In case you missed it, on Friday George Edwards was hired as a senior defensive assistant on Mike McCarthy’s coaching staff after interviewing earlier in the week. Edwards spent the last six seasons as the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator, although head coach Mike Zimmer called defensive plays.
Still, Edwards was heavily involved in a defense that has consistently been one of the league’s best under his watch. For the last four years, the Vikings defense has finished in the top ten in defensive DVOA, and Edwards was so instrumental in this that Zimmer publicly floated the idea of ceding play-calling duties to him prior to the 2018 season:
“He really does everything for me other than I call the plays on Sunday,” Zimmer said. “I may change that next year. But anyway, George does everything. He helps with the game plan. He runs a lot of the meetings, the defensive meetings. Him and I really sit down and talk about all the different things that are going on. He studies the game just like he’s calling the game, so he’ll come in and talk to me about second down and whatever, they’re doing this or they’re doing that. Really, I mean, he does everything other than call the game on Sunday.”
That’s high praise from a coach who’s considered one of the league’s best defensive minds. It also speaks to just how involved Edwards was in that defense’s growth and development. But Edwards does actually have play-calling experience. He was the defensive coordinator for the 2003 Redskins under Steve Spurrier and for the Bills in 2010 and 2011 under Chan Gailey.
Additionally, Edwards called defensive plays for one game during his time in Minnesota. It was during the 2016 season and Zimmer had just had emergency eye surgery, causing him to miss one game. As a result, Edwards was left to call defensive plays in his head coach’s absence. The opponent? The Dallas Cowboys, of course.
And while Minnesota lost that game by a score of 17-15, Edwards’ defense became the first group to hold that year’s Cowboys offense - led by standout rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott - to under 300 total yards. It was Edwards’ only regular-season game calling plays in Minnesota (he called plays for a few preseason games) but it certainly one to hang his hat on.
Of course, that’s not the only experience Edwards has with the Cowboys. He coached linebackers there from 1998 to 2001 under both Gailey and Dave Campo, and it’s where he first crossed paths with Zimmer, who coached defensive backs and later became the defensive coordinator in Dallas.
Edwards also has a tangential connection to McCarthy; being that Edwards was the defensive coordinator for the Vikings, he coached against McCarthy’s Packers twice a year for McCarthy’s last four years in Green Bay. There’s a good chance the two of them have at least a casual relationship, and that likely helped this hiring take place.
As for Edwards’ role in Dallas, it’s unclear. According to ESPN’s Todd Archer, Edwards will work with linebackers and assist with defensive sub packages, but how exactly that works out remains to be seen. It’s also possible that Edwards is being brought in with an eye towards the future; he just turned 53 last week, while Nolan will turn 61 in March. Perhaps Edwards is being promised a quick promotion to defensive coordinator in a few years.
Either way, Edwards’ hiring marks a return to the franchise where his pro football coaching career began, and he certainly has an impressive résumé to go with his unique history with the Cowboys. Whatever his role ends up being, Edwards should contribute greatly to the defense’s overall play going forward.