WASHINGTON — After the 2014 season, the Washington Redskins parted ways with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and conducted an extensive search to find his replacement.
One candidate identified early in the process was former NFL head coach Wade Phillips. The move made sense, as Phillips is an NFL lifer, a strong believer in the 3-4 defensive scheme, and his son, Wes, was the team’s tight ends coach. The Redskins are a legacy organization, sometimes to the fault of nepotism, but Phillips’ track record could put any of those fears to rest.
So, the first week of January 2015, Phillips met with Redskins’ head coach Jay Gruden at Redskins Park, in what he described in his new book, Son of Bum: Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Football and Life, as one of the most bizarre interviews of his life.
“My interview with Jay was strong, to say the least. I’d had unusual interviews before–like the one with Marty Schottenheimer that took forever because he asked a million questions about the 3-4 defense–but I had never gone through something quite like this.
“When Jay was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and I was with the Texans, I faced the Bengals twice in the playoffs, after the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and beat them both times–31-10 and 19-13. I felt he knew my credentials and might have been impressed with the things we were able to do in the previous three games in which we had beaten the Bengals, including one game during the regular season.
Phillips came into the interview excited at the possibility of coaching with his son again and doing it in a system where he had thrived in the past. The team had the personnel to take the next step and Phillips clearly felt optimistic.
“We watched a lot of tape of the Texans’ games versus his offense. It seemed to mee a lot of the plays were of when Cincinnati did well. Most of the interview was about that. I thought we should have talked more about philosophy, technique, concepts, and my record, but he was the one interviewing me.”
This sounds like a classic case of “he’s just not that into you.” Or maybe it was a twisted opportunity for Gruden to make an old nemesis squirm. Either way, an uncomfortable time was had by all, Phillips shared his disappointmenet with Wes, who coached with Gruden for another two years, and the team hired Barry as defensive coordinator.
Phillips had a tough time swallowing that as well.
“Joe had been with the Chargers, whose defensive coordinator was John Pagano. John haad been my linebackers coach when I was the defensive coordinator in San Diego, so Joe basically learned my defensive system through John.”
Ouch. That being said, Phillips did acknowledge that he was happy for Barry, “a good, young coach.” Phillips made it clear that he had no other attraction to Washington beyond working with his son.
Now that he has landed with the L.A. Rams as defensive coordinator for Sean McVay, he can look forward to trying to beat Gruden’s offense again.