When Bum Phillips patrolled the sideline in the 1970s and '80s he was known as the quintessential player's coach of the generation. Years later, his son, Wade, carries on his father's work in the same fashion.
As the leader of the Los Angeles Rams' defense, Wade Phillips is tasked with guiding a D that just got injected with a smorgasbord of strong personalities in Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh. Coaching such a diverse group of egos doesn't concern Phillips. Just don't say he's "handling" them.
"They asked me the same thing when I went into Denver. I want them to have personalities. A lot of them are really good because of their personalities, they're confident in themselves."
Outside of Xs and Os, Phillips' greatest asset as a coordinator is his understanding that the NFL at its core is a relationship business that necessitates a two-way trust between coaches and players.
It's "working with each individual," Phillips said. "It's a person-to-person business -- it's not a business where it's authoritarian, or where I say this and you all do it. You know, I explain how we do things, why we're doing things, and let them know that I'm trying to get them better. Even though they're great players or an average player or whatever, it's my job to get them better as football players."
Throughout his coaching career, Phillips' defenses have had an aggressive edge. The 70-year-old coordinator allows his best players room to vamp on defense, knowing that the greatest athletes don't always perform at their finest when coaches try to constrain them to a box.
Players like Suh, Talib and Peters are dripping with confidence that they can make the next big play. That type of aggressive action is what Phillips hopes to capitalize on in 2018.
"That's what you want. We play an aggressive-style defense anyway, so I think it always helps to have those kind of guys," Phillips said. "That's the way they want to play is aggressive -- not over-aggressive, just aggressive."
With some coaching staffs there might be concern that importing a bunch of egotistical stars could ruin the locker room. With Phillips running the defense in L.A., there's been nary a peep about the possibility of things going sideways.
As head coach Sean McVay put it at the Annual League Meeting last month, why worry when Phillips is your defensive coordinator?
"I think the defensive coordinator has more swag than all of them, so we'll be in good shape," McVay said.