Understanding Wade Phillips
There are two defensive coaches in the NFL that from a schematic standpoint truly impress me on a regular basis. The first is Bill Belichick and I have spoken his praises many times. His ability to disregard formation and deisgn a defense based on matchup is truly brilliant.
The other coach who impresses me consistently is Wade Phillips. What makes Wade Phillips so special is his ability to adapt a basic formation and suit the responsibilities of that formation to his players. This is a key difference. Belichick literally changes any aspect of his defensive scheme and gameplan on a week to week basis, whereas Phillips examines his personnel, teaches the same basic rules of the defense, but allows each player to abide by those rules in their own way.
Wade Phillips is the son of a great NFL head coach, Bum Phillips and has been involved with football for the vast majority of his life. He has coached the 34 defense for about 40 years. He also played in a 43 in college, but he prefers the 34 for very basic reasons, of which I will address in the next section.
The key to understanding Wade Phillips is knowing that he embraces the changes he sees in the players coming into the NFL. He has spoken about the changes his 34 defenses have made over the years, including the limiting to nearly disappearing of a bulky inside linebacker to take on offensive guards on the strong side of a run. Another dramatic change is how he learned to incorporate more pass rush oriented defensive ends in a 34 scheme that is traditionally based upon ends using two gap principles.