New Vikings coach Mike Zimmer immediately began working the phones to build his staff the day after being hired Wednesday.
While it appears he has an offensive coordinator in Norv Turner, Zimmer could have a defensive coordinator in place as well in George Edwards. Fox Sports reported the Dolphins linebackers coach will join Zimmer in Minnesota.
Edwards has 14 years of experience in the NFL, including three seasons as a defensive coordinator with the Bills and Redskins.
Zimmer, who will have his introductory news conference Friday, and Edwards spent four seasons together in Dallas from 1998 to 2001. Zimmer spent two seasons as a defensive backs coach before his promotion to defensive coordinator, while Edwards was linebackers coach.
Edwards played a part in developing a few linebackers into Pro Bowl players, including Dexter Coakley, during his tenure with the Cowboys.
“He’s an excellent teacher and can develop players,” Fritz Pollard Alliance Chairman John Wooten said. “That’s my opinion. If he’s their choice, that’s an excellent choice.”
With the Vikings hiring Zimmer, the Bengals officially promoted linebackers coach Paul Guenther to defensive coordinator. He was a candidate to join Zimmer in Minnesota, or go to Washington with new Redskins coach and former Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, but Guenther opted to remain in Cincinnati.
“When you look at the whole thing, I’ve got young kids and didn’t have to move my family, [and I have] good players that I really like and care for,” Guenther said Thursday.
Former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was introduced as the Buccaneers defensive coordinator Thursday, but the news conference turned at one point to Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman, who started the season in Tampa Bay.
Frazier again repeated that Freeman worked hard in practice and was a pro after the Vikings brought him in during the season. But he also added that Freeman didn’t end up in a fair situation, with the organization analyzing Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel and determining if they could resolve the issue at the position.
“Josh got caught up in the shuffle of that,” Frazier said. “It probably wasn’t a fair situation for him. It made it difficult for him, and it made it difficult for all of us. We were trying to evaluate quarterbacks during an NFL season. That’s not a wise thing.”
Freeman signed with the Vikings Oct. 6 and started his only game for the team Oct. 21 against the Giants. He went 20 of 53 for 190 yards and an interception. He didn’t play in the final 10 games.
“I’m not even going to talk about that anymore,” Freeman said Thursday. “That’s old news. The only thing talking about that can do is rub somebody the wrong way. It is what it is. It’s over.
“It was definitely a great experience. Coming out of a situation I was in, stuff still got a lot better. I got better as a player. I had the opportunity to learn from some great coaches. Coach Frazier, even how rough the season was, he handled it with grace. He taught me a lot about football and also about being a man and handling adversity.”
Frazier still believes Freeman, 26, can develop into a solid starting NFL quarterback given some of what he was able to accomplish as a starter in Tampa Bay. Freeman will be a free agent.
“You want to give yourself the best opportunity to go out and play the best brand of football you can,” Freeman said. “I think every season, every move is big for you. Just trying to maximize that, but it’ll be fun. I’m excited about another opportunity no matter where I end up to help contribute to the team win.”
The Vikings posted an interview with Zimmer on their website.
“We’re going to be passionate, I think we’re going to play with a lot of energy,” Zimmer said. “We’re going to be a smart football team, and we’re going to be a team that wants to make the fans proud to come and watch us.”
Zimmer said he has an NFC North background growing up in Illinois, and enjoys the franchise tradition from Hall of Fame players to the famous Purple People Eaters. He likes to hunt and fish, so the area should be a nice fit for his hobbies.
He also touched on the roster and the current makeup of the team.
“We’ve got a lot of young players that have a chance to be great football players,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got depth at a lot of different positions, and I think we have a chance to be an awfully good football team for an awfully long time. We want to build a solid and steady football team, and I think we have a great nucleus right now.”