If Wade Phillips has his way, the ‘Son of Bum’ will be back on the sidelines soon.
Phillips, the longtime NFL defensive mastermind who mentored everyone from Bruce Smith to J.J. Watt, still wants to coach.
The one thing working against Phillips? The veteran coach, most recently of the Los Angeles Rams, turned 73 earlier this year and could be nearing the end of his career — or, he may have already reached that point.
Wade Phillips is a legendary defensive coach
Wade Phillips began his coaching career with high expectations as the son of Bum Phillips, the longtime Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints head coach.
The younger Phillips — who turned73 this year — carved out his own impressive legacy. First getting his start as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston in 1969, Phillips obtained his first NFL job seven years later.
Phillips served as the Houston Oilers’ defensive line coach from 1976-80, spending all of that time under his father. When Bum took the Saints’ head coaching job in 1981, Wade followed as the 34-year-old defensive coordinator.
Wade got his first head coaching job for four games in 1985, when he replaced his father after Bum stepped down. In 1993, Wade again had a chance to become a head coach, this time in Denver.
Phillips went 16-16 in two seasons with the Broncos. Phillips took the Buffalo Bills to consecutive playoff appearances in 1998 and 1999, but was let go following the 2000 season.
Now, Phillips is perhaps best known for two gigs: His time as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach from 2007-10, and his most recent stint from 2017-19 as the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator.
Phillips has taught some of the game’s best players
On Sept. 24, 2020, the Houston Texans tweeted a graphic featuring the most sacks a player had through 115 games in NFL history.
Wade Phillips coached all four of the featured players: Eagles star Reggie White, Cowboys icon DeMarcus Ware, Bills legend Bruce Smith — the NFL’s all-time leading sack artist — and Houston Texans great J.J. Watt.
Those aren’t the only notable NFL standouts Phillips mentored. Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller revived his career and won Super Bowl MVP under Phillips in 2015.
Most recently, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald went from an elite defender to an unstoppable force in the trenches. Donald won NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice, totaled 44 sacks, and forced 11 fumbles in three seasons under Phillips from 2017-19.
Wade Phillips still wants to coach in the NFL
Now 73, Wade Phillips is out of the NFL for the first time since 2014.
Don’t let that mean Phillips wants to be sitting at home, though. In a recent interview with The Buffalo News, Phillips said he’s still hoping for one last chance on the sidelines.
“I feel like I could help somebody. That’s the only thing. But they’ve got to feel that way, too. But there’ll be some teams that don’t do as well. Whether they’ll consider me to help, I don’t know that. So, we’ll have to wait and see.”
In the meantime, Phillips said he is working with high school and college coaches through Zoom sessions.
There is precedent for older coaches staying on the sidelines as they neared their 80s. Hall of Fame safety Dick LeBeau was 80 in 2017, his final season as the Titans’ defensive coordinator.
Monte Kiffin, father of Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, was the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator at age 73 in 2013. Monte is now on his father’s staff as a player personnel analyst.