SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Wade Phillips didn’t have a job last year. Now he has a ring.
And, he might just be remembered as the coordinator of one of the best defenses of all time.
Phillips’ crew manhandled the Panthers and their top-ranked offense in Sunday night’s 24-10 win in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium.
“I said during the week I had gone from unemployed to the Super Bowl,” Phillips said. “But from unemployed to winning the Super Bowl is even better.”
Phillips did it with a simple plan: Using what had worked throughout the year. He did not let the Panthers offense or their dynamic quarterback who was named MVP of the league affect their schemes.
“Obviously Cam [Newton] was the focus of our plan, but we played our defense,” he said. “We did the things we knew we did well. We talked about containing him, but when you have DeMarcus [Ware] and Von [Miller], you have to let those guys go and let other guys make up for it.”
The Broncos did. They sacked Newton six times and allowed just one offensive touchdown.
It was that last point – along with the dominating effort throughout the postseason – that puts the Broncos defense in the conversation with other legendary units that carried their teams to a title. The 1985 Bears, the 2000 Ravens, the 2002 Buccaneers, and even the 2013 Seahawks.
“Any team that holds Pittsburgh to 16, New England to 10 and Carolina to 10, and they were all big-time offenses, I think has got to be up there somewhere,” Phillips said. “And we led the league in almost every category. You’d have to say this was a special all-time defense.”
The one wrinkle the Broncos showed last night was using Miller, the eventual Super Bowl MVP, to spy on Newton.
“We did some early in the game, but he really wasn’t running with the ball, he was staying in the pocket,” Phillips said. “So after that we just said let’s go ahead and rush four, rush five, and see if we can get to him. And we did.”
Phillips, 68, whose father was NFL head coach Bum Phillips, has had a long journey to this Super Bowl title, and not just last season when he could not get a job. He had been a head coach for six teams, most recently as interim for the Texans in 2013, and had won just one playoff game during those 12 combined seasons.
Asked what his father would say about Sunday night’s effort, the coach who calls himself Son of Bum on Twitter said: “He would be glad we kicked the door in.”
It took a long time to do that, but in Denver he returned to his roots as a coordinator and the Broncos responded.
“Coach Wade, he’s been unbelievable,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said after the win. “His scheme is awesome for us. When you have a coach like that, everybody wants to play for him. He brings the enthusiasm to us every day and keeps us going every day. Man, we just love Coach Wade.”
“One of the reasons we’re standing here tonight,” winning head coach Gary Kubiak said, “is Wade and his staff and the [defensive] players. They were exceptional.”
Phillips’ energy was evident when he walked into his interview following the game.
“Like I said when I first came to Denver: ‘Yes!’” he hollered. “What a game!”