BOSTON (CBS) — Wade Phillips attended high school in Texas, but it seems as though he might have skipped a few classes during his logic class at the University of Houston.
The 65-year-old defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans spoke with ESPN.com on Thursday, and he was asked if he’ll employ Jonathan Joseph to shadow Wes Welker, much the way Joseph covered dynamic Bengals receiver A.J. Green last weekend.
His answer raised a few eyebrows around the country.
“Ah, Welker’s not Green,” Phillips told ESPN.com. “He’s a good player, but he’s not that big or a real athletic guy. He’s a quick guy that gets open on option routes.”
There’s no doubt that Wes Welker is not that big a guy. He’s officially listed at 5-foot-9, and even that may be generous by an inch or two.
But saying Welker is not “a real athletic guy”? That’s more than a little foolish.
Of course, it’s not the most incendiary comment in the history of bulletin board material, as the message was clearly that Welker is not the prototypical 6-foot-4 speed guy on the outside.
Nevertheless, it’s a really, really stupid thing for an opposing coach to say. In a sport and a league where a comment can even slightly be interpreted as insulting turns into controversy, where running backs post pictures of Boston writers’ columns on their Twitter accounts, and where “disrespect” gets used as fuel on a weekly basis, providing that type of inspiration just days before the biggest game of the Texans’ history is a terrible choice for Phillips.
Welker’s accolades are well-known, but the SparkNotes version is this: He has 672 receptions since 2007, most in the NFL. He led the league in that category in three seasons, and he turned in a 111-catch, 1,165-yard season in 2008, when quarterback Matt Cassel started football games for the first time since high school. He’s amassed 7,459 yards in the same span while scoring 37 touchdowns. He’s proven to be impossible to cover at times while serving as Tom Brady’s favorite option in the league’s most powerful offense.
Phillips, architect of the league’s 16th-ranked passing defense, said that last time out, Harris played Welker “pretty good.” Welker’s stat line that night (three receptions for 52 yards, including this “unathletic” play) instantly makes that a questionable claim, but remember, Welker dropped three or four passes that night. Drops have increasingly crept their way into Welker’s game, but three or four in the same night was an aberration, not a sign of his lack of athleticism.
Welker also drew a back-breaking pass interference call early in the second quarter of that game, when he was double covered by Harris and Danieal Manning. The pass may have been uncatchable, which drew Phillips’ ire on the sideline, but the contact Manning made on Welker was undeniable. All three of Welker’s catches also moved the chains, including an incredible 25-yard catch that set up the Patriots on the Houston 4-yard line.
The not-very-athletic Welker also assumed punt return duties that night, taking back four Houston punts for 50 yards, an average of 12.5 yards per return (league average was under 10 yards).
Phillips may also remember Welker well from 2007, when Phillips was head coach of the Cowboys. In a game the Patriots won over the previously undefeated Cowboys 48-27, Welker caught 11 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. That doesn’t sound like the work of an athletic receiver, does it?
Phillips, realizing what he said was foolish, took to Twitter to try to clear things up.
“Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time,” he said from his account, @SonOfBum, including the hash tag “
#twistthataround.” The hashtag seemed to indicate Phillips believed his words got twisted by fans and the media, but the black-and-white quote was pretty simple to understand. “He’s not that big or a real athletic guy.” No twisting necessary.
His Twitter handle is “Son Of Bum,” an ode to his father, legendary coach Bum Phillips. In this case, Bum might think his son was a little dumb.