Wade Phillips
refer to caption
Phillips in June 2017
San Antonio Brahmas
Position:Head coach
Personal information
Born: (1947-06-21) June 21, 1947 (age 76)
Orange, Texas, U.S.
Career information
High school:Port Neches–Groves (TX)
College:Houston (1966–1968)
Career history
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
As coach
Head coaching record
Regular season:89–67 (.571)
Postseason:1–6 (.143)
Career:90–73 (.552)
Coaching stats at PFR

Harold Wade Phillips (born June 21, 1947[1]) is an American football coach who is currently the head coach of the San Antonio Brahmas of the United Football League (UFL). He has served as head coach of the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys, and Houston Roughnecks. He has also served as interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, and the Houston Texans. Additionally, Phillips has long been considered to be among the best defensive coordinators in the NFL. In his long career, he has served as defensive coordinator in eight separate stints with seven different franchises (twice with the Denver Broncos). Multiple players under Phillips' system have won Defensive Player of the Year: Reggie White, Bryce Paup, Bruce Smith, J. J. Watt and Aaron Donald. Others under Phillips have won Defensive Rookie of the Year: Mike Croel and Shawne Merriman. In Phillips' lone Super Bowl victory, a defensive player would be named Super Bowl MVP: Von Miller.

Early career

Phillips attended Port Neches–Groves High School in Port Neches, Texas,[2] and went to the University of Houston, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker from 1966 to 1968. He held the school record for career assisted tackles[3] (228) until 2011 when the record was broken by Marcus McGraw.[4]

Phillips began his coaching career as a graduate assistant to Bill Yeoman at the University of Houston in 1969. From 1970 to 1972 he served as defensive coordinator at the former Lutcher Stark High School (now West Orange-Stark High School) in Orange, Texas. He then coached the linebackers at Oklahoma State University from 1973 to 1974, under his father, Bum Phillips, who was OSU defensive coordinator at that time. In 1975, Phillips coached the defensive line at the University of Kansas under head coach Bud Moore.[2]

NFL coaching

Phillips began his professional coaching career with the Houston Oilers, head-coached by his father. He served as the linebackers coach in 1976, and the defensive line coach from 1977 to 1980.

Wade remained on his father's staff as the pair headed for New Orleans. Bum stepped down as head coach of a struggling Saints team in late 1985, and Wade stepped in as interim head coach. The Saints routed the eventual NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams 29–3 in his first game at the helm, but finished with losses to the Cardinals, 49ers and Falcons. Phillips was interviewed for the job permanently in January 1986 by new Saints president and general manager Jim Finks, but the position went to Jim Mora, the highly successful coach of the United States Football League's Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars.

Wade spent the next three years as the defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles under Buddy Ryan. During Phillips' tenure in Philadelphia, defensive end Reggie White recorded 21 sacks in just 12 games in 1987, and the Eagles won the NFC East championship in 1988. Phillips' last game with the Eagles was the infamous Fog Bowl vs. the Chicago Bears in the NFC divisional playoffs.

Denver Broncos

Phillips then spent four seasons as the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. The Broncos reached Super Bowl XXIV, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 55–10. Phillips replaced Dan Reeves as head coach for the Broncos in 1993, but was fired after a mediocre 1994 season in which management felt he lost control of the team.[citation needed]

Buffalo Bills

Phillips spent two seasons as the Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator under Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy. After Levy's retirement in 1998, the Bills hired Phillips as head coach.[5] Phillips enjoyed a successful coaching stop in Buffalo, but a loss to the Titans in the 1999 playoffs haunted Phillips for the rest of his tenure. Prior to the game, Phillips made the controversial decision to start Rob Johnson at quarterback, after Doug Flutie was the starter the whole year and led the team to the playoffs. Following an 8–8 record in 2000, owner Ralph Wilson fired Phillips after Phillips refused to fire special teams coach Ronnie Jones.[6]

Dallas Cowboys

On February 8, 2007, Phillips was named the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, replacing the retired Bill Parcells. This was the most successful coaching stop for Phillips. He was chosen after Jerry Jones interviewed 10 potential replacements, including former Cowboys and former San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner, former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and former Cowboys quarterback Jason Garrett. In the 2007 NFL playoffs, he led the Cowboys to another playoff loss, making his playoff record 0–4. The Cowboys failed to make the playoffs in 2008, as the season ended with a 44–6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, preventing a wild card playoff berth.

Prior to the 2009 season, Phillips also took over as defensive coordinator, replacing the fired Brian Stewart. Phillips called defensive plays for the final 10 games of the 2008 season after Stewart was stripped of the responsibilities.[7] On January 9, 2010, in the 2009–10 playoffs, Phillips' Cowboys defeated the Eagles in the wild card round, ending the club's 12-year playoff win drought (6 games total, Phillips was only coach for one of those losses) and earning Phillips his first playoff win.[8] Following the 2009 season, Phillips signed a contract extension through the 2011 season.[9] However, he was fired by the Cowboys on November 8, 2010, following the second-worst start in franchise history (one win in their first eight games) punctuated by a 45–7 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Garrett was named interim coach, then permanent successor, and held the position through 2019.[10]

Houston Texans

On January 5, 2011, Phillips was hired as the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, replacing Frank Bush, who was released by Texans owner Bob McNair.[11] The Texans defense made major improvements on defense in Phillips' first year calling Houston's defense. Houston allowed the fourth-fewest points in the league in 2011 (compared to fourth-most in 2010), the second-fewest yards allowed (third-most in 2010) and third-fewest yards per play (4.8, compared to 6.0, second-worst in 2010). On November 3, 2013, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed at the end of the first half of the Texans-Colts game; he was then hospitalized at a local hospital. In Kubiak's absence, Phillips was given the head coaching duties as the acting head coach for the remainder of the game. On November 6, 2013, the Texans and Kubiak decided to temporarily hand Phillips the head coaching duties, and named him the interim head coach until Kubiak was medically cleared to return. Exactly one month later, Kubiak was fired after his team had lost 11 games in a row. Once again, Phillips served as interim head coach for the Texans until the end of the season, when former Penn State head coach and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was hired as the new head coach.[12] When Phillips was dismissed by Houston, this ended a continuous run where he had coached football at the high school, college, and NFL levels.[13]

Denver Broncos (second stint)

On January 28, 2015, Phillips reunited with Gary Kubiak, joining the latter's staff as the defensive coordinator on the Denver Broncos. It would be Phillips' second stint at that position with the team. Phillips replaced his predecessor's complex wait-and-react scheme with a simple style of going after the ball, making Denver the top-ranked defense that season, which carried the team to a 12–4 record and the number one seed in the AFC despite their offensive struggles. In Super Bowl 50, played on February 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, California, the game was seen by some as a contest between Phillips and Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula, as both of them were sons of well-known NFL coaches, and as Carolina had the top-ranked offense in the 2015 regular season.[14] Denver's defense shut down Carolina and Cam Newton in a 24–10 victory, giving Phillips the first Super Bowl victory of his career.[15]

Following the retirement of Kubiak as head coach after the 2016 season, Phillips was replaced by Joe Woods as the defensive coordinator for the Broncos.[16]

Los Angeles Rams

After a successful stint with the Denver Broncos, Phillips left to become defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams, alongside new head coach Sean McVay.

In Super Bowl LIII, Phillips' defense was credited with keeping the New England Patriots and Tom Brady out of the end zone until the fourth quarter, as the Rams only trailed by a field goal for the first three quarters despite the Patriots' offense having the majority of possession. The Patriots' offense had to resort to running the ball often, eventually tiring out the Rams defensive line.[17] However, the Rams' top-ranked offense that game was stifled and they lost to the Patriots, 13–3.[18][19]

On January 6, 2020, the Rams announced they would not be renewing his contract. This followed their 2019 season in which the Rams went 9–7 and failed to make the playoffs.[20]

Houston Roughnecks

In April 2022, Phillips was announced as a Head Coach for an XFL Team. It was later revealed in July 2022 that he would be coaching the Houston Roughnecks.[21] Phillips finished with a 7-3 record, while earning their first playoff berth and clinching first place in the South Division. The Roughnecks were eliminated by the Arlington Renegades in the South Division title game in the playoffs.[22]

San Antonio Brahmas

On December 28, 2023, San Antonio Brahmas head coach Hines Ward resigned from the Brahmas after finishing with a 3-7 record in 2023, in response to a change in contract structure.[23] It was revealed that Phillips agreed to take the Brahmas Head Coaching job along with his former Roughnecks Offensive Coordinator A.J. Smith.[24]

Head coaching record

Phillips with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007

Counting head coaching jobs as well as interim stints, Phillips has served as head coach for more teams (six) than any other person in NFL history.


Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
NO* 1985 1 3 0 .250 3rd in NFC West
NO Total 1 3 0 .250
DEN 1993 9 7 0 .563 3rd in AFC West 0 1 .000 Lost to Los Angeles Raiders in AFC Wild Card Game
DEN 1994 7 9 0 .438 4th in AFC West
DEN Total 16 16 0 .500 0 1 .000
BUF 1998 10 6 0 .625 3rd in AFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Miami Dolphins in AFC Wild Card Game
BUF 1999 11 5 0 .688 2nd in AFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to Tennessee Titans in AFC Wild Card Game
BUF 2000 8 8 0 .500 4th in AFC East
BUF Total 29 19 0 .604 0 2 .000
ATL* 2003 2 1 0 .667 4th in NFC South
ATL Total 2 1 0 .667
DAL 2007 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC East 0 1 .000 Lost to New York Giants in NFC Divisional Game
DAL 2008 9 7 0 .563 3rd in NFC East
DAL 2009 11 5 0 .688 1st in NFC East 1 1 .500 Lost to Minnesota Vikings in NFC Divisional Game
DAL 2010 1 7 0 .125 Fired
DAL Total 34 22 0 .607 1 2 .333
HOU* 2013 0 3 0 .000 4th in AFC South
HOU Total 0 3 0 .000
Total[8] 82 64 0 .562 1 5 .167

* Interim head coach


League Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
XFL HOU 2023 7 3 .700 1st XFL South 0 1 .000 Lost to Arlington Renegades in XFL South Division Championship
UFL SA 2024 5 2 .714 In progress
Total 11 5 .706 0 1 .000

Personal life

Wade is the son of former NFL coach Bum Phillips and Helen Wilson Phillips.[2] He adored his father, both personally and professionally, stating, "I was blessed to have him as a father and coach. I got to coach with him for 11 years. He taught me everything I know about coaching. He taught me right and wrong. He taught me to enjoy life."[25]

Wade and wife Laurie met in 1964 at Port Neches–Groves High School, where he was the quarterback of the football team and she was the head cheerleader.[2]


  1. ^ "Wade Phillips". pro-football-reference.com. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Wade Phillips :: Football Coach :: Biography". Wade Phillips. Archived from the original on December 16, 2013.
  3. ^ "University of Houston football records" (PDF).
  4. ^ "UH Cougars Honored On All C-USA Squads".
  5. ^ Gleason, Bucky (January 5, 1998). "Buffalo Bills Hire Wade Phillips To Replace Marv Levy As Head Coach". Associated Press. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  6. ^ "Phillips refused to fire special teams coach". ESPN.com. January 9, 2001. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  7. ^ "Phillips takes defensive coordinator duties for Dallas Cowboys". Dallas Morning News. February 17, 2009. Retrieved February 18, 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Wade Phillips Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks - Pro-Football-Reference.com". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  9. ^ McMahon, Tim (January 21, 2010). "Cowboys extend Phillips through 2011". ESPN.com. Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  10. ^ "Wade Phillips Fired by Dallas Cowboys". CBS News. November 8, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
  11. ^ "Texans hire Phillips as defensive coordinator". January 2011.
  12. ^ "Gary Kubiak fired as Houston Texans head coach". NFL.com.
  13. ^ Bishop, Greg. "The Broncos' wild ride that won them SB50".
  14. ^ "Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50". September 14, 2017.
  15. ^ "Super Bowl 50 - Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers - February 7th, 2016". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved February 20, 2023.
  16. ^ "Report: Joe Woods to become Broncos' defensive coordinator".
  17. ^ Connolly, Oliver (February 4, 2019). "Bill Belichick at his best to confirm Patriots as the greatest in NFL history". The Guardian. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  18. ^ Steele, David (February 3, 2019). "Rams prove it's possible to shut down Tom Brady in Super Bowl and still lose". Sporting News. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  19. ^ Van Valkenburg, Kevin (February 5, 2019). "Julian Edelman might not be a Hall of Famer, but he was a star". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 11, 2020.
  20. ^ Beacham, Greg (January 6, 2020). "LA Rams fire veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips". Visalia, California: KMPH-TV.
  22. ^ Marrion, Jack (April 29, 2023). "Renegades take down Roughnecks for XFL South title". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved May 1, 2023.
  23. ^ Kozora, Alex (December 28, 2023). "Report: Hines Ward Out As San Antonio Brahmas Head Coach". Steelers Depot. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  24. ^ Perry, Mark (December 28, 2023). "Exclusive: HC Hines Ward, GM Will Lewis Out With Brahmas, HC Phillips & OC Smith In, Full Details". xflnewshub.com. Retrieved December 28, 2023.
  25. ^ "Wade Phillips on his late father: 'He was a legend, and the legend will live on'". October 19, 2013.