The move came quickly at One Bills Drive Monday. Not long after the players had their exit interviews on locker clean out defensive coordinator George Edwards was relieved of his duties after two seasons.
“We released George Edwards,” said head coach Chan Gailey in a Monday press conference. “Dave Wannstedt has agreed to take the defensive coordinator’s job. One of the tough things in this business is doing things like that. Now many of you and people out there will speculate that this was set up way back, and that is the furthest thing from the truth. He was hired to help me to help the defense and that’s what he did all year. It just got to the point where I felt like we needed a change and so we made the change.”
Edwards was given the challenging task of molding Buffalo’s defense into a capable and effective 3-4 unit after the club had operated the previous nine seasons as a 4-3 defensive front. The change endured more than its share of growing pains as Edwards had to adjust as the 2010 season wore on with the defense becoming more of a hybrid.
Injuries compromised the unit’s effectiveness in 2011 with the most notable losses being
“We’re in a production business and we need to get better production,” said Gailey. “George is an extremely smart guy and it’s not all him as it never is. We lost some good players and that’s tough on anybody, but we just think you need to head in a different direction you have to do what you have to do.”
Stepping into the role as defensive coordinator is Assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt, who has 17 years of NFL coaching experience including 11 as a head coach. With the move coming down so quickly on Monday Wannstedt asked for patience with respect to the changes that may or may not be made to Buffalo’s defensive scheme.
“We’re kind of at the stage now where you sit back and evaluate things and everybody is curious as to what changes will be made and what’s going to be different,” said Wannstedt. “The time and place will come to talk about that. Right now it’s more about sitting back and trying to catch our breath. Things have happened quick. Evaluate our players and evaluate our scheme and take a look and see where we can improve. It’s not that difficult. We’ve got a lot of room to improve. We’ve got some good young players. We’ve got some good veteran players. That will be the next step.”
Wannstedt served as an Assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach in his first season with Buffalo, but also served as a sounding board for Gailey and provided defensive input. But Gailey was adamant that Wannstedt's role never increased with respect to defensive responsibilities as the 2011 season went along.
“I think there was one vision and one voice and I think this will be a different vision and voice," said Gailey. "If you have too many voices in anything you end up with problems. That was not the situation that I expected to create nor did I think it was created in the defensive room.”
The last time Wannstedt ran an NFL defense was during his time in Dallas under head coach Jimmy Johnson. Inheriting a defense that ranked 20th in the league the year prior to his arrival, Wannstedt’s squad led the league in pass defense and ranked 18th against the run.
Two years later his Cowboys defense led the league in total defense allowing just over 245 yards per game en route to a Super Bowl XXVII victory.
“I just know Dave has a wealth of experience,” said Gailey. “He’s been around good to great defenses before and I think he has a level of experience that will be able to help the players that we have right now to hopefully have better production as we go into next season.”
Wannstedt is encouraged by the mix of defensive talent on hand and believes strides can be made to improve the unit, but believes the evaluation process has to run its course first before any changes to scheme, personnel or defensive terminology are made.
“Everything has happened very fast from our game Sunday and the emotions of the season to be quite honest with you are the primary focus at this point,” he said. “That being said I’m very confident. We’ve got good players and we’ve had some injuries this year to some key guys.
“I look forward to developing those younger players and we’ve got free agency coming up and you’ve got draft coming up so there are a lot of exciting things to look forward to that from a coach’s standpoint that you say these things all contribute to giving us an opportunity to take a nice step forward and that’s the plan.”