Bills sure do miss Wade Phillips

Wade Phillips, now defensive co-ordinator for the Houston Texans, was the last head coach of the...

Wade Phillips, now defensive co-ordinator for the Houston Texans, was the last head coach of the Bills to lead them to the post-season. (DARREN HAUCK/Reuters)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:21 PM ET

HOUSTON - He's both the son and father of an NFL coach.

He himself has 36 years of pro coaching experience, renowned for turning crappy NFL defences into good ones.

He has the coolest Twitter handle ever -- @sonofbum.

And no Buffalo head coach has taken the Bills to the playoffs since Phillips did so in 1999.

Wade Phillips is now 65, and he's working wonders with the defence of the AFC's best team, the Houston Texans -- who put their 6-1 record on the line against the Bills (3-4) on Sunday afternoon.

After six turns as a defensive co-ordinator and three as a head coach in the NFL since 1981, Phillips last season joined the Texans under coach Gary Kubiak.

He promptly installed his 3-4 attack defence and turned a unit that had ranked fourth worst in the NFL in points surrendered per game (26.7) to fourth best (17.4). Similarly, his 2011 defence allowed the second fewest total yards per game (286) after allowing the third most (377) the year before.

This season his Texans defence remains among the league's best. It ranks third in fewest yards allowed per game (283), sixth in fewest points (18.3), second in third-down conversion percentage (27.5%) and is stingiest in pass-completion percentage (52.8%).

Phillips might not be nearly the character his cowboy-hat-wearin', crew-cut-sportin', southern-sayings-drawlin' father Bum Phillips was, when he was head coach of the Houston Oilers during the 1970s and New Orleans Saints during the 1980s.

But despite too-often having experienced an adage his father once famously coined -- "There ain't but two kinds of coaches in the NFL: Them that's been fired, and them that's gonna be fired" -- @sonobum has done dadgum good in his own right.

Twelve years later, Phillips' turn at the helm of the Bills looks particularly impressive in comparison with the string of awful regimes that have followed his.

Check this out.

When Phillips was both head coach and vice-president of football operations in Buffalo from 1998 through 2000 -- after a successful three-year turn as Marv Levy's defensive co-ordinator -- the Bills won 60% of their games and made the playoffs in two of three years.

What's more, his Bills were 5-1 in prime-time games, and were 4-2 against New England and 3-3 against Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts.

His 1999 team has been the Bills' only one since Levy's early-1990s Super Bowl powerhouses to post a winning record on the road (5-3). His teams averaged four Pro Bowl selections a year, whereas the Bills the past four years have had four Pro Bowl selections combined.

On and on we can go with this.

Indeed, Phillips' defences as Buffalo's coach ranked sixth, first and third in the NFL, whereas since then only two Bills defences have been ranked higher than 14th (the 2003 and 2004 units both were ranked second).

His 1999 defence was particularly strong, surrendering just 266 yards and 14 points a game. By pitiful contrast, this year's sad-sack defence allowed more of both in one half against New England, San Francisco (both halves) and Tennessee.

Phillips, though, was far from perfect.

The way he managed his Bills coaching staff and, especially, his quarterbacks -- Doug Flutie (a CFL import from the Toronto Argos) and Rob Johnson -- exposed himself to ample and justified criticism.

Yet Phillips did not neglect the offensive side of the ball, as many defensive-minded head coaches do. His three offences ranked sixth, 11th and 11th in the NFL. Only two Bills offences since have ranked higher than 14th -- namely, the two that immediately followed his (13th in 2001, 11th in 2002).

"We had some great days in Buffalo," Phillips said in an interview with QMI Agency, before the Texans crunched the Baltimore Ravens, 43-13, on Oct. 21.

"In fact we have friends coming in from Buffalo to our ball games now. There are great people there. I really enjoyed it there. We were 29-19, in the playoffs, and didn't have a losing season. I'm proud of what we did there."

The most memorable game in his regime was the heartbreaking playoff loss at Tennessee -- the "Music City Miracle" in which the Titans won on a kickoff return for touchdown with 16 seconds left, when tight end Frank Wycheck threw a cross-field lateral to Kevin Dyson, who darted 72 yards to paydirt.

The Bills haven't been to the playoffs since.

Buffalo fans and many others (raises hand) always thought Wycheck's pass was a forward lateral, thus the score should have been called back. Video replay upheld the on-field call.

Count Phillips among the disbelievers.

"Until they threw the forward lateral, we had the game won," Phillips said, shaking his head.

"I think we had a heck of a team while we were there, and I was hoping it'd be longer. But it wasn't."

Ralph Wilson fired him in January 2001 -- a month after the owner had whacked general manager John Butler -- because Phillips had refused to fire his assistant coach Ronnie Jones, whose special teams were the league's worst.

"I felt we needed a change and that my request was reasonable," Wilson said in a statement after firing Phillips. "I did not want to release Wade, but his refusal left me with no option."

It should be said that Bills fans, spoiled by their team's four consecutive trips to the Super Bowl after the 1990-93 seasons, had much higher expectations then. Phillips' job was to return the team back to that level of excellence. He didn't.

Phillips went on to run defences in San Diego and Atlanta, before Jerry Jones hired him to coach the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Phillips lasted four years in Jerry's world.

Phillips' son, Wes, remains with the Cowboys as assistant offensive line coach.

Now with the Texans, and sporting hair whiter than a Buffalo lawn in January, Phillips is coaching defence as effectively as ever.

And @sonofbum's dad continues to offer him sage advice.

"He's doing great. He's 89 years old, and I still talk to him after every game," Phillips said. "He's always telling me what I should have done. And he knows -- he's right."

WADE PHILLIPS

BORN: June 21, 1947 in Orange, Texas

COLLEGE: Linebacker at University of Houston

DAD: Bum Phillips, head coach of Houston Oilers (1975-80) and New Orleans Saints (1981-85)

SON: Wes Phillips, current assistant offensive line coach of Dallas Cowboys

COACHING CAREER

1969: Graduate assistant, University of Houston

1970-72: Defensive co-ordinator, Orange H.S.

1973-74: Linebackers, Oklahoma State

1975: Defensive line, University of Kansas

1976: Linebackers, Houston Oilers

1977-80: Defensive line, Houston Oilers

1981-85: Defensive co-ordinator, New Orleans Saints

1986-88: Defensive co-ordinator, Philadelphia Eagles

1989-92: Defensive coordinator, Denver Broncos

1993-94: Head coach, Denver Broncos

1995-97: Defensive co-ordinator, Buffalo Bills

1998-2000: Vice-president of football operations/ head Coach, Buffalo Bills

2002-03: Defensive co-ordinator, Atlanta Falcons

2004-06: Defensive co-ordinator, San Diego Chargers

2007-10: Head coach, Dallas Cowboys

Since 2011: Defensive co-ordinator, Houston Texans

BUFFALO BILLS UNDER WADE PHILLIPS

1998: 10-6, made playoffs. Lost 24-17 at Miami in wild card
1999: 11-5, made playoffs. Lost 22-16 at Tennessee in wild card
2000: 8-8, no playoffs. Started 7-4 but lost four of last five

Wade Phillips regime: 29-19 (.604)

BUFFALO BILLS SINCE WADE PHILLIPS

2001: 3-13, no playoffs. Gregg Williams head coach
2002: 8-8, no playoffs. Gregg Williams
2003: 6-10, no playoffs. Gregg Williams

Gregg Williams regime: 17-31 (.354)

2004: 9-7, no playoffs. Mike Mularkey
2005: 5-11, no playoffs. Mike Mularkey

Mike Mularkey regime: 14-18 (.438)

2006: 7-9, no playoffs. Dick Jauron
2007: 7-9, no playoffs. Dick Jauron
2008: 7-9, no playoffs. Dick Jauron
2009: 6-10, no playoffs. Dick Jauron/Perry Fewell

Dick Jauron regime: 27-37 (.422)

2010: 4-12, no playoffs. Chan Gailey
2011: 6-10, no playoffs. Chan Gailey

2012: *3-4, no playoffs. Chan Gailey

Chan Gailey regime*: 13-26 (.333)

*-so far

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/


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