AFTER THE firsttwo rounds of the draft had concluded last Saturday night, Chiefs coach HermEdwards walked into his dimly lit office in Arrowhead Stadium, put away hissuit jacket and loosened his tie. Then he lowered himself onto a soft leatherchair and let out a deep sigh.
Kansas City hadjust turned good fortune, good scouting and firm conviction in its personnelevaluations into a three-pick bonanza: the consensus No. 1 defensive tackle inthe draft pool (LSU's Glenn Dorsey), the draft's top-rated guard (Virginia'sBranden Albert) and a potential impact cornerback (Virginia Tech's BrandonFlowers). It wasn't clear whether Edwards was more exhausted from the monthshe'd put into studying players or the time he'd spent kicking himself forhaving previously strayed from his core belief that the draft is the key toconstructing a winner.
He learned thatlesson while an assistant coach in Tampa Bay and adopted the philosophy in hisfirst stint as a head coach, with the Jets. But the Chiefs team he took over in2006 was loaded with veterans, and Edwards believed he could get to theplayoffs without tinkering and wanted to see what the vets could do once there.Kansas City earned a berth in the wild-card round, losing to the Colts.
Instead ofturning over the aging roster, Edwards tried to remake it gradually whileremaining competitive, a process that had been customary under his predecessorsin K.C. He realized he'd made a mistake after the Chiefs lost nine straight toclose 2007. When Edwards met with club chairman Clark Hunt and general managerCarl Peterson two days after the end of the season, he reiterated what he hadsaid while interviewing for the job two years earlier: Successful teams arebuilt through the draft. They agreed.
May 4, 2008
"You can't behalfway committed to this," Edwards said amidst a draft in which the Chiefsmade a dozen picks in seven rounds and came away with what they believe couldbe six or seven immediate starters. "For two years we had been kind ofcommitted, not totally committed."
The club'sreliance on veterans resulted in 13 winning seasons and nine playoffappearances in Peterson's first 18 years as G.M.—but there hasn't been apostseason win since 1993. The roster Edwards inherited and maintained was thinon good, young talent. Each April the Chiefs simply did not stay true to theirdraft board, often making reaches on players who didn't pan out and tradinghigh picks for more veterans who didn't take them deep into the postseason.
Only four ofKansas City's 24 total picks from the 2003, '04 and '05 drafts remain on theroster, and one of them is punter Dustin Colquitt. By way of comparison, theAFC West rival Chargers, who have won three of the last four division titles,have 13 of their 26 picks from those drafts.
This year theChiefs stayed true to their board. Though they had a major need at offensivetackle after allowing an AFC-high 55 sacks last year, they took Dorsey, theirhighest-rated player still available, when their turn came at No. 5. And whenthey saw Albert still available, K.C. made a deal with the Lions to move up twospots to No. 15.
"So far ithas worked out," Edwards said. "Now we've got to get them on the fieldand they've got to go play."