When it comes to the procedure Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had last month to repair a problem with his kidney and gallbladder, we may never know if there was a tumor “the size of a volleyball” as his father, Bum Phillips, has suggested.
Honestly, we don’t need to know. Even in this age of full disclosure, Phillips and his family have some rights to privacy.
What is fair game is that Phillips doesn’t seem strong enough after his surgical procedure to be back in the saddle so soon. He didn’t look great last week when he returned after missing just two games following a serious procedure and he still doesn’t this week as the Texans prepare for the franchise’s first ever playoff appearance Saturday against Cincinnati at Reliant Stadium.
But in the world of professional sports, players play hurt. Apparently coaches coach hurt, too.
This isn’t to suggest that the Texans organization or Gary Kubiak is pushing Phillips faster than he is ready to go. The entire organization seems to only have what is in the best interest of Phillips, who is the equivalent to football royalty in this city.
It’s Phillips who is pushing Phillips too fast.
Phillips has started something special here this season by installing his 3-4 defense and completely turning the Texans around overnight. Let’s be honest, the Texans wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Wade and the incredible turnaround job he has done transforming the franchise from one of the worst to one of the best NFL defenses in just one season.
Phillips wants to see it though. He wants to provide the comfort to his players and the fans that perhaps acting defensive coordinator Reggie Herring can’t.
So he has been on a full-time part-time basis this week, while looking and sounding like a man who should still be home recuperating.
“My energy level isn’t where I want it to be,” Phillips said Thursday with his voice barely audible at times. “I feel good going out there, and the last couple of days have been better, going the whole practice, that kind of thing. I feel good, and then my energy’s kind of dropped, but health-wise I’m fine. Got a couple different doctors. I saw one yesterday, and they said they didn’t need to see me anymore, that I’m fine, so it’s progressing real well.”
In almost any other profession Phillips would still be a home resting and mending. But it’s different in the NFL. There is pressure either from within or from the outside to push yourself beyond what your body can realistically do.
Phillips has been a trooper through it all. He returned to practice last week on a limited basis and then called Sunday’s game against Tennessee from the press box. This week he returned to work on a part-time basis, but just try getting someone to get part-time nailed down in the coaching profession.
One reporter tried to corner Kubiak on what he considers part-time. The bobbing and weaving in the room would have made Floyd Mayweather, Jr. envious.
“I don’t know,” Kubiak quipped. “Whatever it takes.”
Are we talking eight or nine hours, Coach?
“Yeah, at least that many,” Kubiak conceded.
It will never make sense to most of us why it requires 16 or 17 hour days every day to put together a game plan when we know every football field is 120 yards long, 160 feet wide and points can only be scored going north and south. But that is the world coaches have voluntarily entered into.
Phillips, who has been a head coach in this league a few times and perhaps deserves one more shot, isn’t complaining. He’s going to work in hopes of confusing Cincinnati’s rookie quarterback Andy Dalton a little more than he did a few weeks ago.
Phillips knows his limit and seems cognizant of not overdoing it.
“I run down about five o’clock,” Phillips said of his energy level.”That’s kind of when I run down, but it’s been getting better. I’ve been here this week for all the game plan, which I hadn’t been previously, so all the game plan stuff, all the real necessary stuff I think for the ball game I’ve been here for.”
His presence, while certainly much more subdued than usual, has provided a comfort to his players and the organization that can’t be measured.
“It’s very important,” Kubiak said of having Phillips back at practice and with the team. “It was important to have him back last week. His presence with the team in the last two weeks is extremely important and the biggest thing is we’re just glad to see him doing better and what he went through was a very difficult surgery and for him to be back on his feet and basically putting in a half a day with us right now and being able to go do and that’s coach football and call a game, you know, we’re all glad that that’s happening.”
There will also be a comfort come Saturday game that the mastermind behind the 3-4 scheme will be in the building, even if he isn’t in his customary spot on the sideline. Phillips will call the defense from the press box Saturday for the second straight week.
“Well y’all know Wade. Y’all know his personality,” Kubiak said. “I mean, he’s got everything under control all the time and when the game gets crazy and it’s a big play in the game, somebody’s got to make a call, that’s what players are looking for. They’re looking for somebody that has confidence, that’s going to put them in the right position to be successful and Wade’s done that for many, many years.”
But for now, it’s all about the moment for Wade. He has a chance to be a part of returning Houston back to the NFL prominence his dad enjoyed a couple decades ago.
“Anyone who thinks this team is satisfied is wrong. I’m going to tell you that right now,” Phillips said. “We’re not looking to just be in the playoffs, we’re looking to win and that’s what our goal is and that’s what we’re after this week. We’re after to win. We said 1-0 all year and that’s what we’re going to go this week and then the next week and then the next week and the next week so that’s where we are.”
If that is the case then Wade would be part of raising Houston to a level that not even his iconic father did.
Speaking of Bum, it was interesting to hear Wade’s response to the health reports his dad has been divulging about his son. Is any of it true?
“Yeah, well, I tell you some of it is, and some of it isn’t, so you just got to take it with a grain of salt,” Wade said.”Bottom line is I’m fine, and things are progressing well.”