GREEN BAY, Wis. – There is an early favorite to become Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator. Perhaps not with coach Matt LaFleur but among the fans.
With LaFleur seeking a defensive coordinator after splitting with Mike Pettine, along with Phillips’ history of success and online visibility – he has more than 187,000 followers as @sonofbum on Twitter – he’s on the coordinator short list in the eyes of the fans.
Phillips responded on Saturday.
“To all the Packers fans on Twitter - Thank you for overwhelming support from the team owners! But I know Matt and he is an outstanding coach and will make the best decision for your team! Period.”
Phillips, who will turn 74 in June, has been a defensive coordinator, interim coach or head coach for 40 NFL seasons.
Most recently the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator from 2017 through 2019, he guided defenses that ranked 12th in points allowed in 2017, 20th in 2018 on the way to the Super Bowl and 17th in 2019. In 2017, with Phillips running the defense and LaFleur coordinating the offense, the Rams went from 4-12 to 11-5 and NFC West champions.
In 2015 and 2016 with the Denver Broncos, his defenses finished fourth in points allowed each season. With the Houston Texans from 2011 through 2013, his units finished fourth, ninth and 24th in points allowed.
For LaFleur, whose teams have fallen a step short of the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons on the job, Phillips’ Year 1 history might be appealing.
With the Rams, they went from 23rd in 2016 to 12th in 2017. With the Broncos, they went from 16th in 2014 to fourth in 2015. With the Texans, they went from 29th in 2010 to fourth in 2011. As head coach in Dallas, the Cowboys went from 20th in 2006 to 13th in 2007. As defensive coordinator for the Chargers, they went from 31st in 2003 to 11th in 2004. As defensive coordinator in Atlanta, the Falcons went from 24th in 2001 to eighth in 2002.
Added together, his defenses improved 15.2 spots in the scoring ledger in his first season on the job. The Packers finished 13th season under Pettine.
Phillips is a purveyor of the 3-4 scheme, which might be appealing to LaFleur given the uncertainty of offseason programs amid a pandemic.
After sitting out this season, Phillips announced recently that he would like to get back in the game.