Former Jet, Blue Devil keeps coaching at highest level
Siler City native George Edwards’ experience in the National Football League is wide-ranging, so much so that he can’t pick the best player he’s ever seen.
That might be understandable, considering he’s been a defensive coach against some of the best players the NFL has seen: Barry Sanders, Brett Favre, John Elway and Tom Brady, just to name a few. So much so that he couldn’t pick.
Same goes with players he’s coached himself.
“They’re all unique in their own way,” said Edwards, who has coached Pro Bowlers such as Richard Seymour, LaVar Arrington and Zach Thomas.
“They all bring a different set of skills to the football team. You’d like to have even one of those guys on your football team at a time."
Edwards is in his first year as linebackers coach for the Miami Dolphins under head coach Joe Philbin. But 2012 wasn’t his first season with the Fins – he served as linebackers coach from 2005-07 before focusing on inside linebackers in 2008-09.
In his first stint in Miami, he was part of staffs run by Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sparano. This time, it’s a fourth different head coach.
“It’s no different than if you were going to move from team to team,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to work for some good men here and learn a lot from them as I’ve been able to be here. I think I’ve learned something different and something new each time.”
Edwards hails from Siler City and played high school ball on the defensive side for Jordan-Matthews.
“There was a great sense of pride and a great work ethic (at Jordan-Matthews),” he said. “We never really won the big one but we did have a lot of success when I was there. It set the foundation of a hard work ethic and seeing the dividends of that paid off.”
The legendary Phil Senter, Jordan-Matthews’ former football coach, recalls Edwards joining the team with offense on his mind.
“He came in as a freshman with a dream of becoming a running back,” Senter said. “As a freshman, we had him on the JV team. After a couple games, George and I realized both that running back was not his forte. We decided to move him to offensive guard and linebacker. And he took onto this new responsibility 110 percent. As it all turned out, this move probably was the big turning point in his football career.”
Despite Edwards being “not very big and not very strong” when he came into high school, Senter described Edwards as “a great offensive linemen and linebacker.” Be he knew deep down, Edwards’ goals involved coaching, not playing.
“Of course, he took that route and has become a great NFL coach,” Senter said. “I’ve heard different coaches making comment about George and who he is… George had the idea and a dream of becoming an NFL coach and he has turned out to be a very good one. One day, I expect to see him get a head job with an NFL team. That’s just the kind of person he is. He’s not going to quit until he reaches a head coaching job. He has been a credit to our town and our high school and our community."
Edwards said the community aspect was a big part of playing for Jordan-Matthews, and some of that community went with him to Duke University in 1986.
“A lot of the teammates that I played with, we made conscious efforts that we were going to go there,” he said.
The Blue Devils underwent coaching changes during Edwards’ time with the team but the defense Edwards was a part of stuck together.
“We came in with some guys that already had a good foundation for defense,” he said. “Those guys were very hard-nosed. We were able to hold on defensively and never lost faith that we could win at Duke.”
In Edwards’ senior season, 1989, Duke earned a share of the ACC title, the last time the Blue Devils won a title in football.
A couple of years after his graduation, in 1991, he took his first assistant coaching job at Florida. He also held assistant coach positions at Appalachian State (1992-95), Duke (1996) and Georgia (1997).
In 1998, Edwards was hired as the linebackers coach for the Dallas Cowboys and served in that position until 2002, when he went to the Washington Redskins as the defensive coordinator. Since then Edwards has served on the coaching staffs for Cleveland, Buffalo and Miami.
Wherever he is, whomever he’s coaching, Edwards counts himself a blessed man.
“Each experience that I’ve been able to share with those guys is just amazing,” he said. “We all get to go out and try to enjoy what it is we can do. I just enjoy the process, the chance to be able to come in. I’m blessed to come in and enjoy the process to improve each and every day.”
The Dolphins are 7-8 with one week to play and have been eliminated from playoff contention. Miami has been adjusting to a new coaching staff under Philbin as well as a rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.
“We’ve had some ups and downs, we’ve had some growing pains,” he said. “I think we’ve stuck together as a team. I think they have continued to work hard and improve throughout the season, which is the main goal.”
The Dolphins defeated the Bills Sunday in a divisional win where the defense forced three fumbles and recorded an interception – a pretty good day for the defense.
“It helped us win the game, it was the ultimate goal,” Edwards said. “There’s still some things we need to get better at.”
Throughout all the evolutions of the game of football he’s been playing since he was playing Pee Wee ball in Siler City, Edwards cites the fundamentals as most important.
“The game constantly changes,” he said. “The fundamentals of the game do not change. On our side of the ball, you’ve got to defeat a block and get off and make a tackle.”
Something Edwards has been doing and has been teaching others to do for a very long time.