Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips recently took part in a Town Hall Conference Call with season ticket holders. The following is a transcript of his interview.
Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips(On his experience coaching at the East-West Shrine Game) "It went real well. I enjoyed working with the kids there. I think we got some inside information on some of them. So that helped too. We had a nice week and there's a lot of good young players that played in that game. I'm looking forward to talking about them."
(On being a coordinator after a head-coaching stint) "Oh I think it's great, because of where it is, and who I'm working with and for. I think that's the key thing. Any time I've gone as a coordinator, I've really kind of picked my spots as far as who I work for. I'm talking about organizations and also the coach that I'm coaching for. So both those things are great here, and I'm looking forward to coming back."
(On how DE Mario Williams fits into a 3-4 defense) "The great players fit into any defense. I've had Bruce Smith, Reggie White, you name them. Elvin Bethea is in the Hall of Fame, too, at defensive line. The great players like Mario, what you do is you try to get them in position to make plays. It doesn't matter what the front is. It's where you place them. I think that's the key thing with him. We try to get him in a spot where he can make plays, and really, 3-4 or 4-3 really doesn't make that much difference. It's where you place the player. We're going to try to put him in a position where he can make plays the best."
(On if Williams can be moved around in order to surprise offenses) "Sure. From what I've seen so far, and from what I knew about him coming out, you want to put him in a situation where you don't want him against their best lineman. If you can help it, you put him against their worst lineman in some cases. We'll always be trying to do that. But he's so good, you can put him in one spot and let him go. Like I said with Bruce Smith, we didn't move him around a whole lot. We just let him play."
(On how his 3-4 defense is different than Pittsburgh and Green Bay's) "If you put the Jets in there, three out of the four teams are 3-4 teams. It looks like the league is going back that way. At one time, we had I believe 22 teams that ran a 3-4. In fact, the Pro Bowl was picked 3-4 for awhile. It looks like teams are going back to that. It's different in some ways. Technically, we're not a 2-gap completely. Some of those teams are 2-gap, although they say that and then they don't normally play that way. But that's probably the only difference. The nose guard doesn't play 2-gap all the time, unless he can. I had Ted Washington in the Pro Bowl. I've actually had four different nose guards in the Pro Bowl. It depends on what the nose guard can do, as to what he plays. We're going to tailor it to our personnel, not to what I can think of. But it's going to be out of a three defensive lineman setup because of the pass rush you can get."
(On if the nose tackle has to be extremely large) "Again, it's about what they can do. Jay Ratliff is about the size of the couple of guys that we talked about that are already with the Texans. He's not any bigger than they are. He's been the Pro Bowl nose guard for two out of the last three years. Greg Kragen I had in Denver was in the Pro Bowl at nose guard, and he was smaller than the guys we have at nose guard. It's not particularly about size. It's what you do with them, and what kind of players they are. I think that's a common misconception: that they have to be giant players to play 3-4, and we've been playing with guys that aren't giant players. Bruce Smith was about 270 when he played. He played pretty well in that defense. Like I said, Jay Ratliff's about 275 at nose guard. So it's the player himself and what he can do. If he can stunt a lot, and he's quick, then we use him that way. If he's big and huge and can't move much, then we'll play more solid up on the guy. I've been at it a long time, I know a lot of defenses, but it comes down to the players. Not what I can do. What they can do."
(On what role LB Brian Cushing will have in his defense?) "Well I think he's an outstanding player. Again, it's not hard to fit those guys into any type of defense. Especially guys that can move. You put them somewhere in the middle where they can go to the football. That's great thing about the 3-4: you can actually have two guys in the middle that can go to the football. If you have that, then they can make a lot of plays. Through the years, especially when I've had two really good ones together, both of them have made over a hundred tackles, both inside 'backers. So it's a good position to play."
(On what he needs to do with the secondary to improve it) "Right. If you ask the secondary coach, 'What's the difference in coaching a 3-4 or a 4-3?' and he'll say 'None'. Because there isn't any. You just have four players back there, and a lot of the coverages are similar. We have some different coverages than people have. I think those coverages will help us. We've always been able to improve in that area. Usually that's the area that when I go in as a defensive coordinator, which I have several times, and the last four times, really, that was the problem. The secondary had not played well, and we had outstanding years. I think we can help, secondary-wise."
(On how you help instill confidence in defensive players) "You first of all, try to find out their strengths and weaknesses and put them in a position where they can utilize their strengths. It's like I said with the nose guard or with anybody else: they may have the same assignment, but we'll teach different guys different ways. For instance, at cornerback, some cornerbacks can jam well and hold them up at the line, but we'll play them more that way. Whereas another corner plays the exact same position, we'll play him off because he plays better that way. Again, you fit what the players can do to the system. Not what the system can do what you think players can or can't do."
(On his impressions of LB DeMeco Ryans) "He's everything they say: he's an outstanding individual that evidently is really a hard worker too. Not only is he a smart player, but from all I hear he works hard at his craft. I think that's very important for a guy who's definitely a leader on the team. You can tell that from all the coaches I've talked to, and players. They say he's a real leader on the team. He's everything you want."
(On how much the Collective Bargaining Agreement affects working in a new system) "Ours is player-friendly. There are a lot of things we can teach real quickly. I think that's the good thing about that part of our system. Is the learning part is going to be player-friendly. We can do it pretty quickly. Us finding out what the player can do and how he can play and those kind of things, I'm coming on staff, and Gary (Kubiak) knows those things, and we have other coaches on staff, (like) Bill Kollar that can help me with those type of things as far as what the player can do. And I'm looking forward to that."
(On new LB coach Reggie Herring) "He's an outstanding coach. He's very dedicated to what he does, like most coaches are. But I think even more so than any of the coaches that I've been around. He's really an outstanding coach. The players love to play for him. He works them hard. But he gets a lot out of them. He adds a lot to what we're doing, plus, he knows what we're going because we've been doing it for the last three-and-a-half years."
(On if Herring's experience as a college defensive coordinator will help) "Sure. I think that certainly helps. Reggie's an extremely smart guy, and that certainly helps too. But he has a good feel, and has good leadership qualities too and I think that's important with a coach. You talk about players a lot as far as leadership, but you have to have leaders as coaches, and Reggie is definitely one of those."
(On his thoughts about defensive line coach Bill Kollar) "Bill's revered throughout the league, especially for teaching pass rush. You can see it on the players and how they come off the ball and those kind of things, from the tape that I've watched. But he's very enthusiastic, and you need a coach that's a really enthusiastic guy. It takes all kind of coaches, but he's one that's very enthusiastic and gives you that zing that you need as far as player and a coach, so I think he's going to add a lot there."
(On his thoughts about new defensive backs coach Vance Joseph) "Vance has been in the same system we've been in for awhile. Billy Davis coached as a defensive coordinator for San Francisco and worked with Vance. Then Greg Manusky, the defensive coordinator the last four years, and he worked with Vance, and both guys said he's one of the most outstanding coaches they've ever been around. Plus, he's been in our system. Both of those guys worked with me and ran the same 3-4 system that we teach here. It was an easy transition that way."
(On how much personnel input he'll have) "I've always prided myself that I do a good job of evaluating personnel. I'll say my two cents and I'll think they'll realize with my experience in some areas, especially in picking personnel, that I can help. That's what I'll try to do. But I have been a head coach, and people think 'Well gosh, every defensive player, he's going to want, and no offensive players.' But that's not the case. It's whoever the best players are. When I first went to San Diego, again they had a really terrible year on defense, and a good offense, and we picked Phillip Rivers with the first pick. We won 12 games the first year. It's not just picking a defensive player that makes the difference. It's whatever's best for your team. That's what I'm for."