January 17, 1995 -- The Buffalo Bills hired a new defensive coordinator on this date. You might have heard of him.
Wade Phillips took the job, arriving with a good reputation as a defensive strategist. As we know now, Phillips was promoted when Marv Levy retired -- a move that received a little speculation at the time. Vic Carucci of The News reported the story this way:
Wade Phillips officially became the Buffalo Bills' new defensive coordinator Tuesday, less than a month after being fired as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Phillips, 47, accepted the job after several meetings this week with Bills head coach Marv Levy in Mobile, Ala., site of Saturday's Senior Bowl college all-star football game. He replaces Walt Corey, who was fired on Jan. 2 after eight seasons as the Bills' defensive coordinator.Terms of Phillips' contract were not revealed, although it is a multiyear deal. Phillips still has one season remaining on his agreement with Denver, at $375,000, and the Bills will pay a portion of that while the Broncos pay the rest.
"I've known Wade for a long time and I'm pleased to have him join our staff," Levy said from Mobile. "He's a bright, experienced young coach who brings a wealth of experience to the job."
Phillips could not be immediately reached for comment.
Long regarded as one of the game's top defensive strategists, Phillips was the Broncos' head coach the past two seasons after serving as their defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1992. The Broncos had a 16-17 record under Phillips, including a wild-card playoff loss in 1993. They finished 7-9 in 1994, and Phillips was fired on Dec. 29.
Denver's defense ranked last in the NFL in '94 (17th against the run and 28th against the pass). Charlie Waters was the coordinator, but after the team's 0-4 start -- which included a 27-20 loss to the Bills -- Phillips assumed more of an active role in the structuring of the Broncos' defensive scheme and game plans.
He has employed both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, although he primarily uses a 3-4. After eight years of Corey's passive 3-4 approach, there has been a clamor among fans and media for the Bills to switch to an aggressive 4-3 alignment. Levy said Corey's firing was based on a need to move in a new direction defensively, although he has refused to specify what that means.
--- Budd Bailey