HOUSTON — Wade Phillips doesn’t expect to be a head coach again, and that’s fine. He’s happy to finally be working close to where he grew up.
Phillips reported to work Monday for his first day as the Houston Texans’ defensive co-ordinator, meeting with coach Gary Kubiak to talk about staff vacancies.
Phillips was hired last week, two days after Kubiak fired defensive co-ordinator Frank Bush, secondary coach David Gibbs, linebackers coach Johnny Holland and assistant linebackers coach Robert Saleh.
Kubiak said rounding out the new staff could “take some time,” because some of the targets are working for other teams. He’s asked teams for permission to speak to some coaches, but he wouldn’t disclose names.
The Texans (6-10) lost eight of their last 10 games, mostly due to a defence that ranked 30th overall and last against the pass.
Phillips, 63, was fired as the head coach in Dallas after the Cowboys started 1-7. His career record is 83-64, but Phillips isn’t anticipating any more head coaching offers coming his way.
“It’s perception, sometimes, more than reality,” Phillips said. “I’ve won a lot of games in this league and I have a really high winning percentage. I don’t see me being a head coach again, because of the perception overall.
“When you get fired, it’s usually, ’Hey, he was fired because he can’t win,”’ Phillips said. “It wasn’t ’cause I couldn’t win. I couldn’t win enough.”
Phillips was born in Orange, about 110 miles from Houston, played linebacker at the University of Houston and made his NFL coaching debut in 1976 with the Oilers, working as an assistant for his father, Bum.
He worked for seven different teams from 1981-2010 and jumped at the chance to live near his parents again and work with Kubiak, a longtime friend of the family.
“Houston is special to me,” Phillips said. “My first NFL coaching job was here. At that time, when we were in the playoffs every year and going to the AFC championship. I thought I was a great coach and that we’d be here the whole time. It didn’t work out that way. I went 360 (degrees) and came back and ended right where I wanted to be. And that’s here.”
Phillips says he’ll implement a 3-4 defensive front, a change from the 4-3 that Houston has been playing. Phillips has been a defensive co-ordinator for 20 seasons and at his last five stops, the team made the playoffs in his first year.
“I’ve been successful in playing a 3-4 for a long time,” Phillips said. “I’ve gone into situations where they’ve played a 4-3 before, and we’ve been successful very quickly.”
Kubiak didn’t seem concerned about the switch, which has caused some buzz among his players.
“Is it a big change? It sounds like it,” Kubiak said. “But I think when you start talking about the way he plays his 3-4, it’s reduced a lot of times, which is a four-man front, so there is a lot of carry-over there.”
Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams was skeptical that he could make a smooth transition to Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.
But Phillips coached Reggie White and Bruce Smith during stints in Philadelphia and Buffalo, and both are now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Williams, the top overall pick in the 2006 draft, has 48 sacks in five seasons, and led Houston with 8 1/2 this year.
“When you have a great one, you try to utilize their ability,” Phillips said. “I’ve had two of them who were, by far, better than any of the guys I coached before, or after. I hope to coach one here.”
Phillips had a brief chat with Pro Bowl middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans, but hadn’t met any of his other new players as of Monday afternoon. He’s only analyzed the Texans on film, and said it was too early for him to offer complete evaluations.
“Getting to know how smart they are, how quickly they learn things, what kind of strength they have and what weaknesses each player has, I still need to learn those things,” Phillips said. “It’s all part of the process.”
The most glaring weakness is the secondary, where Kubiak made a costly decision to stick with rookie Kareem Jackson and second-year pro Glover Quin at each cornerback spot. The Texans allowed 33 touchdown catches and 18 pass plays covering at least 20 yards, both league highs.
Phillips doesn’t think the Texans need widespread roster changes to improve the defence. He evaded a question Monday about Houston’s interest in Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who’s now a free agent after the final year of his contract with the Oakland Raiders was voided.
“I have some money in my pocket,” Phillips said, “but I want to keep it.”
Kubiak said the Texans will “look at options” in free agency. First, he and Phillips have to finish their assessments of Houston’s current personnel.
Phillips will coach in the East-West Shrine Classic in Orlando, Fla., next week.