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Under the Headset: Wade Phillips


After Super Bowl 50, you held the game as a testament to your dad's legacy that you can win at the highest level while also having fun. What do you think your legacy will be?**

I don't know. That's for somebody else to say, I guess. I don't think about that. Hopefully they think I was a good coach and I did things the right way, treated people right.

Since you started as an NFL coach, has the lifestyle changed? More hours or anything like that?

No, not really, because all the technology has at least helped us streamline some of the stuff that we had to do. I mean, we had to do all the quality control, when I started. They didn't have quality control coaches. We only had three coaches on defense; now we've got seven or eight, really. We've got more coaches and we've got computers and things that can find out a lot of stuff — too much stuff, at times. The hours aren't different, really. It took a while to break down the film yourself and then do the thing. Now we have people that break it down and we look at it and study it. But before, we had to break it down, then study it.


When you say sometimes the computers can find too much stuff, do you mean there's too much data that you can get wrapped up in it?

Yeah, you get what I call baseball stats. Well, at night and on grass, they made this many yards on this play and when the sun came up or they played a day game, they didn't throw the ball as well. All kinds of stuff. It's just, everything can come up. The hashmarks, it's different formations, it's just on and on. You have everything available to you, every single play they run on first down, what formation they're running it from. Sometimes you need to worry about what you do rather than what they do.

Last year, I was talking with a member of the Orange Crush defense and he said he views the nose tackle as the fulcrum to a 3-4 defense. Is that true anymore?

No, I think everybody's involved. It used to be, and it probably is, when you play two-gap defense, but we don't play any two-gap, so he's just like any other defensive linemen. He's got a gap responsibility that he plays and he has to play it well, and he's in the middle. Certainly, the ball snaps and it starts from the middle, but I think they're all important. It depends on the guy and what he can do. You want great players at every position but I've had about five Pro Bowl nose guards and they all help the defense, obviously.

With a nose tackle, what's the relationship between speed and strength? Do you prefer quickness to pure strength?

We've had all kinds. I mean, we had Greg Kragen when I first came here, and he was a smaller guy, so we stunted him a lot. Then we had Ted Washington when I was here before, and in Buffalo, and he was about 340 pounds, so we didn't stunt him a lot but we let him overpower the center. We play different techniques. That's our philosophy: Whatever the guy can do, that's what we try to do with him. Now they have the same responsibilities — people know A gap or B gap, or those kind of things — same kind of responsibility, but different ways of doing it, because of their body build, their strength, and you play to a player's strengths and try not to put him in a situation where he's playing to his weakness. 


When you arrive at home games, we always see you with your wife. What kind of rock has she been for you?

Forty-seven years. In a coach's life, which is almost like an army life — you're transferring from here to there, you know, or at least that's been our experience — she's raised the kids and she's a great coach's wife. There's a lot of wives that sacrifice, but I think coaches' wives probably sacrifice as much as anybody, having you away from home so much. I can't say enough great things about her.

What kind of strides have you seen from the rookie safeties, Justin Simmons and Will Parks?

Well, I'm glad we had both of them [in Week 10 vs. New Orleans], that's for sure. Both of them made great plays, and we're trying to play them equally on third down defense, and both of them are doing a good job there. We play good third-down defense with them. We had a pretty good player in [David] Bruton [Jr.] to replace, so those guys have come in and done a good job.

A lot of rookies have played significant time so far already. How do y'all get them ready so quickly?

It's part of our philosophy that if a player can play that we get him ready to play where he doesn't make any mistakes and he can go play the game, whether he's a rookie or not. You have to have the best players on the field. I learned that from Dan Reeves, when I first came here. We had a guy sitting on the bench who was a really good player that couldn't play because he couldn't learn the defense or whatever, Michael Brooks, and he came in the first year and played linebacker for us and made the Pro Bowl. You've got to get your best players on the field. You've got to prepare them. That's what coaches do and that's what the assistants do: get them ready.


How has DeMarcus Ware changed over the years that you've coached him?**

I don't think he's changed temperamentally very much. I mean the guy's just a wonderful person, got a great smile all the time, plays with great effort and has great ability. Probably he's more of a leader now than he was when I had him when he was younger, but he's always had leadership qualities.

Do you have a favorite musical artist?

Not really. I go all the way from rap music to country and western. It's just something that whoever I like, whatever songs that I like, I like. They laughed about Drake, but I like some of his stuff and I like Hank Williams and Neil Diamond, and it's just on and on. I just go across the spectrum. And of course, I grew up in a certain era and I think those songs — that rock and roll era, for me — a lot of songs I really like because I grew up with those.

And of course, you have a great sense of humor. Do you have a favorite comedy? I don't know. I enjoy comedy, I enjoy movies. Laurie and I have always had date night. Friday night's really the only night the coaches get off during the season, and so we always have date night and go to a movie. It really doesn't matter. We just go for entertainment. Whether it's a good movie or not, we just go for entertainment. I don't know about comedies. There's so many movies I've seen. I like sports movies, probably, as much as anything.

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