This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

Wade Phillips blocked me on Twitter.

I’m not sure when he did it or why he did it. However, @sonofbum didn’t want me to see his tweets.

Ah, those legendary tweets of Wade Phillips! Rarely do you find people his age that snarky on Twitter. Rarely do you find anybody as interesting to listen to as Wade. When I asked the brilliant defensive coordinator about where he would wear his Super Bowl Ring, he started dropping Drake lyrics.

Me, “You are going to get your ring on Sunday, when do you intend to wear it?”

Wade, “Well, as soon as I get it, I’m gonna put it on. You know, I may wear it all the time. We’ll see. You know it’s a really big ring; it’s a really big thing (laughs). We got a really big team (more laughs). As Drake would say. Alright, thank y’all.”

As it turned out, they screwed up Wade Phillips’ really big ring. Ah, the poetic irony of the most influential coach of the Broncos being treated like Rodney Dangerfield – again.

I didn’t see the original announcement of the screwed up ring. Why? Well, Wade made the announcement on Twitter. And as I mentioned, Wade has me blocked.

Adam Peters is a scout for the Broncos. I’m sure Peters is really good at his job, but he didn’t deserve two rings. Wade got the extra Peters ring. Whoops. Jostens, the ring company, quickly made good and got the coach the ring he highly deserved. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Jostens let Wade keep the screwed up ring too? Yeah, that would’ve been cool. They didn’t. He had to return it. But, then, of course, how else would the Hank Hill of the NFL expect to be treated?

As a head coach, Wade Phillips has actually been better than average with a 82-61 record. That’s better than a lot of head coaches. Jon Gruden’s record as a head coach is very similar at 95-81. In terms of a winning percentage, that’s .573 compared to .540. Why then is Gruden put on a high podium every time a job opens up and Wade Phillips was actually bounced out of football for a year? Why is Gruden viewed as the national football guru and Wade Phillips was the second choice to Vance Joseph as the Broncos defensive coordinator? The perception that Wade Phillips is a bad head coach is a false premise. But, 1-5 in the playoffs creates many doubts about your true abilities to win a championship. Even Wade admitted when he rejoined the Broncos a year ago that he was a crappy head coach.

“I was a lousy head coach, but I am a pretty good defensive coordinator, “Wade demurred back in February of 2015 when he was selected to lead what would become one of the best defenses of all time. Wade was taking his eighth shot at being a defensive coordinator after serving as a head coach six times (on an interim or permanent basis). So, it’s not that he was a bad head coach, he was just much better at something else.

On the field, you can’t hear Wade Phillips. You can certainly hear Bill Kollar, the defensive line coach. We all can’t stop hearing Kollar, who must yell at his wife in the morning:


Joe DeCamillis, the special teams coach, is another leather lung dude who doesn’t stop hollering from the moment he walks onto the field. His relentless enthusiasm is compounded by flat out screaming. Even mild-mannered Gary Kubiak can lose his cool; his slow Texas drawl can bellow every now and then, slicing daggers into the souls of underperforming football players. But you really don’t hear Wade. It’s not that he always takes it easy on his players or that he’s a softy; it’s just that after all these years of coaching, he’s found a better way. Disappointing Wade is like letting down your grandfather who always gives you treats when you come over to visit. He can cut you with a look or a quiet comment.

“Not a good day for me to be up here,” Wade somberly stated on the interview podium early on in camp this year, “We didn’t play very well on defense. I was a little disappointed and I’ll let them know that in the meetings.”


The players love Wade. He connects with them on their level and treats them like men. He has been around football his entire life and screaming like a lunatic just doesn’t make sense. It’s a different, calming approach that is completely contradictory to his insane aggressiveness as he calls a defense.

Wade and Gary Kubiak have worked well together. But there have been difficult moments, for sure, for the head coach as he desperately tries to teach a quarterback – any quarterback – how to run his offensive system. Wade, in his lengthy years as a coach, has figured it out. Keep it simple. Keep it aggressive. Put your best athletes in a position to win.

Recently, it’s been pointed out that Wade’s defenses aren’t as effective in his second year as a defensive coordinator as they are in his first. There is a large sample size to judge that statement. What is really being said: “You are just too simple. You can be figured out. You really aren’t that great of a defensive coordinator, never mind a head coach.”

Those would be fighting words to every player on the defense that tries to ball out of control for the coach they love so much. Wade has earned the trust of his team, not through intimidation, but through respect. Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson he has learned personally through all these years.

When the Music City Miracle happened, I stomped out of Lodo’s Bar and Grill and vowed I would never root for the Buffalo Bills. I was certain that Wade Phillips was the biggest idiot ever created when it came to football and perhaps life. I wasn’t just a huge Bills fan, but I am a gargantuan Doug Flutie fan.

Growing up in the Boston area in the ’80s, there was no player that inspired me more than Flutie. He was a shrimp. I was a shrimp. Everybody told him he couldn’t do things and all he did was win (cue the music). He won the Heisman Trophy for Boston College and motivated me personally to give everything my all. As a pro, Flutie was all over the place – from the New Jersey Generals to the Chicago Bears to the Toronto Argonauts – until our paths crossed in Buffalo. I was on my way out after six cold winters and Flutie was on his way in to save the day. I couldn’t believe it when the team I was covering picked up my favorite player of all time. I knew Flutie would overcome the doubters and haters and lead the Bills back to glory. I arrived in Buffalo for the last of their four Super Bowls. Jim Kelly was as good a quarterback and leader as I had ever seen. When Kelly retired it was a sad day for all. Moving forward was difficult. Todd Collins was the heir apparent, but he was an empty vessel.

Marv Levy, who is a football saint, moved away from his head coaching job and in his place came Wade Phillips. To say Wade was uninspiring in that role is that say that Donald Trump has a couple of issues with Hillary Clinton. The mumbling, bumbling, roly, poly Phillips was burdened between a rock and a hard place when it came to quarterbacks. On one hand, his team had acquired Flutie – fantastic! On the other hand, the Bills selected Rob Johnson out of USC, an absolute, stereotypical quarterback. The problem was Rob Johnson’s head was filled with helium and beach babes rather than football. Sure enough, Johnson won the job, then lost the job. Sure enough, Flutie was magical and led the Bills to playoffs. Sure enough, because of a slight injury in the final regular season game, Flutie was benched for Johnson who lead the team to a dominant victory. Sure enough, it was Johnson starting in the playoffs against Tennessee instead of Flutie.

Rob Johnson: “That Monday, Wade comes up to me and says, ‘You’re starting.’ I said, ‘You’re joking, really?’ I looked at him and asked, ‘Is this your call or Ralph’s (Wilson, the owner of the Bills) call?’ I can’t believe I said that. I think I was just fed up with the whole year. And he said, ‘It’s my call.’”

Wade admitted later on NFL Network that it wasn’t his call. He had been ordered by the owner to play Johnson despite the fact Flutie had led the team to 10 wins that year. The Bills players were blown away and disappointed.

Wide Receiver Eric Moulds: “I felt that with the chemistry myself and Flutie had, it took away from that. When you’ve got chemistry with a QB and he and the offensive line has chemistry, you don’t want to mess with it. So I was shocked like everybody else was because I felt we were on our way to a big thing.”

It’s a really big ring. It’s a really big thing.

The Bills lost, as karma took a big old bite out of Wade’s big old butt. I stomped out of the only Buffalo Bills bar in Denver. About half way through the football season, I had taken a job in Denver, but remained a steadfast Bills fan, until that moment. Flutie would go on to be a starter in San Diego. For a short time, I became a Chargers fan. I have never and will never root for the Bills again. I never thought I would root for Wade Phillips again.

Fans in Denver probably felt the same way when he was ousted as head coach after the 1994 season in which the team went 7-9 and failed to make the playoffs. That disappointing season started 0-4, including heartbreaking losses to San Diego in the opener and at Buffalo. From what the locals tell me, fans were in full revolt mode at that point. That season came on the heels of a 42-24 Wild Card shellacking at the hands of the hated Raiders. But even that wasn’t the biggest loss Broncos Country attributed to Phillips. Many fans would not forgive him when in Super Bowl XXIV his defense – No. 3 in the league that year – surrendered 55 points in the most-lopsided loss in Super Bowl history. When Phillips landed the head job in 1993 it was said it was only because Mike Shanahan turned it down.

I was relentless on Phillips when he arrived for his second stint in Denver. Perhaps that’s what got me blocked on Twitter. I didn’t believe in Wade. I thought he was old and burned out. I wasn’t impressed with his vagabond career and knew he was, at best, the second choice if not the third or fourth choice for the Broncos defensive coordinator position.

I wanted Wade to fail.

But, then I began listening. I heard a humble and humorous man. I saw a person with a light laugh and a big heart. I saw passion from a man creeping up on 70; that’s unusual for any person. What I saw was love. Love for the game of football. Love for his players. Love for Gary Kubiak. I saw a man settled to do what he does best without any desire to move beyond where he was currently standing. After dealing with backstabbing Jack Del Rio, this was a warm and welcome relief.

Then the season started and wow. Wow. WOW.

If you didn’t like Wade Phillips and this defense then you must like kicking puppies and knocking ice cream cones out of little girls’ hands on a Sunday afternoon at the park.

His subtle enthusiasm was infectious. As the waning days of Peyton Manning’s career took the headlines, the defense, led by the Eeyore of the NFL, was taking the nation by storm. Frankly, it didn’t matter who was the quarterback of the Broncos last year. The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 with the least-productive offense to ever win the big game. It was Manning, but it could’ve been Brock. Who knows, Kubiak himself could’ve gone under center and probably done the job.

That magical night in Santa Clara the star was the Broncos defense, headlined by Von Miller but produced by Wade Phillips.

In the end, Wade got the ring that he richly deserved. He wasn’t under the thumb of an ignorant owner and he was given the freedom to thrive and bring life back into a dormant defense organized by Del Rio. It was a glorious run that was often detailed on all things social media from the fingertips of a defensive genius and a great football man.

So, Wade, I’m here to say it’s okay that you blocked me on Twitter. No need to unblock me. I, along with the rest of Denver, am thrilled that you are back and leading the defense. We hope you stay as long as you want and we don’t believe in the sophomore curse.

We believe in you.

However, have you heard of Snapchat?

Wade: “I’m not into Snapchat yet. I’m still twittering a little bit and I’m about ‘tweeted out.’”