Photo by Marco Torres Wade loves Johnny Football
We asked several of our guests (whose opinions matter) on Radio Row last week in New York City, and the vast majority said the Texans should select Manziel with the first pick. On a conference call today, Mel Kiper made a comment that Manziel is the "consensus best quarterback in the draft." (Of course, in a separate conference call, Kiper's
totally fabricated arch nemesis Todd McShay said that opinion is still split on Manziel in NFL circles so I refuse to listen to him.)
Well, go ahead and throw one more big log onto the "Johnny Football to the Texans" bonfire -- former Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips!
Phillips joined my esteemed colleagues Nick Wright and John Lopez on "In The Loop" this morning on SportsRadio 610, and had a lot to say on a bunch of things (highly recommend the entire interview, available on podcast at sportsradio610.com), but perhaps his firm opinion on Manziel may have been the most compelling, given Phillips's background as a defensive coordinator.
When asked what direction he thought the Texans should go with the No. 1 overall pick, Phillips did not hesitate:
"I think you should always look at need, but when I did the interview with the McNairs, I told them they should take Johnny Football."
Okay, first, I love that Phillips calls him "Johnny Football." Next, after joking that recommending Manziel to the McNairs possibly directly resulted in his now sitting in a studio with Nick and Lopez, Phillips expounded further as to why Manziel for the Texans:
"What he did against a really great Alabama team two years ago, to make the kind of plays he makes. You know I had Flutie, and it was at the end of his career, he was a lot older at that time, but those kind of guys (like Flutie and Manziel) that can make first downs when you're not supposed to, they give you something."
Phillips was quick to caveat that he hasn't scouted any of the prospects (quarterbacks or possible defensive stalwarts) as he would if he were in head coach/defensive coordinator/position coach mode, but his answer is interesting in that you can tell that a defensively oriented coach is probably as affected from a scouting standpoint by how much pain an offensive player can inflict on a defense as he is by need on his side of the ball.
The quote about Manziel (and Flutie) getting first downs when you're not supposed to, well that's it. That's the secret sauce. Dammit, we did everything right, and he STILL made a play. Statistical and psychological harm on your opponent is inflicted. (SIDE BAR: God, this is going to be a fun few months leading up to the draft.)
Phillips had a few other interesting thoughts during the hour long sit down. First, on linebacker Brian Cushing:
"I've coached a lot of great ones. He is in that category. Certainly, the injuries have held him back from being right there, but he's a tremendous influence on our team. When we first got here, after I saw him play, I told everybody in the defensive meeting that if everybody plays as hard as this guy plays, we are going to be really good. I used him as the example, and I think it rubbed off on a lot of players. You have to have an example, and he was that example."
On his job search after being let go by the Texans (which Phillips documented in detail on Twitter):
"Of course, I have an agent, and he talked to a lot of people, and I'm sure [other teams] considered me, but there were certain jobs that came open, but some kept their defensive coordinator, a couple of them had defensive [head] coaches take over so they weren't looking for me, and some of [the opportunities] had guys I hadn't worked with. I'm not through yet, maybe a consulting position or even a position coach."
If you ever need further proof that Wade Phillips is a hardcore football lifer, well, I suppose the real further proof would be his actually taking a position coaching job, but that was an eye-opening quote, if indeed he is considering that. (His house in Dallas would seem to be an indicator that money is not an issue at this juncture in his career.)
FInally, Phillips on his time in Houston with the Texans:
"Yeah, it was a great experience here, coming home for me was early special, you know I wanted to be the Dick LeBeau of Houston, and that's the sad part. Moving on was tough for us, but that's part of the league, that's part of what happens. I don't look back, I learned that from my dad. 'Don't look back, look forward, enjoy what you had.' The McNairs were great to my dad, and I can never repay them enough for that. They took care of my dad."
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It wouldn't have been a Wade Phillips interview if he didn't get off a few great one liners. My favorite one:
"So now I've been fired by both Houston franchises. Actually, fired by all three Texas franchises, so I hold some records in this league."
I'll say it right now, if I were an NFL owner, I would hire Wade Phillips just to crack jokes about my team, and he would never, ever get fired.