For years now, it seems as though the Los Angeles Rams’ defense - at least on paper - has been primed to become one of the game’s best. Whether it be “top 10” or “elite,” the discussions were had. But it just hasn’t come to fruition — even at a time (like 2016) when more than 50% of the starting unit was comprised of first round players.
The talent, clearly, is there. So something has got to be missing. Or at least it had to have been missing.
Over at Fan Rag Sports, Eric Edholm (also of Pro Football Weekly), put together the NFL’s Perfect Defensive Coaching Staff. Atop that list is none other than Rams’ defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
An obvious choice? Sure. But we know we’re doing OK here with Wade calling the shots. So what makes Phillips so great? Well, first off, the man has been a head coach and defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys and an interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and the Houston Texans. That experience alone — and a .562 win percentage — gives him instant credibility.
Phillips’ calling card is his ability to create pressure out of both 3-4 and 4-3 under fronts, and he has an incredible history of taking over new jobs and instantly making defenses better after his arrival.
That, along with his dry wit and easygoing, stay-the-course mentality, makes him an excellent choice to run any defense.
In an earlier piece with Yahoo! Sports, Edholm dug a little deeper into exactly what has made Phillips so great in his time in the NFL. While I suggest you read the entire article, there may be no matter more pertinent - at least to the Rams’ fan base - than this:
Ever since Wade Phillips took over the defense of the Denver Broncos back in 1989, he has improved every new unit he has been involved with the following season — in most cases by leaps and bounds.
If the trend continues, we may finally have an answer to what’s been preventing the Rams’ defense from getting over the hump in recent years: the best defensive coordinator in the biz.
The elephant in the room, however, is whether or not the Rams’ best player, Aaron Donald, who has yet to suit up this preseason, will be signed before September 10th, when the Rams’ kick off the season against the Indianapolis Colts.
Not having your best player on the field is never ideal. But I’m guessing it’s a challenge Phillips’ is ready to accept. Here’s to hoping he’s provided the best interior defender in the game, and that he’s able to help this unit reach their full potential.