As his Denver defense spent Sunday afternoon swarming to Tom Brady like he was a marked down flatscreen TV on Black Friday, Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips must've been proud. It was yet another scintillating performance from one of the NFL's best units, a group that has often times carried the load in 2015 as the team's normally potent offense has been just average. And now, Phillips is heading to the Super Bowl.
Not bad for a guy who didn't even have a job in the league just a year ago. In fact, the 68-year-old tweeted as much after the game. So, the question, at least in this area, becomes: Did the Redskins, who reportedly interviewed Phillips back in January but eventually tabbed Joe Barry to take over the defense, make a mistake in passing him over? Well, the answer is a bit complicated.
If you just take a look at the numbers, the answer is an absolute yes. In the regular season, the Broncos allowed the fewest yards per game, the fewest passing yards per game and allowed the fourth fewest points per game in the NFL. The Redskins, meanwhile, were 28th, 25th and 17th respectively in those same categories. So, on paper, the AFC Champions had a far better season than the NFC East Champions did when it comes to stopping offenses. That means the Burgundy and Gold missed out on Phillips.
However, like most other debates in football, you can't only look at the numbers. They're important, sure, but it's not a stretch to say that Phillips had a far more talented bunch of players than Barry did. With guys like Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and Chris Harris, whoever is running the Broncos defense will certainly reap the benefits of having better personnel than most other franchises. This year, that person was Phillips. That's no knock on Ryan Kerrigan, Bashaud Breeland and Co., but Denver simply is more experienced and deeper on that side of the ball than Washington.
With that being said, overall, Phillips' credentials are legitimate, showing he's not just someone who gets lucky with stacked rosters: His defenses, whether he's working as a coordinator or head coach, routinely show up in the top 10 in many statistical categories, and rarely show up in the bottom 10. He's been coaching at the professional level since 1976, and he clearly knows his stuff. Therefore, when it came to decision time for Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan during the last offseason, it was just a matter of preference — did they want the younger and famously energetic Barry, or the wise and tenured Phillips? Obviously, they went with the former, and will have to roll with that choice moving forward.
But with two weeks between now and the last game on the schedule, and with the Broncos defense turning in a fantastic effort on Sunday, it's a good time to open up this conversation for discussion. The matter at hand is a simple one: Did the Redskins make the wrong move in not selecting Phillips to be the DC in D.C.? Let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter, @CSNRedskins.