the league with 15 1/2 sacks.
"We look atthe changes we've made as a good thing," says Croyle. "We can all growtogether, and at the same time we all have something to prove—that we can playin this league, perform at a high level and win games." Just like thoseBucs teams did.
PROJECTEDSTARTING LINEUP WITH 2007 STATISTICS COACH HERMAN EDWARDS (52--60 in NFL),third season with Chiefs
Adrian JONES --New ACQUISITION
Mike COX (R) --New ACQUISITION
Devard DARLING --New ACQUISITION
Branden ALBERT(R) -- New ACQUISITION
Nick NOVAK* --New ACQUISITION
Brandon FLOWERS(R) -- New ACQUISITION
Tank TYLER -- NewACQUISITION
Glenn DORSEY (R)-- New ACQUISITION
SACKS 7 1/2
New ACQUISITION(R) Rookie (college statistics) *2006 statistics
2007 RECORD 4--12NFL RANK (Rush/Pass/Total): OFFENSE 32/20/31 DEFENSE 28/5/13
7 at New England
21 at Atlanta
5 at Carolina
26 at N.Y. Jets
2 TAMPA BAY
9 at San Diego
16 NEW ORLEANS
30 at Oakland
7 at Denver
14 SAN DIEGO
28 at Cincinnati
NFL Rank: 26
Opponents' 2007 winning percentage: .453
Games against playoff teams: 5
SI.com's NFL personnel expert Michael Lombardievaluates the Chiefs' units.
Arm strength, durability among Croyle's questions.
Johnson can still be effective, but needs help from the OL.
Bowe's a fine player, but little experience around him.
Gonzalez remains very good; rookie Brad Cottam has talent.
Massive rebuilding begins with first-round pick Albert.
Rookie Dorsey can be a star, fill the hole left by Jared Allen.
Edwards makes plays; Johnson had his best year. Who's the MLB?
Lack coverage corners, so expect to see lots of zone.
Grade hurt by unsettled situation at placekicker.
Last year the former Texas star showed signs offulfilling his first-round promise. Coordinator Gunther Cunningham, nowdoubling as linebackers coach, is spending significant time honing Johnson'sskills, especially on the pass rush. A strong season will give Johnson leverageas he heads into his contract year in 2009.
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EXCERPTED FROM SI
November 24, 1969
WHEN IT comes to camouflage, the Vietcong are a bunchof taxi squadders compared to coach Hank Stram and his Chiefs. Stram is theDoge of Deception, the Maestro of the Mask as it is currently worn in the worldof pro football formations. And nowhere was the murky art more evident than inShea Stadium as Kansas City bedazzled the world champion Jets.
-- Robert F. Jones
Free access to all CHIEFS stories and photographs from the SI archives, plusvideo clips.
G. NEWMAN LOWRANCE/GETTY IMAGES
SOLO THREAT Bowe shows promise, one of the few K.C. skill position players who does.
NEIL LEIFER (COVER)