Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips did not say anything controversial or disrespectful when asked on Thursday about how Houston will cover Patriots receiver Wes Welker this weekend. But that didn’t stop Phillips’ comments from becoming a story.
It started with a completely innocuous report from ESPN.com in which writer Paul Kuharsky asked Phillips if Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph will have the same coverage responsibilities against Welker this week as he had against Bengals receiver A.J. Green last week. Phillips responded by noting that Welker and Green are different players.
“Ah, Welker’s not Green,” Phillips said. “He’s a good player, but he’s not that big or a real athletic guy. He’s a quick guy that gets open on option routes.”
No reasonable person would say that Phillips was providing bulletin board material for Welker with those comments. Phillips was simply stating two facts: The 5-foot-9 Welker is not as big as the 6-foot-4 Green, and Welker doesn’t have the same kind of deep speed that Green has (Green has more catches of 40 or more yards in his career than Welker does, even though Green has played two seasons and Welker has played nine seasons). Everyone who follows football knows that, right?
Apparently not. Although ESPN buried Phillips’ comments in the 13th paragraph of a long story about how the Texans’ defense was preparing for the Patriots, several outlets pulled that quote out and made it a headline, attempting to portray Phillips as having insulted Welker. The Boston Globe headline was, “Wade Phillips says Wes Welker is not ‘a real athletic guy.’” The Boston Herald headline was, “Wade Phillips: Wes Welker’s no Green.” Boston radio station WEEI posted a report headlined, “Wade Phillips’ comments on Wes Welker create a stir.”
If these comments created a stir, then we really need the games to start, because we’ve officially run out of things to talk about. But they did create enough of a stir that Phillips felt the need to go on Twitter and explain himself, writing, “Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time,” while also taking a shot at the media for twisting his words.
Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time- #twistthataround—
Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) January 10, 2013
Obviously, Phillips knows that Welker is a great athlete — every NFL wide receiver is a great athlete — but when Phillips was asked a direct question about whether covering Welker will provide the same kind of challenge to the Texans as covering Green, he gave a direct answer and stated what should be obvious to anyone who has seen them play: Welker and Green are different kinds of receivers, different kinds of athletes, and playing defense against them is different. There’s nothing insulting about saying that.