New head coach Sean McVay's staff is beginning to fill out, as Wade Phillips was officially named the Rams' defensive coordinator on Thursday. Here are a few nuggets to know about one of the best defensive coaches in the league.
1) He's been coaching longer than McVay has been alive
For all that's been made about McVay's age as the youngest head coach in NFL history, Phillips comes in at the opposite end of the spectrum, having coached in the league since 1976 — 10 years before McVay was even born. He's been a full-time head coach three times — Broncos from 1993-1994, Bills from 1998-2000, and Cowboys from 2004-2006 — compiling a 79-57 record with those three teams. He's also been an interim head coach thrice — New Orleans in 1985, Atlanta in 2003, and Houston in 2013. In all, Phillips has 34 years of experience as either a head coach or defensive coordinator.
Through his many years of coaching, Phillips has been a part of 20 top-10 defenses, including a pair at his latest stop, the 2015 and 2016 seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Broncos. Denver finished No. 1 in total yards and No. 4 in points allowed in 2015, en route to a Super Bowl 50 championship. And despite missing the playoffs in 2016, the Broncos still ranked No. 4 in both total yards and points allowed. Phillips' passing defense in particular was outstanding, surrendering only 185.8 yards per game. Houston finished No. 2 at 201.6 yards per game.
Phillips' wealth of experience will be invaluable for McVay and the entire Rams organization.
2) His system is not simply "three down linemen, four linebackers"**
Aside from his reputation for building strong defenses, Phillips has also used a system with three down linemen for most of his career, including with the Broncos. But if you're familiar with the Rams' defense — aside from select passing situations — they used four down linemen for all of the previous coaching staff's tenure.
With Aaron Donald widely regarded as one of the best three-technique defensive tackles in football, it's fair for fans to maybe have some reservations as to the way Phillips might scheme Los Angeles' defense. But Phillips has said in the past that his scheme is not quite as simple as just a standard 3-4.
"We try to fit what the players can do in the defense rather than saying, 'OK, we're a 4-3 or we're a two-gap 3-4,'" Phillips said last year, via the Denver Post. "We're a team where if a guy can stunt and rush the passer, we let him do that. If a guy is a power guy, we try to let him be that. It's all what individual players can do."
Plus, in an interview with therams.com, McVay gave his assurances that he's not planning on moving Donald from his spot as a three-technique.
"I had a chance to speak with Aaron the other day, and I assured him — I said, 'You are the best, one of the best, three-techniques in this league. You will continue to play a three-technique,'" McVay told therams.com. "And when you look at what coach Phillips' schemes have been, they are a 3-4 team, but they play a lot of the similar core principles in their motion adjustments where Aaron is going to remain a three-technique."
3) He is a great Twitter follow
While Phillips is 69 years old, he's stayed on top of the times in more ways than just his adaptive schemes. Phillips is active on Twitter, where his wit shines through.
Phillips' handle, @sonofbum, honors the coaching connection he shares with his father, Bum Phillips, who served as the head coach of the Houston Oilers (1975-1980) and New Orleans Saints (1981-1985). The elder Phillips was also one of the great defensive innovators of the game, bringing the numbering system for defensive fronts and the 3-4 defense into the NFL.