A Head for the Game was at the ‘Inside the Draft’ NFL UK Fan night held in the Thomas Lord Suite at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London this evening.
Read below to see what NFL coaching legend Wade Phillips had to say.
21:35: The night is over and Neil Reynolds and the packed room of around 200 fans give Coach Phillips a standing ovation. “You guys are great, I am really impressed” he says as he leaves the room to go straight to the Sky Sports studios for the NFL Draft show this evening.
21:30: Fan Question: “How much emotion is taken into account during the NFL Draft or is it just a cattle market?”
Coach Phillips: “The coaches analyse the personalities, they talk to everybody. Some say it’s not a big deal if he’s not the right person.
“You have some kind of feel and usually it is a direct correlation between how hard they play all the time and what their personality is.
“Winners try harder than everybody else – that’s my philosophy.”
Fan Question: “How much does character concern of players drop them down your draft pick?
“Unfortunately some guys have a chequered past, like a DUI (driving under the influence). So some of the things you have to think about.
“What he does all the time is what you have to worry about, not what he does once.
“You don’t treat everyone the same – you have the same the rules of course, like business, but the more they have, the more you can take.”
Fan Question: “How do you coach teams who are behind early and come in at half-time down?”
Coach Phillips: “What we’ve tried to do is be honest with them all the time, but I CAN GET MAD SOMETIMES (he says shouting at Neil Reynolds.”
21:25: Fan question: “Would you have come back to the Buffalo Bills and tell us about Marv Levy”
Coach Phillips: “If they’d paid me I would have come back – I have a lot of loyalty to the paycheck; my wife went to Harrods today.
“Marv was very nice.”
21:20: Neil Reynolds: “Did you get on the phone to your draft picks?”
Coach Phillips: “Usually you get on the phone to the guy who you about to pick before you do to, firstly, to make sure they’re alive.
“Free agents play a little game now, you call them and say you want to pick them just before your seventh pick – you are basically recruiting.
“They used to let you be there when the NFL Draft was over to go to the players and sign up the free agents at the end. Dallas were way ahead of the other teams with this.
“Way back we were a little bit naive as you could read the local newspaper and see who teams were going to pick, but nowadays there are a lot of smokescreens.
“Pretty much the picks stay the same for the teams throughout the season, although the NFL Combine can change things.”
21:15: Neil Reynolds: “Tell us about being in the War Room during the NFL Draft?”
Coach Phillips: “It’s exciting, but there’s nothing to do. You still don’t know what is going to happen. A lot of people think Clowney will be the first pick.
“Most owners are there for the first round and then go where they go, somewhere on their own plane. Jerry Jones, of course, stays for the whole draft. Some teams have everyone there; coaches, staff, everyone.
“The closer it gets to your draft choice then everyone gets ready.
“If they pick the guy you want to pick right before your pick then you have limited time. You obviously have that scenario, but there are a lot of people on the phone.
“Quite a lot of teams try to trade – when we were at Dallas we always traded back but never got a good player.
“Everybody thinks they did well, no-one gets seven picks in a row. You get guys you like, but percentage-wise they are not all going to do well.”
21:00: The night starts again. Coach Phillips and Neil Reynolds will now discuss plays from Super Bowl XLVIII.
Coach Phillips: “The difference in the ball game was Peyton Manning getting pressured, he didn’t get pressured like that throughout the season.”
20:55: There is now a break for Coach Phillips as Neil Reynolds does a classic ‘What Happens Next?’ competition with some of the NFL UK fans here.
20:50: Neil Reynolds: “Tell us about your Dad?”
Coach Phillips: “I should have been studying at school, but I used to do formations on the desk with pennies for defense and nickels for offense.”
Neil Reynolds: “Which coaches do you really admire right now?”
Coach Phillips: “Belichik is the main guy right now. He’s a tremendous coach – he’s hard to coach against. Jeff Fisher too. Norv Turner is very tough.”
20:47: Fan question: “Is there a player that got away in the NFL Draft, how does it work if the GMs want a player instead of the ones you want?”
Coach Phillips: “When we got our draft picks for the Texans 50% of us were for one player and 50% were for JJ Watt, I said ‘hell, I want to be the 51%’ so we got him.”
20:40: Fan question: “Who is the best player you have ever coached?”
Coach Phillips: “Reggie White was one of my favourites, I coached Reggie White in the strike year, he payed 12 games and had 21 sacks. He was a fun guy – he could imitate anybody, of course he picked on me and Mohammed Ali.
“Bruce Smith was also one of my favourites – he played hard. I was lucky enough to coach John Elway, I’ve been around a lot of great player.
“I’ve got many Earl Campbell stories too – our strength and conditioning coach decided to do one-mile runs and Earl, stepped off after half a mile – he had 34 inch thighs – I was asked what will we do in a game if that happens. I just answered if it’s 4th and 3/4 mile then I won’t give the ball to him.”
20:35: Neil Reynolds: “What sort of player makes the best draft?”
Coach Phillips: “Football-smart guy usually get better, and he’s a worker. You always like a guy who’s got athletic potential, but you’re always potentially fired!”
20:30: Neil Reynolds: “The NFL Draft is the end of a very long process, tell us about that Coach.”
Coach Phillips: “You have scouts who look at players all-year round; their whole career really. They weigh up talent overall, not necessarily defense or offence.They just say that they can run fast, for example. Coaches are more specific. Once the season is over, you become a scout.
“You watch at least four tapes of each player – it takes a long time. Some players are easy to tell – they dominate against their competition, but you have to look at how good their competition is. But experience counts as well as you see things you like.”
Neil Reynolds: “You obviously don’t have info on all 300 players in the NFL Draft – what do you do?”
Coach Phillips: “It’s different with teams, some put up all players in seven rounds and how you would pick them. Some group them by position, some group them by just the players they like.
“You go through the draft and evaluate all the players.
“People who say they don’t draft for need it’s simply not true.”
20:25: Coach Phillips: “If you’re a systems guy then you can only play players who fit in that system.”
20:15: Coach Phillips is now talking about the 3-4 defence. “My Dad was the first coach to bring it in,” says Wade.
Sixth fan question: What’s it like coaching ‘America’s Team and can Tony Romo ever be a winner?
Coach Phillips: “It’s unique, probably the most talked about and analysed team. Everywhere you go people recognise you, even here in London. Jerry Jones is fun to work with…work for (crowd laughs).
“Tony Romo is an elite quarterback. He makes a lot of plays. His overall record you would take. When I was there he was hurt in 7 and a half games in three years and we won 33 games.
“If Jerry Jones could get Johnny Manziel, then he could raise the ticket prices.”
Fifth fan question: “What do you think about the quarterbacks in the 2014 NFL Draft?”
Coach Phillips: “I really like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater has slid a bit. When I look back Kapernick was more of a run and scramble guy, but now he is in the pocket a bit more.”
Fourth fan question: “What do you think about teams that always struggle?”
Coach Phillips: “They don’t have a quarterback (jokes).”
Third fan question: What do you think of the NFL Draft v Free Agency in terms of players?
Coach Phillips: “The draft is about the future, if you get a draft pick like JJ Watt who made a difference in the first year, then they don’t normally make an impact until later.”
Second fan question asks about the 1999 Wild Card game against Tennessee Titans, dubbed the ‘Music City Miracle‘
First fan question: “Do you ever trade with your competitors in the NFL Draft?”
Coach Phillips: “You usually take the player you like the first, when I was with the Cowboys we actually traded with the Eagles.”
20:05: Neil Reynolds introduces the night to the fans with the updated ‘Neil’s News’.
Neil Reynolds then introduces Wade Phillips and asks him what he thinks of London.
Coach Phillips: “When I was at Denver we played in Barcelona, Berlin and Tokyo and everyone I have spoken to says it is great and it really is. I really think they are going to get a team here, I really do.”
20:00: Fans are seeing the past seven years of the NFL International Series
We are here at the Fan Evening with Wade Phillips within Lords Cricket Ground.
From the NFLUK website:
Go ‘Inside the Draft’ with NFL coaching legend
The NFL Draft is one of the most exciting and dramatic dates in the sporting calendar and NFLUK is giving you the chance to celebrate this year’s event with a man who can take you to the heart of the war room.
Former Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills head coach Wade Phillips will be in London as a guest on Sky Sports’ exclusive live coverage of the first round of the draft on the night of Thursday, May 8. Earlier that evening, Coach Phillips will be taking part in a special ‘Inside the Draft’ fan forum for NFLUK members.
Hosted by Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds, the event will take place in the Thomas Lord Suite at Lord’s Cricket Ground, St John’s Wood Road, London NW8 8QN, beginning at 8:00 p.m.
In a 45-year coaching career, most of it in the NFL, Coach Phillips has been through numerous NFL Drafts, both as a head coach looking to shape an organisation from the top and as a position coach or coordinator hoping to get his hands on that one special talent.
Our ‘Inside the Draft’ evening will give you the chance to hear some tales from previous drafts, as well as discussing this year’s rookie class.