When reports first began to trickle out that Los Angeles was preparing to trade for cornerback Aqib Talib at the start of the new league year, one element often accompanied the information:
Talib wanted to play under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips again.
The cornerback won Super Bowl 50 in Denver with Phillips' tutelage and guidance. And he said upon being introduced as a Ram on Wednesday that his comfort with Phillips and the legendary coordinator's scheme was something that meant a lot to him.
"You know, I'm 32 years old. So going into this last little chapter of my NFL career, I wanted to be comfortable," Talib said in an interview with therams.com. "There was never a point in my career where I was more comfortable than when I was playing with Wade. He just puts you in positions where it brings out what you do best. So, that's who I wanted to play for and that's how I ended up in L.A."
According to Talib, that's what sets Phillips apart — his ability to truly shape a defense to the players' strengths.
"He is just a guru as far as dissecting his players. He's just going to put you in the perfect position," Talib said. "So, if you're a great rusher, he's going to set you up to rush all the time. If you're a great press corner, he's going to set you out to press all the time, and just etc. He's just a guru when it comes to putting guys in the right position to succeed."
Talib had two of the best seasons in his career during Phillips' tenure as defensive coordinator from 2015-2016 in Denver, intercepting six passes — returning three for touchdowns — and recording 25 passes defensed. That's part of why Phillips is so excited to reunite with the cornerback, but then there's also Talib's above-the-neck approach to the game.
"He's really intelligent. He obviously has great ability, but he's really smart. He studies at what he does and he's got a real knack for not only making plays, but scoring touchdowns," Phillips said in an interview with therams.com. "He's really special that way."
"I'm a smart player and I care about the game. It shows in my play. It shows in what I do at home," Talib said upon being asked to describe himself as a player. "When you ask my family, I put time in, I put overtime in at home, I put the work in in the offseason. So, I care about the game and I think it shows in my play."
While Talib and Phillips shared a number of special moments from their time together in Denver, it was actually one off-the-field moment captured on camera that Talib said was especially memorable.
"My favorite memory was definitely that Super Bowl year. He put on a couple of my chains and he said, 'We was dripping baby,'" Talib said, describing a moment captured on video by denverbroncos.com. "That was one of the hardest laughs I had probably that week. So, we had a bunch of fun that week. That definitely is probably one of my best memories of Wade."
Talib said it's that ability to connect with players from any background that makes Phillips truly unique as a coach and a man.
"He gets to know guys and at the same time he vibes with the players — he vibes with guys who are 30 years old, 25 years old," Talib said. "I don't even know Wade's age, but Wade is an older guy. And just to be able to vibe with 30 and 25 year olds, and stuff like that, thats a unique ability."
For all those reasons and more, Talib is happy to be a Ram. He said he wasn't sure the way thing would turn out when Denver began the process of trying to trade him. But he's content with the resolution.
"I'm glad I ended up in L.A. with Wade and coach [Sean] McVay," Talib said. "I'm glad I ended up where I'm at."