Phillips’ coaching improving with age
What I learned in sports this week is Wade Phillips isn’t just getting older. He’s getting better.
In 34 seasons as an assistant, a coordinator and a head coach, Phillips, 70, has made his career building top 10 defenses and helping Hall of Fame careers, such as those of Reggie White, Bruce Smith and future members
J.J. Watt and Von Miller.
Before coaching against his son today, Wes Phillips, the Washington Redskins tight ends coach, we recently spoke about his career, a new role as defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams under the youngest head coach in the NFL in Sean McVay, and his memories featured in a newly released book about his dad, Bum Phillips.
You’ve released a book “Son of Bum: Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Life and Football.” What was his message to you when you said you wanted to go into coaching?
He told me, “Hey, if there’s anything else you’d think you like to do or might like to do then you ought to do it. But if coaching is the only thing, you want to do, you should go do that.” It’s a big sacrifice for you and your family. It’s kind of harsh at times. But he said, “If that’s what you want really to do?” and that is what I wanted to do.
What was the message you gave your son, Wes, when he told you he wanted to coach?
I told him the exact same thing!
Who was tougher to work for: your dad, Jerry Jones or Buddy Ryan? Wow! That’s a good question.
I, actually, think playing for my dad, because I played for him in high school and in college and that was the hardest part because he told me, “If everybody doesn’t know you’re the best player than I can’t play you or I can’t start you.”
But when I worked for my dad, he was great to work for (because) you worked for him but you worked with him.
What was it like to work for Jerry Jones?
Working for Jerry was the same way. Jerry Jones is a good listener. I don’t know if enough people realize that. If he had good reasons for doing things, he would listen and do those things. If he didn’t have a good reason, well, he wouldn’t do those things.
Can you give me a good Buddy Ryan story?
Buddy didn’t like offense (laughing). He didn’t like the offense, so you know we’d be in practice (in Philadelphia) and he’d tell me, “Go blitz those guys!” and I’d say, “Coach, they’re learning their drills and working on stuff. He said, “I don’t care! I want to get after them.”
In practice, he’d get after the offense of his own team. He didn’t like offense; he was a defensive man all along.
You have coached numerous Hall of Famers. Who would you say is the best defensive talent you’ve seen?
Man, that’s tough. I guess it starts when I was with the Houston Oilers and two of those of the three, Curley Culp and Elvin Bethea, are in the
Hall of Fame. At that time, I thought I was a heck of a coach because they could do everything I wanted them to do. You’d ask them to do anything and they did it. I was starting out with those guys so I was starting out with the top.
Where does the list go from there?
You know Reggie White was so dominant. He held the record (for sacks) for so long until (Michael) Strahan broke it, but Reggie White had his 21 sacks in a 12-game season when they had a strike. He was a tremendous player.
What quarterback kept you in the film room the longest?
It’s hard to find somebody better than Tom Brady. He’s still playing, but all the things he’s done and he’s been tremendous in all the wins he’s had. Of course, Peyton Manning was tough to play against, too, and I was lucky enough to have him on our team (in Denver) and win a Super Bowl.
Over five decades, you’ve coached under your dad, been a head coach in Buffalo, Dallas and Denver, and now, you’re the defensive coordinator for 31year old Sean McVay. How have you adapted with the times and players and stayed so successful?
Well, you know, I’m a teacher first and I don’t think teaching has changed that much. It’s just what we teach but not how we teach it. I think the teaching progression that we have helps me a lot. Experience helps me a lot, because the players think I know what I’m talking about so they listen to things and try to do the things that we ask them to do.
We, also, teach fundamentals, and we teach how to tackle, and change of direction and those types of things because they still matter.