"When I did the interview with the McNairs (in late December), I told them they ought to take Johnny Football," the former Texans defensive coordinator and interim head coach told Nick Wright and John Lopez of 610 SportsRadio. "That's what I told them, and I'm sitting here now" without a job.
Texans owner Bob McNair and the team ultimately chose Penn State's Bill O'Brien for the job over Phillips and other candidates. Phillips, who served as interim head coach for the Texans' final three games last season after Gary Kubiak was fired, was ultimately dismissed from the Texans' staff by O'Brien.
The Texans hold the No. 1 overall pick and have a need at quarterback, and Manziel, the former Texas A&M quarterback, is considered among several possibilities. Last month, McNair appeared enamored with Jadeveon Clowney, calling the South Carolina defensive end a "once-in-every-10-years kind of physical specimen."
Manziel's uncanny scrambling ability could be judged with both excitement and concern by NFL clubs which, while attracted to the athleticism, might wonder if he will ultimately be durable enough for the NFL. As a Texas native and Aggies icon, Manziel has his share of community support as the Texans' choice.
"I thought it would be the Earl Campbell of Houston - the reincarnation," Phillips said. "The Heisman Trophy winner comes to Houston, from the state of Texas. I thought it would be a neat deal."
NFL personnel stereotypes about the requisite size for quarterbacks have begun crumbling in recent years, making for a stronger possibility that Manziel's size won't be a draft-day issue. The Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl win with 5-foot-11 quarterback Russell Wilson certainly did nothing to hurt the case for Manziel, either.
"Those kinds of guys who can make first downs when you're not supposed to, I think they give you something," Phillips said. "I just think he makes plays that nobody else can make."