Wade Phillips eyes return to NFL for 2021 season

Dec 1, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wade Phillips spent a year out of the NFL following his dismissal from the Los Angeles Rams after the 2020 season. With a year of relaxation enjoyed, the legendary defensive coordinator is coming out of retirement and eyeing a return to the sidelines.

The 73-year-old coach spent his past year delighting fans on Twitter with his tweets during games and the regular season. But it’s clear his itch for being around a team and helping young players reach their potential, all while living out their dreams, remains. So, with a plethora of openings across the league, Phillips is ready for a comeback.

Wade Phillips unretires, makes himself available for coaching vacancies

Phillips announced on Friday that he is unretiring, seemingly pulling a Brett Favre after a year away from the NFL. While he might not have his eyes on becoming a head coach, experienced defensive coordinators with decades of NFL experience will be in hot demand this offseason.

He began his coaching career in 1969, serving as a graduate assistant for the Houston Cougars. A year later, he took his first defensive coordinator gig at Lutcher Stark High School (1970-’72), before returning to the college level in 1973 as a linebackers coach at Oklahoma State.

Phillips’ coaching career really started to blossom in the 1980s. He was named the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator in 1981, holding that title until replacing his father as the interim coach in 1985. He later served as a defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles (1986-’88) and Denver Broncos (1989-’92), before becoming Denver’s head coach.

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It proved to be a familiar career path for Phillips. After two seasons as Denver’s head coach (1993-’94), he took over as the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator. He carried that title from 1995-’97, later being promoted to head coach. The Bills went 29-19, with two playoff losses, in his three seasons at the helm, before firing him after the 2000 season.

Phillips has worked his way around the league ever since. He had stops with the Atlanta Falcons (2002-’03 and San Diego Chargers (2004-’06). The Dallas Cowboys hired him as head coach in 2007, with the team posting a 34-22 record and winning one playoff game in four years.

After being let go by Dallas, Phillips stayed in Texas as the Texans’ defensive coordinator. He called plays for the defense from 2011-’13, eventually serving as interim coach after Gary Kubiak was fired. Phillips returned to Denver as its defensive coordinator, staying there for two seasons.

Related: Wade Phillips pays tribute to father on Super Bowl Sunday with pre-game attire

When Sean McVay became the Los Angeles Rams head coach in 2017, Phillips was one of his first hires. In the first two seasons, Los Angeles boasted one of the league’s best defenses. However, things unraveled in 2019 and it led to Phillips’ departure.

Given his incredible coaching experience, both as a defensive coordinator and head coach, Phillips will attract plenty of interest. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he is hired by a team with a rookie head coach, serving as a mentor to ease the transition and calling plays for the defense.