Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

INDIANAPOLIS

Herm Edwards and Todd Bowles could not be more different in demeanor, but they do share one trait that makes them different from most other NFL head coaches: They played to win the game -- at the NFL level.

In fact Bowles, who Monday night faced the Colts in his second game at the Jets' helm, is only the second former NFL player to lead one of the two New York-area teams since Dan Reeves and Rich Kotite left after the 1996 season.

The other is Edwards, the Jets' coach from 2001 through 2005 and, like Bowles, a former defensive back.

Edwards, 61, who these days is an ESPN analyst, said Bowles should and likely will benefit from his background on the field in myriad ways.

"You know how the players feel," Edwards said. "Whether you're in training camp, whether you're in a game, the outcome of certain situations, you've felt it. You've been there as a player. And so they get that part. Now, how can you help them win?"

Striking a balance between the personas of former player and current coach is key.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"Sometimes I spoke as a player, sometimes as the voice of authority," Edwards said. "And I understood the huddle. The huddle is a unique thing in football because it's diverse and when you walk in there there's a respect.

"You don't have to agree with all the guys in the huddle on your political views or the music you like or any of that stuff . . . When you walk in that huddle you have to respect the guy to the left of you. Without him we have no success."

Unlike in the NBA, where someone such as Derek Fisher can walk directly from an NBA roster into a job as head coach of the Knicks, football usually requires long apprenticeships even for accomplished players.

Edwards spent 10 years in the NFL and another decade as a coach in the league before getting the Jets' top job at age 47. Bowles, 51, spent even longer as an assistant -- including three games as the Dolphins' interim head coach in 2011 -- after an eight-year playing career.

"The players appreciate that more because you've been around other coaches," Edwards said. "You've learned from different coaching styles. And he has a head coach on his staff in Chan Gailey who you can bounce things off of.

@Newsday

"I was in position with Tony [Dungy, in Tampa] where I was the assistant head coach and the secondary guy and I sat in with Tony on a lot of meetings as a head coach and he would tell me, 'This is why I'm doing this' . . . I was well aware of the seat I was about to take before I took it."

Edwards knows Bowles and believes he has the knowledge and temperament for the New York fishbowl.

"He'll be fine because he'll be consistent," Edwards said. "His personality is who he is. And that's what the players are looking for . . . I thought he handled the Geno Smith [broken jaw] deal correctly. He didn't let it fester.

"The locker room didn't get into it because those are the things you have to be able to control. When players respect you, they get it. They say hey, man, let's move on, let's not make this bigger than it should be. Todd handled it pretty good. That's a lot on your plate."

So far Bowles has done a deft job handling the New York-area media, even though he is not nearly as chatty as his predecessor, Rex Ryan, or Edwards.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Edwards said he is having too much fun on TV ever to go back to coaching. He is pleased to let guys such as Bowles deal with all that.

"I get to coach all 32 teams," he said, "and I never have to worry about my quarterback getting hurt anymore."