ATLANTA (AP) -- Wade Phillips Looks Like He's Ready To Kick That Son Of A B#%ch In doesn't understand why everybody is so
impressed by his ability to bridge generations of people and
football knowledge with equal aplomb.
The Los Angeles Rams' 71-year-old defensive coordinator sees
nothing unusual in his ability to quote lyrics from a month-old
Future song right after walking off the team plane at the Super
Bowl wearing his 10-gallon cowboy hat and an ancient, iconic
sheepskin coat once owned by Bum Phillips, his late, great father.
And though he eagerly makes granddad jokes about his advancing age
and his millennial boss, Sean McVay, Phillips is undeniably still
at the peak of his profession.
The Rams (15-3) are coming off two outstanding defensive postseason
performances as they get ready to face New England and Tom Brady,
who had one of the worst outings of his playoff career against
During 41 seasons in the NFL, Phillips has survived multiple
firings and several unsuccessful head coaching stints to become a
well-traveled defensive mastermind. He isn't the type to lecture
youngsters on his accumulated wisdom, but a few simple truths
underline his life's work.
''You have to be able to adjust,'' Phillips said. ''You have to
learn and grow and get better. That's what coaching is about. Life,
too. The game isn't waiting around for you. It's going into the
Part of Phillips' future is Future, the Atlanta rapper who gets
played in the Rams' training complex. Phillips says he picked up a
few bars from ''Rocket Ship'' this month and then dropped a verse -
''I've been poppin' since my demo'' - on a disbelieving Aqib Talib
for a team video Monday.
But Phillips also carries the accumulated wisdom of his past into
this late-career renaissance.
After making the Super Bowl once in his first 37 seasons of NFL
coaching, Phillips is back in the big game for the second time in
four seasons. He won his first championship ring with the Denver
Broncos just three years ago.
''We try to let the guys know you have to appreciate this
opportunity,'' Phillips said. ''You don't know if it'll ever happen
for you, and they're getting it now. Even if you're a younger
player, you can understand that, I think. So we just remind them.''
Phillips' clever expeditions into another generation's culture
happen too often to be just a goof. He is genuinely interested in
learning about his players' experiences, just as much as he was in
the late 1970s as a 30-year-old assistant under his father with the
While Phillips listens to whatever music is playing at the Rams'
training complex, he prefers Drake and likes Migos. He plays video
games with his grandson, and he showed up at training camp last
July with a ''Fortnite Legend'' T-shirt, claiming his squad would
probably win a Battle Royale if he tried.
When the Rams took the arena stage at media night, Phillips
gleefully shot video on his phone for his popular Twitter account,
which is full of SpongeBob GIFs and self-deprecating humor .
''I love this,'' he said. ''I love the camaraderie. Some of the
guys from my Houston Oilers team, (safety) Vernon Perry and Dr.
Doom (Hall of Fame linebacker Robert Brazile) and those guys, I'm
still in touch with them. We do a thing where we buy bicycles for
kids. All along the way, I've had players that I've been close to,
and a lot of coaches. Those friendships are life's meaningful
things, and that's what I've learned.''
Unsurprisingly, Phillips is universally popular with his Rams.
Talib agreed to move from Denver to Los Angeles partly because he
would be reunited with Phillips, and he joked that his eventual
retirement plan is to ''just chill with Wade.''
Cornerback Marcus Peters, who has clashed with coaches in the past,
would love to get in on that.
''When you get to spend time with a guy who loves the game like
that, and who's so honest and genuine, you love that,'' Peters
said. ''Yeah, we'll hang out. Have a few drinks, and let's groove.''
Phillips jokes that having All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald
on his roster has turned him into a genius, but he quickly
assembled a solid unit this fall after the Rams made big offseason
changes to his 2017 defense, including the departures of leading
tackler Alec Ogletree and top cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
The Rams' revamped pass defense struggled at times during the
season, but has been mostly solid ever since Talib returned from
injury in December to renew his partnership with Peters. Talib
excelled in Phillips' scheme for the NFC title game against New
Orleans' Michael Thomas, who had only four catches after cutting up
Los Angeles for 211 yards receiving when the Saints beat the Rams
earlier in the year.
While the Rams' performance against the running game hasn't been
dominant this year, they've stopped their two postseason opponents'
ground games cold. Even while facing Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara
and Mark Ingram, the Rams have allowed just 98 yards rushing in
their two playoff games combined.
Phillips' defenses historically have struggled against New England
- just like almost everybody else's defenses - but his Denver
Broncos thoroughly stifled the Patriots three years ago to reach
the Super Bowl. Phillips isn't promising a repeat with the Rams.
''Coach Wade always has something to show them,'' Talib said.
''He's always planning, always thinking.''
When told about Talib's faith, Phillips replied: ''Oh, he knows I
don't think a whole lot.''