There is a chance that the Broncos’ season finale against the Raiders on Sunday will be Wade Phillips’ last game as Denver’s defensive coordinator. The 69-year-old isn’t mulling retirement, but his contract is about to expire, reports USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, who adds that Phillips and the Broncos weren’t able to reach an extension during negotiations last offseason.
At the time of their discussions with Phillips last winter, the Broncos were fresh off a Super Bowl championship that his dominant defense sparked. Phillips earned AP Assistant Coach of the Year honors as a result, though this season hasn’t gone gone as well for him or the Broncos. The club is 8-7 and won’t make the playoffs, but that’s hardly Phillips’ fault. Evidence: Despite losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in free agency, the Broncos’ defense ranks first in DVOA (for the second year in a row), third in sacks, sixth in yardage and scoring, and ninth in takeaways.
Should Phillips join Jackson and Trevathan in exiting via the open market, it would end his second tenure with the Broncos after only two years. He was previously in Denver from 1989-94 – first as a D-coordinator and then a head coach – before serving in at least one of those roles with the Bills, Falcons, Chargers, Cowboys and Texans through the 2013 campaign. Phillips was also on Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak‘s staff in Houston, which – along with Denver’s immense defensive talent – might help the club retain him.
Without Phillips, the Broncos could turn to one of his assistants to coordinate their Von Miller-headlined defense, according to Pelissero. It’s perhaps worth noting, then, that the team called on linebackers coach Reggie Herring to handle play-calling duties for the majority of a 27-19 win over the Chargers in Week 8. The decision to elevate Herring on a temporary basis came after Phillips bore the brunt of a second-quarter sideline collision and left on a stretcher.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.