Conversation: Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips (Part 1)

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Michael Ainsworth/AP/Shutterstock (10519278a) Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips watches as they play the Dallas Cowboys in an NFL football game in Dallas. Veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has been fired by the Los Angeles Rams after three winning seasons. Phillips announced, on Twitter that the Rams are not renewing his contract Rams Phillips Fired Football, Dallas, USA – 15 Dec 2019

Conversation: Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips (Part 1)

The leader of the newest edition of the Houston XFL franchise shared his thoughts on his new team and more in the first of this two-part interview with Gallery Sports’ Patrick Creighton.

PC: Coach, usually when someone has sports success in the City of Houston, they don’t like that person very much in Dallas. When someone has a lot of success in Dallas, they don’t like that person very much in Houston. You’ve had success in both cities and are essentially universally beloved throughout the State of Texas. Have you ever thought about there’s maybe five people in the entire world who are beloved sports figures in both Houston and Dallas?

WP: (laughs) I hadn’t thought about that until now. Even though my dad coached in Houston, he was really beloved. I don’t know that I am, but I know that he was. A lot of people will say, “I loved you in Dallas!” and other people will say, “I loved you with the Texans!” so that is pretty neat.

PC: How did you get connected with the Roughnecks and the XFL?

WP: Well, the president of the league, Russ Brandon, was my general manager in Buffalo. He knew what kind of coach I was, so when he became the president of the new league, he called me and said, “Would you like to be in Houston?” I said, “of course,” and just went from there.

PC: So you knew right from the get-go you were going to be in Houston?

WP: Yeah. Oh yeah.

PC: They don’t release that right away. They announce who will be the coaches but don’t say where.

WP: No. It’s Hollywood. They release where the teams were, who the coaches were, then where the coaches were going to be. I knew I was going to be in Houston because that’s where I wanted to be, and I live here.

PC: The draft process is a lot different than the NFL Draft. How did the draft process work? How did you prepare for the draft process in the XFL?

WP: Well, it’s a monumental thing because you’re doing a whole football team. In a (NFL) draft, you’re trying to fill in, and you get (seven) rounds to do that. We (the XFL) had 55 rounds, so our guys did a whole lot of work. (Director of Player Personnel) Marc Lillibridge, who is our personnel guy, did a tremendous amount of work of setting it up, then he designated coaches to look at their areas, and he worked with them. We came out with; I think, a really great group.

PC: Now, being a longtime coach in the NFL, you are considered to be one of the greatest defensive coaches ever. You have had five different players win Defensive Player of the Year that you have coached. You have coached two Defensive Rookie of the Year players. How excited are the defensive players on your team to play under your system, knowing who you are, what your reputation is? Do those players have a little extra juice in them?

WP: They’re excited. Just being a head coach in the league, of course, I was a head coach three times and an interim head coach three more times, just them knowing that you’ve been in the NFL as a coach, offensively and defensively, they were excited about it. I could say that.

PC: You mentioned 55 rounds; that’s almost like an old MLB draft. You had to put together your entire team, so none of the these guys have played together before under one team. How do you put all that together?

WP: We are doing that right now. We are really giving all the players equal first-team reps, as you would call it because we don’t know exactly their skill level. We’re trying to do that. I’ve been a head coach several times, and I think just organization and having a really good staff to work with these guys because the first part is fundamentals. They have to be fundamentally sound. We can teach some of that, and we can recognize abilities.

PC: You have three quarterbacks on your team. Last I heard, there’s a pretty good quarterback competition going on. What can you tell us about those three guys in the quarterback room?

WP: All three of them are talented, and we are excited about that. Sometimes you have one guy who can play, and the others can’t play at all. (Brandon) Silvers is more of a dropback quarterback. (Cole) McDonald, who played at Hawaii, ran a 4.6 at the NFL Combine. He can really run, and we can utilize him in the running game too. Our other quarterback, from Western Michigan, (Kaleb) Eleby, is kind of both. He throws well and runs well. We’ll see.

PC: A lot of the smaller colleges run wide-open, spread type offenses. Will you run that type of offense?

WP: Yes. We will run the former air raid. I call it the Mike Leach offense now because Mike passed away, and it really was his offense. I want to carry his name on, too, just to honor him because I think he should be honored for having an offense that everybody’s copied. So we will run the Mike Leach offense and the Phillips 3-4 defense.

PC: That Phillips defense has been around now over 50 years; it’s pretty tried, tested, and true. You’ve had a lot of success with it. Who are some players on the defense that could be standout players, players people should watch?

WP: We are in the process of that, but I think our defensive line. I was lucky enough to have Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware with Denver. Even with the Texans, we had really good outside backers who could rush. We’ve got about 4-5 guys that play outside that are really good. I don’t know which ones are going to come through, but we have several guys like that. Our D-line is pretty strong too. I think our front seven looks really good right now.

PC: One thing we know, you’re going to bring the heat.

WP: We’re going to, yeah. They (opponents) better be ready for that, and if they’re not, they’re in trouble.

Make sure to check out the second part of this conversation with Houston Roughnecks head coach Wade Phillips!

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