Will The Exit Of Wade Phillips Affect Rams In 2020?

Ian Van Roy
NFL Football Coach Wade Phillips. Photo Credit: Karen | Under Creative Commons License
NFL Football Coach Wade Phillips. Photo Credit: Karen | Under Creative Commons License

Wade Phillips seems to have a distinct method of operation: never get stuck in one place for too long. Since 2004, Wade has been the Defensive Coordinator for the Chargers, Texans, Broncos, and Rams and the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. When one of these teams signed Phillips as a defensive coordinator, they were ultimately guaranteed to get a defense that was mediocre at worst and one of the best of all-time at best.

However, when the love affair was over, what happened to these teams the following season? The answer to this question could show what the Rams are in for in 2020.

Will The Exit Of Wade Phillips Affect Rams In 2020?

Ground Rules

This is a look at the last fifteen years of Wade Phillips’ career as a defensive coordinator in the interest of having a recent, round number that also allows for enough data to nullify anomalies. In the end, the highs and lows will be computed into percentages which will be used to predict how the Rams will fare next season. 

San Diego Chargers: 2004-2006

Phillips was the defensive coordinator of the Chargers from 2004 until 2006, during which time the team was relatively dominant. In 2004, the Chargers sailed to a 12-4 record but lost in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. The following year, in 2005, the Chargers fell back to earth, finishing with a 9-7 record and missing the playoffs. In Phillips’ final season in San Diego, the Chargers dominated during the regular season, finishing with a 14-2 record but lost in the divisional round of the playoffs.

In 2004, coach Phillips’ defense was ranked 18th overall. In 2005, the defense was ranked 13th. In Phillips’ last season in San Diego, 2006, his defense was ranked 10th. After the departure of Wade Phillips in 2006, the Chargers went on to finish their 2007 season ranked 14th in total defense, ranking worse than when he was there. The team finished 11-5 that season, also slightly worse than when the coach was there. Overall, the team regressed in the season that took place right after his exit.

Houston Texans: 2011-2013

After his time in San Diego, the coach had a stint as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and then landed in Houston in 2011. The team ended up producing one good year, one great year, and one abysmal year from hell.

In 2011, the team went 10-6 and lost in the divisional round with a second-ranked defense. In 2012, the team went 12-4 with a seventh-ranked defense and lost in the divisional round again. The Texans fell off a cliff in 2013, finishing with a miserable 2-14 record but ended up maintaining the seventh-ranked defense. Basically, the team was dominant with Phillips in his first two seasons but was horrible in 2013. However, Phillips’ defense stayed upright throughout all three seasons.

After Phillips’ exit at the end of the season, the Texans went on to go 9-7 the following year. However, the defense dropped to 16th overall. Thus far, both the Chargers and Texans got worse on defense after Phillips left. 

Denver Broncos: 2015-2016

After leaving Houston in 2013, Wade Phillips arrived in Denver as the new defensive coordinator in 2015. In the following two seasons, the Broncos went 12-4 and 9-7, winning the Super Bowl behind one of the greatest defenses in NFL history and then missing the playoffs with a fourth-ranked defense.

After Coach Wade’s exit after the 2016 season, the Broncos followed up 9-7 with a hellish 5-11 season that saw a 3-1 start go up in flames. However, this was not due to the team’s defense, which actually ranked better in 2017 at third overall. In the end, the Denver Broncos lost four more games the season after Phillips left but somehow produced a slightly better defense.

Los Angeles Rams: 2017-2019

As most reading this know, Phillips was the defensive coordinator for the Rams from 2017 to 2019. In 2017, the Rams went 11-5 with a defensive unit ranked 19th-best in the league, ultimately losing in their first playoff game.

The following year, in 2018, the Rams went 13-3 with another 19th-ranked defense and lost the Super Bowl.

In 2019, Phillips’ defense improved to 13th-best but the Rams slipped to 9-7 and missed the playoffs. With Phillips now gone, how will the Rams do in their first season without Son of Bum?


With history as a guide, it might be possible to accurately predict what is in store for the Rams in 2020, their first season without Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. In order to do this, one has to use some math. Over the last 15 years, two of the three teams that Phillips was defensive coordinator for slipped in terms of wins and losses immediately following his absence. By this logic, the Rams have a 33-percent chance of having more wins in 2020 than in 2019. 

In terms of defense, two of the three teams also fared worse in their first season without Phillips (Denver got better by one spot in the defensive rankings). Therefore, the Rams have a 33-percent chance of improving on defense next season. The probability that the defense gets better and the overall record also gets better next season is 33 percent per outcome but since each outcome needs to happen separately at the same time, that lowers the chances of this becoming reality.

Mathematically speaking, the Rams have an 11-percent chance of getting better both as a team and on defense (⅓ of teams that were better on defense x ⅓ of teams that got a better record = 1/9 = 11%).

On the other side, the chances that the worst outcome occurs where the defense gets worse and the team gets worse is 44 percent (⅔ of teams that were worse on defense x ⅔ of teams that had worse records = 4/9 = 44%), as teams in the past struggled more without Phillips than they improved. Additionally, using the same math, the Rams have a 22-percent chance of having a better record but with worse defense and also a 22-percent chance of having a worse record but with better defense. 

With the math now out of the way, the probability of the Rams doing better next season based off of the history of how teams fare immediately following the exit of Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator is simply that there is an 11-percent chance that the Rams will be better off in defense and record and a 44% chance that the Rams will be worse off in record and defense. The remaining percentage, 45%, says that Phillips leaving is a push, meaning that the team will suffer in either overall record or defensive ranking but get better in the other area. Of course, this is the National Football League where the odds are beaten seemingly every week. The question is: can the Rams beat these odds in 2020?

NFL Football Coach Wade Phillips. Photo Credit: Karen | Under Creative Commons License

NFL Football Coach Wade Phillips. Photo Credit: Karen | Under Creative Commons License