Herm Edwards was low-key on the field during pregame warmups Saturday night. He shook hands. Chatted with his guys. Got a sip of water.

The most demonstrative thing he did was remove his dark cap and stride across the maroon and gold trident to greet and embrace Texas-San Antonio coach Frank Wilson.

He was calm. He was serious. He was comfortable.

It was just like he planned it.

“People are waiting, ‘How’s he gonna act on the sideline?’ ” he said early in the week before his first game as head coach at Arizona State. “You’re gonna get tired of looking at me. I’m gonna be very stoic. Look at the players, they’re playing.”

It’s an approach he shares with his mentor Dick Vermeil, who coached Edwards 40 years ago in Philadelphia. 

“Players win games, not coaches,” Vermeil told me back in December after Edwards was hired. “It’s the coach’s job to get ’em there.”

The approach worked for Vermeil when he had Edwards playing cornerback. He took the Eagles to the playoffs four straight years, including a Super Bowl after the 1980 season.

Edwards and Vermeil are similar in countless ways. 

Vermeil left coaching in 1982 and went into broadcasting. He returned to the sidelines after 15 years away, taking over the St. Louis Rams in 1997. He was 61 years old.

Skeptics wondered whether he had been gone too long, whether the game had passed him by. Week 1 of that season, the Rams went out and whipped New Orleans, 38-24.

“The very first game back,” Vermeil said by phone Saturday, “we were coaching against the Saints. Lawrence Phillips ran for about 125 yards and got the game ball.”

He remembers exactly how he felt that day.

“What I felt most is, ‘This is where I belong. This is what I should be doing, and I never should’ve left,’ ” Vermeil said.

Edwards might as well have delivered the same quote a few days before returning to the sideline against UTSA.

“It’ll feel like it always feels: I’m at home,” he said. “I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

He’s 64 now. He’s been gone since 2008. He became a broadcaster.

It was good work. But Edwards is a motivator, a teacher. Television couldn’t have satisfied that itch. Not like coaching.

Edwards belongs on the sidelines with players, supporting players. So, if you didn’t see him when the Sun Devils took the field, that’s how he planned it.

“I won’t run in front of them,” he said. “I won’t. It’s about the team.”

He just wants his guys to give everything they have.

“I’ll speak to ’em before they run past Tillman,” he said, referencing the growing tradition of rallying in around a bronze statue of the ASU legend-turned-war-hero near the north end zone.

“I said it when I first took the job, if they play with his effort, his passion, his enthusiasm, then they can live with the result of the game. That’s all you do. Prepare every week. Whatever you have in your body, leave it out on the football field, you can live with it. That’s what football’s all about. It’s not complicated.”

In this way, Edwards again sounds like Vermeil. 

“Football’s simple, but not easy,” Vermeil said. 

Vermeil changed things up when he came back. He was a delegator who coached the coaches, rather than micromanage. And he ran an offense that “was much more advanced. Much more modernized.”

It led him to a Super Bowl championship after the 1999 season, with Kurt Warner running the “Greatest Show on Turf.”

Edwards is likely to change up his approach, as well.

“I think that’ll be dictated by his material,” Vermeil said.

“You’re not going to throw the ball 50 times if (your quarterback) can’t throw 60 percent or better,” Vermeil said.

Edwards never had a quarterback with a big, booming arm like Manny Wilkins has displayed. And he never had a wide receiver who was so far beyond his peers in skill and ability like N’Keal Harry.

But whatever happens this season, Edwards said to expect him to keep it low-key. It’s not about him. He’s in this for the players.

“The camera should never come to me,” he said. “I see that when I watch football games … there’s some great coaches that need to be on and all that, but I just say, ‘it’s about the guys on the field. It’s about the 22 guys playing.’ That’s where the game’s played, on the field. Don’t take it away from those guys, keep it on them. That’s the important part for me.”

No one would ever describe Vermeil as stoic. He was famous for letting his emotions show.

The only emotion we’ve seen from Edwards lately is gratitude. He’s glad to be back where he belongs.

“I’ve always been on the football field,” he said. “Playing or coaching. … It’s where I should be. And I’m fortunate enough to be the head coach here.”


Reach Moore at [email protected] or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @WritingMoore.