KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In a town that takes great pride in its role in the roots of jazz, it's appropriate that the biggest changes for the Kansas City Chiefs under new coach Herm Edwards are signaled by a horn.
It's an impatient clarion for the Chiefs offense. From the time the players break the huddle to the time they get to the line of scrimmage, they have four seconds to lineup. If they're tardy, it's back to the huddle.
The purpose is dual. After years of practices under former coach Dick Vermeil that would sometimes last nearly three hours, the quicker pace has revived the attention of the veterans.
More important, the horn signals that quarterback Trent Green is now charged with more responsibility than ever. In a league where coaches control play-calling as if they were protecting the Holy Grail, Edwards has taken a new job in a new city and relinquished control; not tightened his grip on it.
"If I was a first-year coach, it probably would be different," said Edwards, who joined the Chiefs this offseason after five years as coach of the Jets. "But even if I had stayed in New York, I would have done that with Chad (Pennington). Guys like Trent have earned the right to have more say over what we're doing."
The idea belongs to Green, who was drafted in 1993 and has been on teams that have used this offense for his entire career.
"This has always been more of a 'check-with-me' system," said Green, who has completed better than 61 percent of his passes and averaged over 4,000 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions over the past four years. "I feel good about this offense and if we're headed in that direction (toward more audibles), I'm happy about that."
Under an audible system, a quarterback has the complete freedom to change any play at any time. In a check-with-me system, the offensive coordinator generally calls two plays and gives the quarterback the choice of one of the two once the offense gets to the line of scrimmage.
But with former offensive coordinator Al Saunders gone to Washington and having been replaced by former offensive line coach Mike Solari, the Chiefs want to lean on Green more.
"You have a guy who has all that experience running this offense, you have to take advantage of that," Edwards said.
To make sure that Green is ready, Edwards is using the horn. After a play is called and the offense breaks the huddle, the players have four seconds to get to the line of scrimmage. Edwards' goal is for Green to get to the line of scrimmage with roughly 22 seconds remaining on the play clock, rather than the usual 15 seconds he had under Saunders.
"I want him to have the maximum amount of time to look over the defense, so that we can do all the shifting we need and have Trent get us into the right play," Edwards said.
Green, 36, chuckled lightly about the 22-second goal.
"That would be the start of a new era around here," Green said.
But there is more to what Edwards is doing than simply handing more control to one person. The horn idea is part of increasing the tempo of practice and remove the drudgery that went with the Vermeil style.
Where Vermeil was a practice plodder, Edwards' practices move as quickly and constantly as his facial expressions. That is a welcome change.
"Coach Edwards has really made this a much better situation for the veterans," said Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is 30 and in his 10th season. "The tempo is quick. We're not just standing around all the time."
Edwards fully understands the differences from his days under Vermeil.
"The way Dick ran practice was that they would run a play. Then the offensive coordinator would talk to the quarterback about the play and what happened. Then they'd talk about the next play. Guys would be standing around for like a minute waiting for the next play," Edwards said.
Said Green: "There was a lot of talk around here before. That was the way it was coached. I'd have Al standing right next to me in practice telling me the play. Now, I've got (quarterback coach) Terry Shea sending it to me by head set in practice."
Even the method for calling the plays in has quickened. Green is now armed with a wristband that has the plays the Chiefs want to use listed by number. Instead of using all the verbiage for a play call, Shea merely says a number to Green, who then uses the verbiage.
"With some of our plays, you're talking 14 to 16 words," Green said. "This cuts down on that • It's about moving things along, getting to the next play. For a veteran group like ours, it's a good situation. (In practice), we get the guys off their feet quicker, which makes them happy."
And, if Edwards is right, more productive.