ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Wade Phillips -- a guy who, if he hasn’t seen it all, “maybe I’m pretty close" -- was caught up in the gleeful swirl that is a Super Bowl victory . He was as giddy as a 68-year-old, been-around, done-that defensive coordinator can be.
“How ‘bout that? Just how ‘bout that?’’
In the days since the Denver Broncos' 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, Phillips’ defensive plan has been lauded as among the best in Super Bowl history. The Broncos’ work against the Panthers capped a regular season in which Denver led most of the league’s major defensive categories and a postseason in which the Broncos manhandled the Nos. 4, 3 and 1 scoring offenses.
To do it, the Broncos had to have the defensive personnel, like linebacker Von Miller, playing like a franchise player in the postseason. They had to have a quality plan from Phillips and his assistants.
But they needed one more thing. They needed to care, for each other and for Phillips. And perhaps football love had a lot to do with it in the franchise's third Super Bowl victory.
“We love coach Phillips, he’s a 68-year-old guy who fits right in with us, he’s up to date with what he does on the field and he’s up to date with us off the field," Miller said. “You just want to do right for coach."
The Broncos needed Phillips, and the cast in the defensive meeting room was one Phillips has waited a career to have. He had cover corners, edge rushers, fierce tacklers and hard workers.
“He always likes to say that mistakes are on him, but the Super Bowl is on him, too," Miller said. “I really appreciate everything he’s done for the whole team, not just the defense.”
"It’s his style, his style of calling the game, man," cornerback Aqib Talib said. “Different situations in the game, Wade’s not scared to call anything. He relies on us. He has got confidence in us that we’re going to get it done. ... It’s him believing in us and us wanting him to keep believing in us."
Phillips inherited largely the same defense the Broncos had in 2014. In fact, seven players who started Super Bowl 50 on defense also started Denver's loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the divisional round to end the 2014 season.
Just days after he was hired a year ago, Phillips said he could see what he had on the roster. All season long, Phillips said it was imperative to match the plan to personnel, do what the players could do best. Phillips wanted to take hesitation out of the defensive huddle.
“He puts you in the best position possible," linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “He doesn’t really yell at you, he makes you feel like it’s on you. You want to go out there and play and you don’t want to mess up for him. You don’t want to mess up for yourself because you feel like you owe him. The way he came in was so humble, it was new to me. I’m not used to having a coach sit back and just watch and observe and then talk to you."
Phillips often jokes he’s been a “terrible head coach," but feels he’s had a good run as a defensive play-caller. Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has said he has enjoyed the personality the defense showed in practices all season long, as if the players genuinely enjoyed doing the work and being together.
Phillips said he was simply channeling his father, Bum Phillips, and took to Twitter following the Super Bowl victory to say as much:
Just want all to know what my Dad always believed-You can have fun and win.— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) February 9, 2016
“For coach Phillips, we already had a talented team,’’ Miller said. “It really wasn’t a magical call that coach Phillips could have called or a magical scheme. He just came in. He had a magical personality. It’s truly an energy boost ... just so in love with coaching.’’