Phillips’ coach­ing im­prov­ing with age

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - Sunday Punch -

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.

McEl­roy

Wes

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