Regardless of who was right and who was wrong, the Vikings’ receivers last season did not buy into Wyatt’s methods. Veteran guys like Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor struggled with consistency getting open, and it’s no secret that Troy Williamson’s confidence went in the tank.
There are always two sides to every story, and while a veteran receiver like Robinson pretty much went public with his side before being unceremoniously released on Christmas Eve last year, Wyatt kept quiet and just quietly faded away back to the college ranks with the Arizona Wildcats.
The need for a veteran coach at the position who would garner respect from the players was clear, and George Stewart has been the ideal person for the job.
“We’re excited to add George to the staff as we move our program forward,” Childress said when Stewart was hired. “He is a proven football coach that will bring a wealth of experience to the team.”
Word from virtually all the players at Winter Park is about how much they respect the guy. He has the skins on the wall to have credibility as a coach and he genuinely cares about his players – both in their professional development but also as people. He has offered himself available 24-7 for any reason whatsoever.
Stewart is certainly no novice at this coaching gig. He has worked under some tremendous proven coaches over the years. He has dealt with the most persnickety of players, and he used to be a player himself (although, oddly, he was an offensive lineman).
Stewart has worked for Lou Holtz, Chuck Noll, George Seifert, Sam Wyche and Dan Reeves over the years. This is his 25th season as an assistant coach, six at the college level and the past 19 in the NFL.
He spent the past four seasons working with the wide receivers for the Atlanta Falcons. Before that he was with the San Francisco 49ers from 2000-02, when well-publicized malcontent Terrell Owens had his most productive years averaging 97 receptions and earning Pro Bowl honors each season.
Stewart has been part of playoff teams in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Atlanta. He was on a staff that won two Division titles in the past five years with the 49ers and Falcons. He has coached on 10-plus win teams in 6 of the past 11 seasons.
He began his coaching career working for Lou Holtz with the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 1984-85, coaching the offensive line. He left with Holtz to Notre Dame, where he coached the Fighting Irish linebackers and was part of the National Championship team that went an undefeated 12-0 in 1988.
As a player with the Arkansas Razorbacks, Stewart was a standout offensive lineman. But a knee injury wiped out his chances at a pro career. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Arkansas in 1981.
1983 Arkansas: Graduate Assistant/Tight Ends
1984-85 Minnesota: Offensive Line
1986-88 Notre Dame: Linebackers
1989-91 Pittsburgh Steelers: Special Teams
1992-95 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Special Teams/Tight Ends
1996-99 San Francisco 49ers:Special Teams
2000-02 San Francisco 49ers: Wide Receivers
2003-06 Atlanta Falcons: Wide Receivers
For those of you really into nostalgia, here’s an excerpt from Pro Football Weekly’s 1981 NFL Draft Notebook by the late Joel Buchsbaum on Stewart the draft prospect:
George Stewart (6-2¼, 260) (4.9-5.1) Arkansas – Underwent knee surgery late in the season. Former defensive lineman. Strong, aggressive run blocker who can pull and trap. Very mediocre pass blocker. Feet are OK and he has pretty good balance and body control, so he could develop with good coaching.
Capsule – Has a chance if his knee is sound.