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BALTIMORE — Wade Phillips did his best to deflect the praise when it came to talking about his phenomenal first season with the Texans.
Turning around the league's 30th-ranked defense into the No. 2-rated unit? Phillips credited the players first.
Building and installing a brand-new defense during a lockout? Phillips thanked the rest of his staff and the Texans' front office for making it happen.
Making it to within a feww plays of the AFC championship game? Phillips wished he could have done more to push his team over the top.
But he could not escape the spotlight for too long. Pro Football Weekly presented Phillips with his well-earned honor at the 34th annual Ed Block Courage Awards: the PFW/Professional Football Writers of America Assistant Coach of the Year award.
"Well, we had a lot of good players," Phillips told PFW. "We picked up a lot of good players in free agency that people know about. We had some young players, rookies who played well for us. We also had guys on the team who were really good."
Twelve of the previous 16 winners of the award have gone on to become NFL head coaches. But Phillips already has been a head coach — gigs with the Broncos, Bills and Cowboys — compiling an 82-59 record, and he also has two interim head-coaching stops on his résumé.
But the job he did with the Texans, less than a year after being fired by the Cowboys, deserved special mention. Losing Mario Williams, their best defensive player, after five games, the Texans never lost a beat. Young OLBs Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin turned into stars in Phillips' attacking-style 3-4 unit.
"They certainly did," Phillips said. "They stepped up and played well for us. Brooks Reed, we thought he would be good eventually, but he was starting in the fifth game. And Connor, he's relentless. Those two guys are what you really need in the 3-4."
Phillips spoke of Williams, the free-agent pass rusher the Texans appear destined to lose in free agency.
"Whatever team gets him will be getting a very good player," Phillips said. "But we played well without him, too."
Twenty-three NFL players made the trip to the awards ceremony Tuesday night to be honored by the Ed Block Courage Foundation for their perseverance and courage through personal adversity. All 32 teams nominated players, as voted on by their teammates, for the award, which is named for the late Baltimore Colts trainer, Ed Block.