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#DreamShakeBarbie: What was it, in your opinion, that clicked with your defense last year? Who on your squad is the glue that keeps everyone together?

Coach Phillips: The good thing with me coming in, and the philosophy that they had here for a long time, is getting quality people. Not just good football players, but quality people, too. They already had a lot of good guys, a lot of hard workers. They wanted something new, they wanted to do good, and we had to change some positions with a lot of guys. It was new to them, but it was exciting and I think they all did really well. I just think the mentality of the group overall, how hard they work , really helped us as much as anything. You combine that with the new guys we drafted and the two guys we got in free agency, they contributed, too. They really helped. And then there is Brooks Reed and JJ Watt. They played better than probably any rookies in the league. The way they played with a lot of the other guys that we already had here… Antonio went to the Pro-Bowl, Connor Barwin did great in the position we put him in…All in all, everybody came through, and that was a big thing.

#DreamShakeBarbie: Who will have to step up as a leader now that DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams are gone? How do you see Bradie James working into the fold?

Coach Phillips: Well, I know Bradie, and he is a leader. I was part of the reason we brought him in. He is a good football player, and he had over 100 tackles every year, except last year when he didn’t play very much. We think he is going to make a lot of plays for us. He has a lot of leadership qualities and I think our guys will take to him real well. And I think they’re all good leaders. We have a lot of players that lead by example. They work so hard; that is part of it, too, leadership: they talk about no leadership when you don’t win, and when you win, you have a lot of leadership. Well, I think we have a lot of leaders on our team. Some of them lead by example, and by that I mean they just do things right all the time.

#DreamShakeBarbie: The draft is right around the corner, and I know we can’t talk about specific players, but what kind of player would you see fitting into your defense?

Coach Phillips: Well, like one we took first last year, certainly, those kinds of player. Certainly you want a high-motor guy that is a self-starter, and one that is both a good person on and off the field. And I think getting those kinds of players – the ones that are good both on and off the field – they always seem to get here. I think I said that before, but that really helps a whole lot. It just helps when you surround yourself with those kinds of people. But you need really good football players, too. We got a quite a few last year in the draft that are the right kind of people and talented and highly motivated. I like to motivate the guys to play and to practice the right way. It is definitely good to get a player that is talented enough, but just has that other level of self-motivation…and a guy that really looks forward to coming to practice. Nobody likes to practice. Everybody likes to play the game. It is kind of like golf; I don’t like to practice, I want to get out there and play. But you have to practice to get better in football and the guys that are looking forward to it and work hard, they get better. Those guys got better last year as the season went forward.

Look for feature number two, coming soon! Oh, and Merry Christmas (aka Draft Day)!

#peaceloveandfootball

Photo credit: chron.com

#BullsOnParade. I think it’s safe to say that Texans football fans are well aware of this term of endearment that LB Connor Barwin gave our D-Line. Not only did both fans and Texans team members embrace this phrase, it all but became a new branding for the organization. Clearly, we have a bunch of beasts on our defense; believe me, I will be talking about my favorites here shortly. But here’s the question: who do you think is responsible for this pack of chest-beating, QB-slaying, nose-bleeding, lion-roaring defensive players? Answer: Coach Wade Phillips.

Coach is pretty modest when it comes to the success of his defense. “[The Texans] already had a lot of good guys, a lot of hard workers. They wanted something new, and we had to change some positions. It was new to them, but they all did really well.” Wade continued, “I just think the mentality of the group overall, how hard they work really helped us as much as anything.”

For those of you unfamiliar with these boys, let’s get to know some of my favorite (read: hottest) members of our D-Line.

Antonio Smith (Defensive End): In our interview, Coach Wade makes it a point to recognize his DE’s Pro-Bowl appearance. Smith is a powerhouse; where he may lack in agility he makes up for in brute strength. Experience and leadership make Antonio an asset to Texans defense, and with Wade’s encouragement and guidance, will certainly be a force to reckon with in the 2012-13 season.

Shaun Cody (Defensive/Nose Tackle): Although somewhat limited in his flexibility, Cody does a great job moving at the snap. Last season, Phillips had Shaun take on an assisting role to the linebackers, freeing them up for plays as he took on the blockers. After Coach moved the team to a 3-4 defense, Shaun adapted well. My only request? I believe he needs a bit more bulk to take on centers and guards on a consistent basis.

JJ Watt (Defensive End): Alright, alright. Enough with the smirks. We all know I have a soft spot for JJ. But guess what? So does Coach Phillips. So I’m not alone on this one. Plus, he’s got the stats to back him up: Watt is an overall #boss athlete; he has both size and the agility, putting him squarely in the “beast” category. He is able to take on lead blockers with ease, and is capable of picking off passes others would otherwise bat down.

Coach Phillips singled out both JJ and LB Brooks Reed specifically in our time together, affirming that the duo “played better than probably any rookies in the league.” Brooks had three and a half sacks during playoffs and six during the regular 2011-12 season. Certainly not the man I’d like to see heading for my face with a football in my arms.

Jonathan Joseph (Cornerback): Recognized nationally as one of the best Cornerbacks in the NFL, Jonathan is quick to attack and close the ball. He is lighting on his feet and loose in the hips, coupled with outstanding body control. He excels at being an open-field tackler; not many players can outrun him.

Connor Barwin (Linebacker): This specimen of a man collected thirteen sacks in the 2011-12 season. Connor is disciplined, knowing where the ball is at all times, and drops into coverage when it is most needed and effective. His energy and effort are consistent, even when faced with a position change at the start of last season (Coach Wade remarked that he “did great” when he was moved to LB). One thing’s for sure: Connor bleeds Steel Blue and Battle Red.

Noticeably absent from above are fan favorites DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams. Now that these two have parted ways with the Texans organization, there has been a lot of discussion as to who will step up in a leadership role. I addressed this with Coach Phillips, and asked him how he sees Bradie James (former Dallas Cowboys LB and 2012 free agency acquisition by the Texans) working into the fold. “Well, I know Bradie, and he is a leader” says Wade. “I was part of the reason we brought him in. He is a good football player, and he had over 100 tackles every year, except last year.” Wade went on, “He has a lot of leadership qualities and I think our guys will take to him real well.” Coach pauses for a moment and reflects on his team, “I think we have a lot of leaders on our team. They lead by example, and by that I mean they just do things right all the time.”

As I write this, the NFL draft is upon us (hell, it’s tomorrow) and of course, I simply had to ask Coach where his head was in terms of the new crop of kids coming on to the squad. What is his ideal draft selection? “Well, like the one we took first last year [JJ Watt] certainly, those kinds of players. You want a high-motor guy that is a self-starter, and one that is both a good person on and off the field.” He continued, “It is definitely good to get a player that is talented enough, but just has that other level of self-motivation, and a guy that looks forward to coming to practice.” Coach emphasized, “Nobody likes to practice; everybody likes to play the game. But you have to practice to get better.”

On Wednesday, Watt tweeted, “With the draft tomorrow, remember not to jump to conclusions before the guy ever steps foot on the field.” [Follow JJ @JJWatt] Only time will tell what the draft will bring to the Texans defense in the 2012-13 season, but it is plain to see that this pack of bulls and their leader certainly have their eyes on the prize.

Stay tuned for part one of my Coach Phillips Q&A tomorrow.

#peaceloveandfootball

Photo credits: beaumontenterprise.com  chron.com

When Coach Phillips calls, you answer. Or in my case, you call him right back, since my phone decided to sabotage me when he phoned the first time around. Of all people to send straight to voicemail, my phone picks this guy. However, much to my delight, Wade is about as polite, home-grown Texas boy as they come. “Mine does that to me, too!” he laughs, and immediately I feel at ease.

For those of you visiting from Mars, Coach Wade is the current Defensive Coordinator for the Houston Texans. Most notably the former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Wade is the prodigal son of famed ‘Luv Ya Blue’ Houston Oilers ’71-’75 Head Coach, Oail Andrew ‘Bum’ Phillips.  

Wade attended Port Neches-Groves High School before pursuing his degree at the University of Houston. This #eyecandy linebacker [photo] was a three-year starter from 1966–68, even holding the school record for career assisted tackles (228) until 2011. His first coaching job was, in fact, as a graduate assistant to Coach Bill Yeoman at U of H in 1969.

After several years of coaching high school and college football, Wade followed in his father’s footsteps as Houston Oilers defensive coach in 1976, serving under Coach Bum himself.  In 1980, father and son headed to New Orleans, where Wade would later serve as interim head coach before serving as defensive coordinator to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos.

After a short time as head coach for the Broncos in 1993, Wade took on the Buffalo Bills franchise until 2007, when he was named head coach for the Cowboys by owner Jerry Jones. In the 2009-10 season, for the first time in franchise history, Phillips led the team in two back-to-back shutouts to end the season, sealing the deal for the NFC East Championship title, and earning them third seed in the NFC Playoffs.

In 2011, Phillips was welcomed “home” to Houston, and that’s just where we want him to stay. #thankyouverymuch.

In our interview, Wade and I chatted like old friends. Although you may not believe it, he is one of the most well-humored men I have interviewed for #DreamShakeBarbie, or otherwise. I love how he doesn’t take himself too seriously; athletes these days should take a note from Coach Phillips in the “cool” department.

Stay tuned to #DreamShake for an insight into Wade’s days with the Oilers, his relationship with his father and family, his time with the Cowboys, his reactions to the 2012 free agency, and his plans for the 2012-13 Texans D-Line. And yes, we covered twitter, too. [Follow Wade @sonofbum].

 You won’t want to miss the next few entries…

 #peaceloveandfootball

Photo Credits: Fanbase.com  Bio Credits: Wikipedia.com

Well, we did it! Our Aeros are going to the Calder Cup Playoffs! Yes, that’s right, after seeing me at a charity bowling event last week, the boys were finally able to find the motivation they needed to clench two consecutive wins last weekend against the San Antonio Rampage and the Texas Stars. Not sure whether it was my amazing titty dress I wore, or the fact that I spent the majority of the night flirting my ass off, but either way, something clicked.

Jokes aside (maybe), my boys did a kickass job of nailing the Rampage’s ass to the wall on Saturday night, with a final score of 5-3. A sellout crowd of 9,006 looked on as Jeff Taffe, Kris Foucault, Joel Broda, Chad Rau, and Justin Fontaine led their team to victory at the Toyota Center. Chay Genoway did work with a total of two assists, and hot potato Matt Hackett had 19 saves. Sunday’s playoff-deciding nail-biter against the Stars ended in favor of the Aeros again, 2-1, with goals by Broda and Foucault, with 28 saves for Hackett.

Being 8th seed heading into the playoffs isn’t exactly the coup de grace that the boys wanted, but with the no. 1 seeded OKC Barons series looming on the horizon, you can bet that the Aeros have some #UnfinishedBusiness to take care of. The higher seeded Barons opted to host the last three games of the series at home, so the defending Western Conference champs will host games on Thursday, April 19th and Friday, April 20th at Toyota Center, at 7:05PM and 7:35PM respectively.

Predictions for this first round against the Barons? My sports mentor would tell me that I sound “fanboy”, but of course I have full faith that the Aeros will pull this one off with three out of the five wins. Key players that will need to lead the way are Jon DiSalvatore, Taffe, and Rau. As veterans, DiSalvatore and Taffe really need to step up as leaders, while Rau needs to continue his aggressive and positive drive. Despite the fact that Rau is just a third-year center, he has proven his worth over the course of this year, with 14 goals and 21 assists for the Aeros, and 2 goals for our NHL affiliate, the Minnesota Wild during the 2011-12 season thus far.

Wondering why we don’t just play all vets, especially during playoffs? According to the PHPA (Professional Hockey Players Association), you can only suit up four players that are considered to be “veterans”, meaning you have played more than 260 combined games in the AHL or NHL. As my friend Andrew so eloquently puts it, “it keeps teams like Chicago and Hartford from beating the crap out of everyone.”

Well, guess what, Drew, that’s exactly what the Aeros are gonna do anyway, come Thursday.

So what are you waiting for? Get your playoff tix NOW through the Houston Aeros box office, or contact Justin Humphrey @justinh48 via twitter.

Get ready, Houston. This puck’s for you.

Photos courtesy of Houston Aeros.

**Please note: should you wish to get Jon a gift when the Aeros win this round against the Barons, he wants one of these. trust me on this one.

#peaceloveandhockey

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