2011 PFW/PFWA awards
About the Author
Recent posts by Arthur Arkush
Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips can't quite put his finger on it. Maybe it's luck. Certainly his experience helps. All he knows is that whenever he gets his hands on a new defense, success follows — immediately.
Owner Bob McNair and head coach Gary Kubiak definitely were aware of Phillips' mystique when they hired him shortly after Houston's woeful 2010 campaign ended. Phillips' previous four stops as a defensive coordinator, all with teams that had missed out on the postseason the year prior to his arrival, became playoff teams in his first season.
But this was a different kind of challenge. Phillips would have to transition the Texans from a 4-3 to a 3-4. He would have to plug in three new starters on "D." Several players had to learn new positions. Oh, yeah, all of this would have to occur in a lockout-shortened offseason.
"We come in with a good philosophy," Phillips, the 2011 Pro Football Weekly/PFWA Assistant Coach of the Year, told PFW. "We feel like we can get everyone better — no matter who it is.
"This year, because of the shortened offseason, we put things in slowly. Once the players felt comfortable, we gave them a little more. If it was too much, we scaled things back."
Phillips was instrumental in helping GM Rick Smith target the right players for his scheme in the draft and free agency. Houston's draft haul, which included first-round DE J.J. Watt and second-round OLB Brooks Reed, along with free-agent pickups like CB Johnathan Joseph and FS Danieal Manning, have fit Phillips' defense like a glove.
"That's the first thing (knowing what the players can do). Nose guards Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell play the same position; they just play it differently.
"We try and play to each player's strengths. If a guy plays 'man' well, we're going to play mostly 'man.' ... We stunt our ends more in this defense because of the type of players they are."
After Houston surrendered 376.9 yards per game in a 6-10 campaign in 2010, Phillips' unit allowed 285.7 this season en route to the Texans' 10-6 finish and the first postseason berth in franchise history. The "D" didn't miss a beat after losing its best player, OLB Mario Williams, to a season-ending pectoral injury in Week Five.
But when Phillips missed two games late in the season to have his kidney and gallbladder operated on, the defense couldn't get off the field in critical moments.
"It's tough to watch and feel like you have some control but not have any," he said. "... I'm getting stronger and stronger, though. ... I really feel good when we're winning."
Although Phillips enjoys the accolades, he consistently deflects praise to his players and coaching staff. "Thanks for this honor. But please understand it's not about me."
Assistant Coach of the Year
2011 Wade Phillips / Hou.
2010 Marty Mornhinweg / Phil.
2009 Mike Zimmer / Cin.
2008 Dick LeBeau / Pitt.
2007 Jason Garrett / Dall.
2006 Rex Ryan / Balt.
2005 Ron Rivera / Chi.
2004 Dick LeBeau / Pitt.
2003 Romeo Crennel / N.E.
2002 Monte Kiffin / T.B.
2001 Mike Mularkey / Pitt.
2000 Marvin Lewis / Balt.
1999 Dom Capers / Jax.
1998 Brian Billick / Minn.
1997 John Fox / N.Y.G.
1996 Dave Campo / Dall.
1995 Pete Carroll / S.F.
1994 Dom Capers / Pitt.
1993 Ray Rhodes / G.B.