Wade returns home as Super Bowl champ

Published 3:24 pm Thursday, June 2, 2016

It is a case of better late than never for Wade Phillips in regard to the Port Arthur News Homecoming Roast.
Eight years after wheels were in motion behind the scenes for Phillips to be honored, he returns to Southeast Texas for a long overdue salute at 7 p.m. Friday at Port Arthur’s Bob Bowers Civic Center. He’ll be roasted but mostly toasted 27 years after his dad, Bum Phillips, was the roast honoree in 1989.
Headlining the all-star lineup for the event are the Houston Texans’ three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt and Port Arthur native Jimmy Johnson. Former Dallas Cowboy and current Denver linebacker DeMarcus Ware was to have been a headliner but was a late scratch because of back problems.
Rounding out the cast of roasters are Phillips’ son Wesley, the tight ends coach for the Redskins; Houston Chronicle NFL writer John McClain and former Houston Oilers center Carl Mauck.
Long-time Houston radio voice Barry Warner, a recent inductee into the Texas radio Hall of Fame, will unleash his noted sense of humor as master of ceremonies. Warner, who is co-host of Reality Check on ESPN 97.5 FM, has a history with Wade dating back to the 1970s.
For Phillips, the roast kicks off an eventful 72-hour period that will culminate in the Broncos being saluted on Monday at the White House by President Obama. Since the president usually singles out catalysts from championship teams, Wade would seem a likely candidate for special mention.
Now about that 2008 roast that never was. Phillips went 13-3 in his first year as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, matching the franchise’s all-time best single-season record. The team equaled the high-water mark set by Johnson’s 1993 Cowboys in such dominant fashion it was favored to roll through the playoffs.
Approached near the end of the 2007 regular season about being the PA News roastee the following spring, Phillips said he would only do it if the Cowboys won the Super Bowl. Roast chairman Bob West started making plans and had already secured Cowboys play-by-play man Brad Sham as emcee when Dallas stumbled to a 21-17 playoff loss to the New York Giants.
Adios Super Bowl, sayonara roast.
Tony Romo is still looking to get a Super Bowl ring, but Phillips has his. He earned it in February, with his dominating Denver defense smothering Cam Newton and Carolina 24-10 in Super Bowl 50. Within a week, plans were being made for Wade to be the honoree in what will be Port Arthur News Homecoming Roast No. 13.
Such is the respect and admiration for this SOB — that’s son of Bum — that putting together a star-studded roast lineup was easy. Watt, who is closing in on rock-star status, was thought to be the toughest get, but he quickly said yes to the opportunity to talk about what his first NFL defensive coordinator has meant to his career.
Phillips, meanwhile, is overwhelmed at what being the roastee of an event with such an illustrious history means, and how quickly it sold out. He was amazed when told it is being televised live on the Time Warner Sports Channel (323) and that NFL Films will have a three-man crew shooting footage.
“I am truly honored and humbled by this roast and the reaction to it,” said the 1964 Port Neches-Groves graduate. “It means even more to me because I have always considered the Golden Triangle area my home. I am honored that I have been included in the Museum of the Gulf Coast and will now have a bust on permanent display there.”
Phillips, known as “Mr. Fix-It” around the NFL for how quickly he has turned numerous bad defenses into good ones during 38 years of coaching at the highest level, almost reluctantly conceded that the 2015 Broncos’ defense was his best.
“I have had some really good defenses,” he said.
The 2015 Broncos defense, however, was pretty much directly responsible for the Lombardi Trophy residing in Denver for the next year. That defense did, after all, lead the NFL in 14 different categories, with the ultimate statement how it shut down Pittsburgh and Ben Roethlisberger, New England and Tom Brady and Carolina and Cam Newton in the playoffs.
Those who critique the NFL, including Johnson, were unanimous in declaring that Phillips and his defensive plan against Newton were the keys to victory in the Super Bowl. Denver linebacker Von Miller was named Super Bowl MVP. If coaches were eligible, Phillips would have gotten some votes. As it was, he was named the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year.
Though Phillips will go down as one of the NFL’s all-time greatest defensive coordinators, he also put together a winning resume as a head coach.
He was 16-16 back in the early 1990s in Denver, 29-19 from 1998-2000 in Buffalo and 34-22 from 2007-10 with the Cowboys.
Not counting stints in New Orleans, Atlanta and Houston, where he was in pretty much hopeless situations as an interim head coach, his record was 79-57. His .573 winning percentage was better than Bum (.516) or Johnson (.556).
The big disappointment for Wade was going 1-4 in the playoffs. Johnson was 9-4 and won two Super Bowls, while Bum was 7-4 and twice took the Oilers to the AFC championship game.
None of that will matter tonight. Wade Phillips is coming home as a Super Bowl champion.