New York At 9:15 Thursday morning, Herman Edwards gathered his assistant coaches in a meeting room at Weeb Ewbank Hall and, for the first time, acknowledged his uncertain future as the Jets' coach. He told the coaches he was in "limbo," according to sources.
At that point, the Edwards compensation talks between the Jets and Chiefs were stalled. By nightfall - after a high-stakes stare-down - the talks had resumed, and the two sides were closing in on an agreement, according to two people close to the situation.
Barring a snag, Edwards will be released today from his contract, enabling him to become the Chiefs' coach.
"They're talking, and that's a good sign," one person close to the negotiations said Thursday night.
It was a crazy day, one that included hardball negotiating tactics.
The Jets, tired of being strung along in the Chiefs' game of hard-to-get, issued a 6 p.m. deadline, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. They called the Chiefs' bluff. Shortly before 6, Chiefs president Carl Peterson phoned GM Terry Bradway to continue the negotiations.
Edwards' departure appeared to be a done deal, as many in the organization acknowledged what became clear over the last two days: Edwards' five-year run with the Jets is over.
In exchange for the rights to Edwards, the Jets will receive a compensation package that likely will include two middle-round draft picks, believed to be fourth- and fifth-rounders.
Edwards will be permitted to open negotiations with the Chiefs, although that appears to be just a formality. He could receive as much as $20 million over five years. He has two years remaining on his Jets' contract at about $2 million annually.
Edwards, who put in a full day at the office, declined comment Thursday night. Neither the Jets nor Chiefs have made public comments.
The reason for the divorce depends on whose side you believe. People close to Edwards said he feels underpaid and underappreciated, and that he was annoyed the club made no effort after the season to address his concerns.
In Thursday's coaches' meeting, Edwards painted himself as the victim, telling the room he felt alienated by management, according to one staff member. Edwards told them he didn't want it to come to this, that he wanted to remain the Jets' coach.
Privately, the organization had grown tired of Edwards, saying it never would have pursued the Chiefs' scenario if he simply had told the club he wanted to stay. Indeed, the Jets and Edwards' agent never talked about a contract extension, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The situation became so tense Thursday that a previously scheduled news conference, set for the morning with Edwards and Bradway discussing the future, was hastily canceled.
"We were not prepared to have it," team spokesman Ron Colangelo said. "Change of plans."
The Chiefs, perhaps in a ploy to pressure the Jets, continued to interview candidates for their head-coaching vacancy. On Thursday, Peterson met with Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks - at least the third candidate to be interviewed.
The Jets, realizing there was no way they could welcome back Edwards after this much irreparable damage, began to sweat it out. They issued the ultimatum and, according to ESPN.com, threatened to announce that Edwards had requested to be released from his contract.
"That's erroneous," a team spokesman said of the reported threat. It turned out to be moot, as the Chiefs returned to the bargaining table before the 6 p.m. deadline.