Mac Engel

In Super Bowl 50, beware of the ‘Wade Phillips Factor’

Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips covets the Super Bowl title for himself and his late father.
Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips covets the Super Bowl title for himself and his late father. The Denver Post

The year after Jerry Jones won the NFL’s Executive of the Year, his former head coach is a great coach again. Who knew that Peyton Manning would need Wade Phillips to reach a Super Bowl?

Uncle Wade is being hailed as a genius after his Denver Broncos defense turned Tom into a Gisele and stopped Bill Belichick from winning yet another title.

About seven hours after the Broncos defeated the Patriots, Wade Phillips took to his Twitter account to say, “Good year for me from unemployed to the Super Bowl!”

Wade’s defense has been brilliant all season, and on Sunday, he unleashed former Aggies linebacker Von Miller and Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware on Tom Brady.

That might have been the best game of Miller’s life, and one of the worst for Brady. According to The Boston Globe, Brady was hit 20 times in the AFC title game, more than any other quarterback was hit in any game all season. Brady’s forte is never taking a hit.

Nearly everything Uncle Wade called Sunday worked. His defense did it, and he deserves the credit and the hero worship.

Of all the men participating in the Denver Broncos-Carolina Panthers Super Bowl, no one needs this win for his résumé, and self-esteem, more than Uncle Wade. This is one of the most needlessly insecure men ever to coach in the NFL. He desperately wants you to think he is good at his job and needs a Super Bowl to prove it.

When Jerry goofed and named him the head coach of the Cowboys in 2007, Wade said he knew he had always been considered a great defensive coordinator, but he wanted to be called a great head coach, too. That’s gone.

No team will ever hire him again as a head coach, but it would be a gratifying feather for a nice, avuncular 68-year-old man to win a Super Bowl as a coordinator.

However ...

The Panthers are favored by 4 1/2 points, and the smart money is to run from that line but to take Cam Newton and Carolina. Call it The Wade Factor. With Phillips, something always seems to happen.

He was always too passive-aggressive, and nice, to be a head coach. Wade is not cut out for confrontation. When the Cowboys’ defense was playing poorly, he quietly stripped defensive coordinator Brian Stewart of play-calling duties; when the defense started to play better, Wade then announced it was he who was calling the defense.

He openly admitted when he was the head coach of the Cowboys he was “the softy.”

Hang around him long enough and he will bury you in the statistical achievements of his teams from the Saints to the Eagles to the Broncos to the Cowboys. As a head coach of the Cowboys in ’07, he would walk around the locker room boasting about his team’s accomplishments that his predecessor, Bill Parcells, never achieved.

Wade has been in the NFL for more than 30 years as a head coach or defensive coordinator. The last time he had a team this good that could get him a ring was the 2007 Dallas Cowboys; Wade and the ’Boys blew it and lost at home to the New York Giants in the NFC divisional round, but the Cowboys did win the bye week.

Since Bum Phillips hired his kid as his defensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints in 1981, SonofBum has coached in 25 playoff games — his teams are 10-15 in those games. The last time Wade was in a Super Bowl was 1989 when the Broncos lost to the San Francisco 49ers 55-10. As a head coach in the playoffs, his teams are 1-5.

Sometimes he was outcoached. Sometimes he didn’t have the better team. Sometimes fluky things happened, most notably the Music City Miracle in 2000 when the Tennessee Titans used the famous “Home Run Throwback” to defeat his Buffalo Bills.

Something always happened to prevent him from achieving the one thing he wants the most. The same thing happened to his dad, Bum, whose Luv Ya Blue Houston Oilers had the misfortune of playing against the dynasty Pittsburgh Steelers and never reached a Super Bowl.

Perhaps that is where the insecurity originates — with his dad. His dad got him the job in the family business, and a title is the one thing both are missing.

Dime-store psychology aside, there is far more to Wade than his shortcomings as a head coach, or achievements as a defensive coordinator. By all accounts, he’s a loving family man who has supported his two children — one as an actress, the other as a coach. His players, to a man, all like him.

As head coach one former Cowboy who played for him said, “We didn’t respect him.”

Wade wants to be liked, and to be regarded as a great head coach. There is no chance he will ever be considered a great head coach, but he can still win the Super Bowl that he covets for himself, and his late father.

He doesn’t need a Super Bowl to prove he’s a good coordinator, and it would be nice to see him win it, but when it comes to Carolina-Denver just beware of The Wade Factor.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, tengel@star-telegram.com, @macengelprof

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