That, in itself, makes him a frontrunner. There are few who understand the nuances of the 3-4 defense better than Wade Phillips. He has run it, and the 4-6 variation, his entire life, dating back to 1976 when he was a linebackers coach for his father, Bum Phillips.
With the Cowboys turning into a 3-4 team over the last two years, Phillips’ experience is a boon.
The Cowboys officially received permission from the Chargers to interview Phillips and followed up with the interview, bringing Phillips from Mobile, Alabama and the Senior Bowl direct to Valley Ranch.
Phillips last coached the Buffalo Bills from 1998-2000 and has compiled a 45-35 record as a head coach (Denver, 1993-94).
"I've won as a head coach, been in the playoffs three out of the five years I've been a head coach,” said Phillips. “I have a lot of experience; I've been 30 years in the league, 25 as either a head coach or coordinator."
His defenses in San Diego have ranked in the top five in rushing defense each of the last three years. And this year, he added the pressure – 61 sacks to lead the league with Shawne Merriman leading the league with 17, despite missing four games.
An easy-going persona and known as a “player’s coach” already has Texas roots.
If Phillips moves on – what then for the Chargers defense?
They want to keep the attacking style that Phillips has developed over the last several years and may have to look internally to replace him, especially given Schottenheimer’s one-year contract stance.
Greg Manusky would seem to be the ideal candidate and Schottenheimer intimated that he would like to again hire from within, as he did with Clarence Shelmon. He has been with Schottenheimer since 2001 – with the Washington Redskins. In five years in San Diego, Manusky has nurtured a good linebacking core into a great one and his familiarity with the 3-4 defense is enhanced by its use of four linebacker sets.
He may be the only choice but the Chargers will have to deal with the learning curve he goes through along the way – not exactly what they hoped for after a 14-2 season.
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator has also received and been granted permission to interview for the Cowboys head coach vacancy and is expected to be in Dallas on Sunday.
New Orleans defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs will also interview for the vacancy but is not considered a serious contender for the job.