As the Rams move on from defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the public praised being heaped upon him by coach Sean McVay raises an obvious question.
Why isn’t Phillips being retained?
Technically, his contract has expired. Phillips said that the Rams have told him the contract won’t be renewed, which makes the move not his choice, but the team’s decision.
“Coach Wade has been a veteran voice in heading our defense for the past three seasons,” McVay said in a statement issued by the Rams. “His wealth of experience, sound advice, and helpful demeanor has been invaluable to our coaches and players, and also has set an example for me as a head coach and a leader of men. I thank Coach Phillips for his numerous contributions to the Los Angeles Rams and our community, and I wish he, his wife Laurie, and the rest of the Phillips family the best.”
An article posted by the team’s website explains that, “[d]espite losing several key starters, Phillips’ unit still managed to improve from 19th to 13th in the NFL in total defense, going from 358.6 yards allowed per game in 2018 to 339.6 in 2019.” Not bad, given the regression of the offense.
Again, so why isn’t he coming back?
“He’s been great,” McVay said regarding Phillips before the regular-season finale against the Cardinals. “Even from the very first time that we started working together. His experience that he’s had, to be able to draw on. I think our personalities, it’s a good balance — in terms of some of the things where you see just how even-keeled he is, has helped. Like I’ve mentioned in a lot of different ways, he’s always had a great perspective just based on his experience — whether it be as a head coach or as a coordinator, but it’s never pushed on you. He’s always willing to share and has a way that he thinks is the best way to be able to do it, but I’ve never felt like any of that was pushed on you.”
One more time, why not bring him back? The Broncos didn’t renew Phillips’ deal three years ago because they wanted to promote Joe Woods into the job. The Rams reportedly want to bump Joe Barry into the defensive coordinator position for 2020, and presumably beyond.
Woods and Barry are both 49. Phillips is 72. And so the explanation may be the one that never would be acknowledged by the Rams, due to the mandates of the federal and state law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of age: Like the Broncos possibly did in 2017, L.A. may simply be choosing to go significantly younger at the position.