Does Re-Hiring a Former Vikings Defensive Coordinator Make Sense?

Jul 29, 2021; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys senior defensive assistant George Edwards during training camp at the River Ridge playing fields at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Oxnard, California. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier in the week, we learned the reasonably surprising news that George Edwards – the Vikings defensive coordinator from 2014-19 – wasn’t being brought back to Dallas. Given the strong effort from Micah Parsons & Friends, Edwards’ dismissal is noteworthy.

Now, it just so happens that Edwards is being let go at precisely the time that Minnesota is searching for their own DC solution. Four interviews have been completed (most recently, with Brian Flores); in the end, we may see another name or two added to the list of candidates before the final decision is made.

Is there any chance Edwards can (once again) help the Vikings defense to thrive?

Former Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards

Right off the top, I’ll acknowledge that the chances of George Edwards being the Vikings defensive coordinator appear very small. Kevin O’Connell is already pretty deep into the interview process and may be inclined to hire someone with more experience calling a defense.

Aug 4, 2022; Oxnard, CA, USA; Dallas Cowboys senior defensive assistant George Edwards during training camp at River Ridge Playing Fields in Oxnard, California. Mandatory Credit: Jason Parkhurst-USA TODAY Sports

In Dallas, Dan Quinn was the main architect and play caller. In Minnesota, Mike Zimmer was the main defensive designer and play caller.

Nevertheless, there is some merit in exploring a potential reunion. Take a look at what star pass rusher Micah Parsons had to say:

On Vikings Territory, Dustin Baker discussed the situation, noting that Edwards’ time with the purple and gold happened to coincide with the dominant defense:

The Vikings employed Edwards from 2014 to 2019 as defensive coordinator, which basically meant he was a sidekick to Mike Zimmer, who most believed was the defensive mastermind. And Edwards’ tenure exactly aligned with the Vikings leaguewide defensive supremacy. From 2014 to 2019 — or the Edwards Era — the Vikings ranked first in the NFL per defensive EPA/Play. After he left, from 2020 to present, Minnesota has ranked 20th in the same metric, a nasty 19-spot drop in the last three years.

Obviously, there’s a potential logical pitfall in the observation (correlation v. causation), but it’s a worthwhile point, especially when we consider Dallas’ defensive success. During this past season, the Cowboys were 13th in the NFL for yards against, 3rd for sacks, and 5th for points against.

At what point does continued success point us toward someone’s abilities as a coach? His players seem to like him and he has been part of some great defensive efforts.

Reaction to Vikings Loss vs. Cowboys
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Cowboys safety Jayron Kearse (27) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Whoever gets brought in to be the DC will likely get lots of input for the broader defensive coaching staff. Even if no one is let go, though, we might see the Vikings make an addition or two to the defensive side of the ball. Might George Edwards – who has been a defensive coordinator for 3 separate teams – be someone who can help concoct effective game plans for Sunday?

If so, a deal for the veteran coach would make a lot of sense.

The Vikings Defense

The new DC is going to have a lot of work to do. Minnesota’s hapless defense was possibly the main reason for the early playoff exit (followed by a certain awful decision). Perhaps the main thing Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can do to help his new defensive coordinator to succeed is to revitalize the purple personnel. Adding defensive weapons seems like a nice place to start.

That being said, getting fresh ideas and insight from the coaches can also help. Folks, there’s no salary cap for a coaching staff. If bringing Edwards aboard would help the team’s defense to bounce back, then it’s an option the team’s leadership should seriously consider.

At the end of the day, the on-field talent is what leads to sustained success in the NFL. The various sayings – “it’s about the Jimmies and the Joes, not the X’s and the O’s” – possess a lot of wisdom. Nevertheless, we know for certain that coaching can make a humongous difference. The best coaches are the ones who put their players in a position to succeed, maximizing player strengths while minimizing player weaknesses.

If Edwards can be of assistance in this regard, then a reunion may be worth considering.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.