Over the years, there had been rumors galore that he was going. There had been other flirtations and other attempts to depart. Heck, Paramus Catholic held a press conference complete with the school's marquee, greeting him as the new coach - a year ago, only to have the deal blow up in everyone's faces.
But there was always something keeping Ed Stinson home, because home was Hoboken and home was where the most successful coach to ever come out of the Mile Square City belonged.
Sure, there was talk of Elizabeth High School and Paramus Catholic and perhaps an assistant's job at Rutgers along the way. There was scuttlebutt that he was bound for Bergen County, because that's where the talent was - and that the vast talent pool that embraced Hoboken for ages had just about dried up.
But through it all, Stinson remained home at Hoboken, because that's where he felt he truly belonged, where he believed he made an impact and where he felt he was more than just a football coach. He was a mentor, an educator, a disciplinarian, a task master. He was a counselor, a confidant, a teacher and a friend.
And for the last four decades, Ed Stinson had best personified Hoboken High School football, from the time he was a standout receiver as a player to the days when he guided the Red Wings to unimaginable heights, winning 67 out of 68 games over a six-year span, winning five NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group III state titles and the overall top team in New Jersey twice.
It's a streak that was unparalleled in New Jersey high school football - and never will be repeated ever again.
Last Friday, an era came to an end in Hoboken, when Stinson handed in a letter of resignation and retirement, resigning as head coach and retiring as a full-time employee at the end of the school year to become the defensive coordinator at William Paterson University, to work with his long-time friend Mike Miello.
"When you consider I've been involved with the program since my playing days in 1961, then it is a very long time," Stinson said. "But I feel like I'm leaving the program in good shape. The strength of the team lies within the junior class, so the success is not over and done. I feel like I've taken it as far as I can, and I believe it's a solid program that will thrive."
But will Hoboken ever be the same program without Stinson? It's hard to imagine that it can be.
The man who will more than likely take over the head coaching reins, Lou Taglieri, is a great football mind and has been a dutiful assistant coach over the last decade, a man who has paid his dues and earns the right to be the new leader of the Red Wings. He's a coach whom I have a great deal of respect for and will hope and wish for nothing but success in his tenure as head coach.
But can the Red Wings ever achieve the success attained by Stinson? There's simply no way.
And what makes Stinson's departure a sad one is that in reality, he didn't want to leave. Sure, it may look that way because of the countless times Stinson pursued other opportunities, but deep down, it was only because he never truly got the support in his own backyard. If Stinson got the support he desired and so justly deserved, there would never be a hint of flirtations or exploring other options.
In my opinion, the powers-that-be did everything they could to get back at Stinson, partly because of personality conflicts, but mostly because of politics, because Stinson chose to run for councilman a few years ago, on former Mayor Anthony Russo's ticket, and was defeated. Politics make for some strange bedfellows, but they can also make for some even more bizarre enemies.
These are the same powers-that-be in the Mile Square City, who claimed that Stinson was a "treasure to behold and admired," when he received the Frank McGuire Foundation award for coaching excellence in 2003, then turned their back on him when Stinson made requests that would better his program in a time of need.
Here's what Mayor David Roberts said on the day when Stinson received the McGuire award.
"Football and Hoboken are a great part of our culture," Roberts said on that October, 2003 day. "It's who we are. It's part of our identity. The city of Hoboken owes a great debt of gratitude to Ed Stinson and his family, because of all the great young adults that were developed after they partake in football. He works toward one goal, bettering our youth and he deserves this honor."
So now, Hoboken has to finally turn the page on the Ed Stinson era. It was one that was filled with success, some 182 victories in two different tenures. The six state championship banners (one in 1980, the others in the 90s) and accolades and countless college scholarships that put the Mile Square City on the national football map were all part of his regime.
"I've had some great memories," Stinson said. "The first state championship will always be special. Being called the team of the '90s was a great honor. That's a tribute to the great coaches and great football players we had. I'll always remember the great rivalries with St. Peter's Prep and North Bergen. When you start to think about it all, it gets to be a lot."
But is there one memory?
"Friday nights in Hoboken were magic," Stinson said. "There was nothing like the magic of a Friday night in Hoboken. I'll miss that."
So the powers-that-be in Hoboken finally got their wish. Stinson is finally leaving. It's the end of an era, one that will not be duplicated.
Sure, Hoboken football will survive. Lou Taglieri will be a good coach. Maybe, just maybe, some magic will still remain in the Mile Square City on those crisp, cool Friday nights in the fall.
But is there a sense of loss? Sure there is. Because as despised as he was by some, Ed Stinson had to be unilaterally and unequivocally respected as a great football coach, and no one could ever deny the good he did for his community, his hometown, the youth of Hoboken and for the face of Hudson County football.
Stinson inspired others to want the same success, motivated others to want to beat him and better him. He pushed his players to the height of Hudson County immortality and drove other players to pursue the same profession he personified - football coach.
"Funny, I'm doing what I always wanted to do," Stinson said. "Next year, when I file my tax return, my profession will finally read, 'Football coach.' That's what I've always wanted to be."
However, Ed Stinson was far more than just a football coach in Hoboken. Like him or not - and this corner certainly had our share of battles and conflicts over the last two decades - he was an institution. And for that and for the good he did for kids, he will be sorely missed.