Wade Phillips hit the ground running on Monday in his first day on the job as the Texans' defensive coordinator.
A native of Orange who played linebacker at the University of Houston and began his NFL coaching career with the Houston Oilers in 1976, Phillips had been at home in Dallas since accepting the position last week.
"I've always been a Texan, and now I'm a real Texan," he said Monday at an introductory press conference at Reliant Stadium. "Being a part of this organization is a dream come true for me. To be in Houston, it couldn't be better for me right now. I'm going to do my best and work the hardest to make this thing be where everybody here in Houston I know wants it to be. So I'm looking forward to it, and I'm ready to get started."
The Texans ranked 30th in defense in 2010, including 32nd against the pass. Phillips will transition them from a 4-3 to a 3-4, a scheme he has used for most of his 22 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator.
"I've gone into situations where they've played a 4-3 before, and we've been successful very quickly," Phillips said.
In each of Phillips' last seven stops as a head coach or defensive coordinator, his new team has made the playoffs in his first season.
Even with the threat of a lockout, which could drastically reduce the offseason time he has to work with players, Phillips is confident that he'll be able to make the Texans' transition a successful one.
"We've always been able to teach things quickly," he said. "I believe the players that have played for us will tell you that we can implement in pretty quickly. Part of it's being a player-friendly defense in that we want them to know their assignments quickly. I take care of all the complications. I take care of the complicated stuff as far as how we get it done and teach it to them pretty quickly, so it hasn't been a problem, and I don't foresee it being one."
One of the key questions concerning the defense is how the Texans will use two-time Pro Bowler Mario Williams. The number one overall pick in the 2006 draft is viewed as a prototype 4-3 defensive end.
Phillips coached Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith in a 3-4 in Buffalo from 1995-2000. Smith had 65 sacks in those six seasons.
"We're not talking about a three-technique," Phillips said of Williams. "We're talking about a guy that we're gonna let rush the passer, penetrate. Movement-wise, I think he's got really good movement. We'll probably move him, and that's what we did with Bruce Smith. You can look at a 3-4 where a guy plays inside all the time, and you look at one where they play outside and go all the time. He's going to be one of them…
"Whatever Mario can do, we're going to try and utilize that."
Texans head coach Gary Kubiak and Phillips began reviewing tape of the team's 2010 games together on Monday morning.
"Just for me to sit in the room with him with all his experience, to hear some of the things and see some of the things that he's seen in some of our players, it was very exciting for me as the coach of this football team," Kubiak said. "We are looking forward to working with him and have a lot of respect for him as a person."
Kubiak and Phillips will spend the week evaluating the Texans' defensive personnel and assessing where their current players fit in the 3-4.
"What Wade tells you all the time is that he'll find out what he has and he'll fit this defense for what he has and we'll find a way to stop people," Kubiak said. "I think that's the biggest challenge right now is when we get through with this week, taking what we have and then him putting them in the right spots.
"We need to walk out of here at the end of this week saying, 'OK, here's where we see these guys fitting. Now how deep do we have to go in free agency and the draft to make sure we've got depth and feel good about our starters?'"
The Texans also are in the process of completing their coaching staff, which has vacancies at the linebackers and defensive backs positions. Kubiak said they have requested permission to interview "a couple" of coaches but have yet to hear back from their current teams.
"There's a lot of things going on around the league right now, and a lot of guys are tied up that may become free," Kubiak said. "The one thing that we both agreed on this morning, we don't want to make a mistake. So we will take our time if we have to. There are some guys that we're very interested in, and we'll be very patient to see what happens with the other places that they're at."