Wade Deserves To Be Head Coach
Audition Time: Wade Phillips to fight NFL ageism, prove he deserves head coaching job
PHOENIX —Wade Phillips is no Lyndon B. Johnson. This isn't a vice president delighting a little too much in the top man's downfall.
And thankfully, Gary Kubaik's health shouldn't force him to vacate the big office anytime soon.
But that doesn't make Phillips' stint as the Houston Texans interim coach Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals any less of a point maker. Phillips can prove what NFL general managers and owners should already know. This is one heck of a head coach.
Phillips' shown this in every head coaching chance he's ever received — short or long. But the NFL power brokers obviously still need a reminder.
For while billionaires keep handing guys like Greg Schiano and Joe Philbin teams, Phillips hasn't been courted. Or even approached since he came in and transformed the Texans defense.
His dad lived to age 90. You could say Wade Phillips comes from awfully good stock.
Something's wrong with that picture.
It's the coaching equivalent of all 32 NFL teams passing on Case Keenum in the draft again and again and again. Only Son Of Bum is a much more proven commodity.
You can chalk it up to NFL ageism if you want. Phillips himself brings up his age (approaching 67) as a perception hiring obstacle.
This is a curious stance in a league where the 52-year-old Kubiak and the 58-year-old John Fox are the ones whose health has forced them to temporarily step away from their teams. Whether it's a mini stroke or heart issues, recent events are driving home the point that it's hardly all about age.
Any of us can get life-alteringly sick at any time. It's one of the fragile, universal truths of being human.
Phillips had his own health scare two seasons ago, but he hasn't missed any time since through tough circumstances. His dad lived to age 90. You could say Wade Phillips comes from awfully good stock.
Besides how many NFL head coaches stick around in the same job for even five years these days? In a league where nearly every coaching hire carries a short shelf life, Wade Phillips' age should mean even less. The NFL quickly recycles through many younger, much less competent coaches. Age boils down as a pretty lame excuse for not hiring a difference maker.
That's what Phillips is.
"I don't know," Phillips says when asked what he considers his strengths as a head coach. "We won a lot of close games I thought. I don't really judge myself there.
"I think the players will play — play really hard and really well in a lot of situations. I think I'm good at game strategy . . .
"But a lot of people will say different I'm sure."
Don't expect the Cardinals to be saying different by Sunday evening in the desert.
No NFL Bully, Just Coach
Phillips' Bulls On Parade defense will be pumped to make a statement with their guy in the head coach's spot. It's hard to overstate the impact of Phillips' no-worries approach on a shaken team.
Wade Philips is almost always the most relaxed, old school cool guy in the room. He's kept things loose this week while making sure to respect Kubiak's ways.
To the guys who play for him, Wade Phillips has never come across as old.
Phillips hasn't changed everything. He's the first guy to note that he's just keeping the seat warm for the recovering Kubiak, a friend of his and his daddy's. Wade isn't angling for anything in Houston.
But he's changed enough that you could notice the difference against the Cardinals.
"Wade knows what he's doing," third-year linebacker Brooks Reed says. "He's great at putting in a few wrinkles."
No, Reed's not making an age joke. To the guys who play for him, Wade Phillips has never come across as old.
He's not New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who effectively coaches old, leaning on discipline from another era and small-point rules that sometimes drive players batty. Phillips is still one of the guys. Heck, he wants to wear flip flops and shorts too. And he'll bust a move when it's appropriate (just check out his YouTube highlight).
Phillips' 82-59 career record as a head coach should be all the proof NFL owners and GMs need. Instead, he'll deliver more in the space-age looking stadium in the Phoenix suburbs.
"Sixth time's the charm they says," Phillips says, joking about the number of teams he's now head coached for at least one game. "I've got the world record. I already had it I think. I've gone past that now.
"It's a privilege kind of to be named a head coach of a team even though it's one game. To be a head coach six times in the NFL . . ."
Another NFL franchise needs to realize it would be their privilege to make it seven. Wade Phillips deserves the chance to change another franchise for the better.
Anyone who doesn't realize that is just a damn young fool.