Wide Receivers Coach, Green Bay Packers
Edgar Bennett begins his 22st NFL season in 2014, his 20th in Green Bay and his fourth as the Packers’ wide receivers coach after six seasons as running backs coach.
Named to his newest position on Feb. 25, 2011, by Head Coach Mike McCarthy, Bennett originally became a position coach on Jan. 28, 2005, for the running backs. He was re-named to that post on Jan. 17, 2006, for McCarthy’s first season at the helm. He continues his “third” Green Bay tour after initially rejoining the club to head player development (2001-04), and after a tenure as one of the most productive running backs in Green Bay history (1992-96).
Following the record-setting season turned in by the wide-receiver group during his first year as its leader in 2011, Bennett’s charges overcame injuries and lineup shuffling to have another resoundingly productive season in 2012. In addition to seeing front-man Greg Jennings miss eight full games and parts of others with a groin/abdomen injury, the group also lost Jordy Nelson to a hamstring strain that held him out of four games and most of two more.
In the absence of Jennings and Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb ascended to the forefront of the team’s passing attack. Jones put it all together under Bennett’s direction in 2012, posting new career highs with 64 catches, 734 yards and an NFL-leading 14 touchdowns, becoming the first Packer to lead the league in receiving TDs since Sterling Sharpe (18) in 1994. A uniquely versatile threat, Cobb emerged as the team’s leading receiver in just his second season, catching a team-best 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns. He matched his receiving productivity with his prowess as a returner to set the franchise’s single-season all-purpose yardage record, posting a combined 2,342 total yards, while also becoming the first player in NFL history to have 900-plus receiving yards and 900-plus kickoff return yards in the same season.
Under his watch, the group posted one of the most productive seasons in franchise history in 2011, setting new team records and finishing first in the NFL among receiving corps in yards (3,667), yards per game (229.2) and touchdowns (38). The touchdown total was the second highest in league history by a receiver group and all five players at the position posted 25 or more catches for the first time in franchise annals.
On an individual level in 2011, Bennett helped guide Jennings to his second consecutive Pro Bowl berth during a season that saw the sixth-year pro on pace for several career highs before a knee injury kept him out of the final three regular-season games. Additionally, he was instrumental in the development and emergence of Nelson, who in his fourth season posted new career highs in every major statistical category and was named an alternate for the Pro Bowl. Nelson led the team with 68 catches for 1,263 yards and an impressive 15 touchdowns, the third most in team history.
In what is a true testament to the intense emphasis on ball security that marked Bennett’s career as a player and now as a coach, the receiver group has not committed a turnover in either 2011 or 2012, despite a combined 489 touches on offense.
Prior to becoming wide receivers coach, Bennett oversaw the development of several key running backs in Green Bay’s stable from 2005-10.
James Starks was a sixth-round draft pick in 2010 who missed all of training camp and the first 11 games of his rookie season recovering from a hamstring injury – this after missing his senior season in college following shoulder surgery. But when Starks was healthy, Bennett got him ready to go. He rushed for 73 yards in his NFL debut vs. San Francisco (Dec. 5) and added a franchise rookie playoff-record 123 yards in the NFC Wild Card game at Philadelphia (Jan. 9).
Starks was needed during the team’s stretch run because of a season-ending ankle injury to Ryan Grant in Week 1, who became just the third running back in team history to eclipse 1,200 yards in back-to-back seasons in 2008-09. Grant rapidly progressed in 2007, his first season with the Packers, after coming to the team in a trade at the end of training camp. Quickly brought up to speed under Bennett’s tutelage, Grant emerged from a backfield-by-committee to become the starter at midseason, went on to rush for 956 yards (including five 100-yard performances), and then set Green Bay postseason records with 201 yards and three touchdowns in a playoff victory over Seattle.
In 2006, Bennett oversaw the strong recovery from a torn quadriceps tendon by Ahman Green, whose sixth 1,000-yard season set a franchise record.
In his first season as a full-time coach in 2005, Bennett saw the team start five halfbacks and feature six after season-ending injuries claimed Green and Najeh Davenport (ankle).
Faced with steep adversity, Bennett took Samkon Gado, a non-drafted player fresh off the practice squad, and guided him to the second-most productive season by a rookie running back in franchise history. Gado, who had started only two games at Liberty University, ran for 582 yards, including three 100-yard games.
Initially joining the club as its director of player development April 10, 2001, Bennett spent four years helping players become acclimated to their roles as Green Bay Packers, both on and off the field, especially in terms of their expected contributions to their teammates, the community and team chemistry. Bennett’s efforts in this area were recognized in 2003 as the Packers’ player development department was named the best in the NFC.
Green Bay’s fourth-round draft selection in 1992, Bennett is the 10th-ranked rusher in Packers history. The former Florida State athlete gained 3,353 yards over his five seasons in green and gold (1992-96). In 1995, he became only the fifth player in team annals to rush for 1,000 yards in a season (1,067) and the first since Terdell Middleton in 1978. He also continues to hold the club single-season record for receptions by a running back with 78, set in 1994. His accomplishments were appropriately honored in 2005 upon his induction into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
After a torn Achilles’ heel suffered in the Packers’ 1997 preseason opener ended his season, a successfully rehabbed Bennett signed with Chicago as an unrestricted free agent in 1998 and led the Bears in rushing that season with 611 yards. After one more season with Chicago, Bennett retired from football in 2000.
A four-year starter at fullback for Florida State (1987, 1989-91), Bennett holds a bachelor’s degree in social science, with a primary emphasis in political science and a secondary emphasis in sociology. Previously, he was a first-team all-state back at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, where he played with former Packers safety LeRoy Butler, who later also would be his teammate at FSU and in Green Bay. Bennett was inducted into the Florida State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
Bennett and his wife, Mindy, have a son, Edgar IV, and a daughter, Elyse Morgan, and live in Green Bay. In 2003, he created the Edgar Bennett Celebrity Bowl-A-Thon, an event that brings together Packers players, coaches and staff. In recent years, the event has supported Families of Children with Cancer, a foundation that gives financial and social support to local families whose children are receiving treatments for cancer or bone marrow failure. In its initial year, the Bowl-A-Thon supported the March of Dimes. In May 2006, Bennett received the Nice Guy Award at the Doug Jirschele Sports Awards Banquet in Clintonville, Wis.