At a time when the NFL is dealing with unprecedented scrutiny regarding its issues with race in coaching and front-office hires, the NFL has another problem that always simmers below the surface, without ever boiling over.
Former NFL head coach and long-time defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, currently the coach of the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks, recently said he believes he’s out of the NFL due to his date of birth.
“I hate to say it but I think it’s age,” Phillips said, according to David Russell of the New York Post. “It’s hard to beat my record as a coordinator so there’s got to be another reason. But that’s OK. I’m glad to be doing what I’m doing.”
Phillips, 75, has worked as head coach of the Broncos, Bills, and Cowboys. He last coached in the NFL in 2019, as defensive coordinator of the Rams. Hired by Sean McVay when he got the head-coaching job in 2017, Phillips wasn’t retained after an initial three-year stint.
“My niche in the NFL was defensive coordinator,” Phillips said. “My record’s pretty good as head coach. It was fun being a head coach. I didn’t do terrible.”
Plenty have done worse.
And while some older coaches are still going strong past the age of 70, it’s easy to continue when the coach in question has become an NFL icon — like Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll.
For most other coaches, there’s a shelf life. Maybe, one of these days, a coach who was pushed out of the game due in whole or in part to his age will do what Brian Flores did in 2022.