By Chris Emma—

(670 The Score) The Vikings’ vaunted defense has coach Mike Zimmer’s name all over it, as he oversees the top-ranked unit.

But Zimmer is always quick to credit defensive coordinator George Edwards, which is why the Bears were wise to interview Edwards in Minneapolis on Thursday as their latest head coaching candidate.

Edwards, 50, has earned the praise of Zimmer for his work with the defense during the week. As Zimmer handles his duties as head coach, it’s Edwards leading the defense and preparing it for each game. The Vikings have surrendered just 275.9 yards and 15.8 points per game this season, both ranking first in the league.

Zimmer is the play-caller come Sunday, but it’s Edwards who has been instrumental in growing the unit his four seasons in Minneapolis. Edwards has overseen the growth of young stars like Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith and Everson Griffen.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace has earned the reputation of a thorough evaluator, so exploring Edwards’ impact on the defense was logical – and at the least, Pace may gain some insight on a division rival poised for years of contention.

Edwards got his start in the college ranks, first as an assistant with Florida in 1991. He became linebackers coach for the Cowboys in 1998 and began an NFL coaching career from there, including three defensive coordinator jobs — with the Redskins, Bills and now the Vikings.

A potential hiring of Edwards could mean the Bears shift from the 3-4 schemes to the 4-3 base and personnel that has been implemented through three years with Pace in charge.

The Bears also interviewed their own defensive coordinator, meeting with Vic Fangio on Wednesday before traveling to the Twin Cities. The team’s brass of Pace, chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips are expected to meet with Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on Friday, according to a source with knowledge of the process.

After beginning the coaching search with two defensive coordinators, the Bears will shift to evaluating offensive candidates – a more likely route.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670 The Score Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.