Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 May 2017

Near Certainty: Wade Phillips Will Improve Rams Defense

Over at ESPN's NFL Nation, Los Angeles Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez dips a little deeper into Wade Phillips' phenomenal record of improving defenses. The numbers are dramatic, whether you use DVOA, points, or yards. This is a big reason why our 2017 projections are surprisingly positive about the Rams.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 22 May 2017

12 comments, Last at 25 May 2017, 2:27am by The Ninjalectual


by jtr :: Mon, 05/22/2017 - 3:04pm

How do the DVOA projections account for coaching changes? That's a very difficult thing to try to isolate statistically.

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 05/22/2017 - 3:19pm

I agree with the article's premise that Wade Phillips is an excellent defensive coordinator.

But I would tend to think that DVOA projections should completely ignore coaching changes. Teams generally only make coaching changes when they suck. So there should be a significant amount of "improvement" from most coaching changes that is simply regression to the mean. I'd have a hard time believing that most newly-hired coaches are significantly above average, simply because they were presumably promoted from a lesser position.

by Hummingbird Cyborg :: Tue, 05/23/2017 - 12:04pm

I think that his resume suggests more improvement than regression to the mean can account for. He's taken top defenses for which the mean would be lower and raised their performance and he's taken terrible defenses and made them nearly leading the league.

Sure, he's had a few that look like regression to the mean type of changes, but he's so consistently improved defenses that his influence should be considered a major factor.

As a Broncos fan, I wouldn't have complained if they had made him head coach instead of letting him leave.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 05/23/2017 - 12:31pm

Phillips is unique because a) he's had so many jobs, and thus a larger sample size, and b) the pattern is so strong.

by jtr :: Tue, 05/23/2017 - 12:59pm

I don't disagree with that, I'm just curious how that gets incorporated into DVOA projections. Does every coaching change get baked into DVOA projections, and if so, how? Or is it a subjective adjustment applied only to particularly renowned coaches like Phillips?

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 05/24/2017 - 6:30am

Aaron ... is it easy to pull up what Rob Ryan's DVOA look like?

He's been DC in Oakland, Cleveland, Dallas and New Orleans and Assistant HC (Defense) in Buffalo.

I'd imagine there are opportunities for "regression to the mean" in there.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 05/25/2017 - 2:27am

I wonder if he's also shrewd about what DC jobs he agrees to take. He inherited a top defense in Denver and made them dramatically better, and I suspect he had better injury luck than his predecessor Del Rio. In Stl I mean LA he's inheriting a very talented defense that's been underpreforming, another move likely to bolster his legacy as the game's greatest fixer

by bobrulz :: Wed, 05/24/2017 - 3:48am

As great of a defensive coordinator as Phillips is, his track record as head coach is significantly less impressive.

by alexcaster :: Mon, 05/22/2017 - 4:53pm

And always remain unemployed after tenures, as if the people dont remember all the good resume as defensive coach.

by Topas :: Wed, 05/24/2017 - 6:25am

why did he change jobs so often. I mean if you have Wade Phillips as a D coordinator you make sure he stays. Was he fired so often or did he just jump teams? I honestly dont know, I just find it suprising. LeBeau and Jim Johnson didnt do this.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 05/24/2017 - 6:37am

Coaching staff's tend to get hired and fired together. So for example in Houston in 2013, Wade was DC but when Kubiak got fired he then followed him to Denver. I don't whether Bill O'Brien wanted to retain him.

Also Wade's been picked up as a HC three times (Denver, Buffalo, Dallas) which would end his DC work. But then he'd return when he got fired as HC. He is the Norv Turner of defense. NB also interim HC in New Orleans, Atlanta, Texans.

For comparison - LeBeau only ever got one HC job in Cincinnnati - flamed out and then went to Pittsburgh where there was no HC getting fired in the next decade and he was deemed to be doing a good job.

by GwillyGecko :: Wed, 05/24/2017 - 7:10pm

Since the 90s:

HC of Denver, 1993-1994(fired)

Bills DC 1995-1997
Bills HC 1998-2000(fired)
2001 sat out
ATL DC 2002-2003, left when HC Dan Reeves fired
SD DC 2004-2006, left to become DAL HC
DAL 2007-2010 HC, fired
Texans DC 2011-2013, left when HC Gary Kubiak fired
Broncos DC 2014-2016, left when HC Gary Kubiak retired
STL Rams DC 2017-

SO he only left DC jobs to become a head coach or when the head coach left.