At the midpoint of the 2010 season, Wade Phillips was out of work after being forced out as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
At the midpoint of the 2011 season, he’s being touted by virtually everyone as the most influential coordinator/assistant coach in the league.
As the Houston Texans defensive coordinator, Phillips has guided a team that was 30th in defense last season to a 29-spot gain. Through nine games, the revamped Texans defense is first in the league.
“A year ago about now I didn’t have a job, after eight games I didn’t have a job, he said with a laugh when I asked him to compare head-coaching life to coordinating. “It’s what I do. It’s football coaching and I try to do the best I can wherever I am and I’ve been lucky to be in a lot of good situations …
“It’s head coach of the defense, that’s the way that I’ve always looked at it. I’ve had autonomy most of the time, as far as head coaches letting me run it. The head coach has control and I am a good soldier on whatever he wants done … It never has mattered either way, really. I’m coaching and that’s what I love to do. I’m around the players, I’m hopefully helping them get better. That’s what I’ve always tried to do whether I am head coach or coordinator.”
And Phillips certainly isn’t reading the clips that are naming him assistant of the year at the halfway point. He's deflecting attention and credit.
“It still comes down to them, it’s what kind of players you have,” Phillip said. “Part of it is utilizing the talents that you have, the guys who can play inside linebacker, putting them in the right place and give them opportunities to make plays, playing different techniques with different guys. That’s the coaching part of it. The X's and O's are important, the calls are important and all of that stuff.
“But it comes down to the players. I’ve been lucky to be with a lot of good players over the years and that makes me look good.”
Phillips also praised the work of line coach Bill Kollar, linebacker coach Reggie Herring and defensive backs coach Vance Joseph.
Kollar was the lone position coach holdover from the defensive staff Gary Kubiak had last season with Frank Bush as coordinator.
Herring and Joseph were connected to Phillips and hired on his recommendation. And Phillips had major input into player acquisition as the Texans added veteran defensive backs Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning and drafted heavily on defense, starting with end J.J. Watt and linebacker Brooks Reed.
Those coaches and players have been key elements to the Texans' rise to defensive prominence.
Stay tuned for more out of my conversation with Phillips.