FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — George Edwards won’t take credit for it.
But it was his friendships with both Todd Bowles and Chan Gailey that helped pave the way for a coaching union that has already produced big results for the Jets (10-5).
“As Todd was filling out a staff and looking for an offensive coordinator, I told him about my experiences working with Chan,” Edwards, the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator, said Thursday in a phone interview with Newsday. “He had an interest and ended up talking to him and that’s kind of how it unfolded.”
Other suitors came calling, but it was Bowles’ pitch that won over Gailey. To outsiders it seemed like an unlikely pairing at first, given Gailey’s semiretirement and two years away from coaching. But now that the Jets are one win away from making the playoffs, it makes perfect sense. On Sunday, Gailey will return to Buffalo for the first time since he coached his final game as the Bills coach during the 2012 season. He’ll step onto the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium in a new color — Jets’ green — but he’ll be the same coach he always was.
Will it be emotional?
“No,” he said, straight-faced. “It’s just another game.”
Then, he added with a laugh: “If we’re going to talk about all the places I’ve been at we’re going to have a long list.”
Another victory will earn them a wild-card playoff spot and it’ll bring Gailey one step closer to the goal he set in December 2014, when he finally made up his mind to return to the NFL. “I just had some personal reasons why I wanted to come back and give it another go and try to win a championship,” said the 63-year-old.
“ . . . Sometimes when you’re gone you think you’re forgotten. And knowing that maybe you weren’t forgotten did have some impetus into [a return to coaching].”
Gailey said he’s “up for” a return to the Jets in 2016, but noted it’s not his call. Bowles, however, made it clear he expects Gailey by his side in Year 2. “I wanted him here. I want him back,” he said. “ . . . He’s been great for us. And I love him to death.”
Gailey said Edwards talked to him about Bowles and told him “what he thought of and how much he liked him and what kind of guy he was.” And that’s as far as Edwards’ involvement went.
“I have no magic wand,” joked the Vikings assistant coach, whom Gailey first hired in 1998, when he was the coach of the Cowboys. In 2010, Gailey, then the coach of the Bills, again hired Edwards to be his linebackers coach. “They’re very similar in a lot of their philosophies. There’s a connection there and they’ve been able to have success . . . I was blessed to be able to have the opportunity to work with both of them. They’re both good men, good fathers, good husbands off the football field. As far as football coaches, they’re very similar in that they’re going to work to get the most of what they have.”
The Jets are ranked eighth in total offense; Brandon Marshall has a franchise record 101 catches and a career-high 13 touchdowns; and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has a personal-best 29 TD passes (tying Vinny Testaverde’s single-season franchise record).
And that’s no surprise to Edwards. “[Chan] can get the most ability out of the guys that he has at a specific time,” said Edwards, who coached in Miami with Bowles from 2008-09. “One thing he doesn’t do is pigeonhole himself as, this is the offense that we’re going to run. He’ll look at the talent level that he has and put them in the best position to hopefully be successful.”