Brian Stewart was counting them down.
After each Denver Broncos playoff win, he'd send a text to one of the coaches he admires most. "Two more," Stewart texted the coach after Denver's win over Pittsburgh. "One more," he texted him after the win over New England.
Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips may have been busy chasing a Super Bowl, but he was not so busy he couldn't respond to Stewart. A few days after his defense demolished Carolina in the big game, Phillips even called Stewart for a chat.
Stewart had been rooting for him as much as anybody.
Good luck to my mentor and friend Wade Phillips🏈🏆 pic.twitter.com/vAkHjcqM7U— Brian Stewart (@stewdg1) February 7, 2016
Stewart feels success couldn't find a much better coach and person. A year ago Phillips wasn't even coaching. Now he's king of the mountain.
"Knowing him, his temperament, the journey he went from, from sitting and not being involved in football for a year. Then to come into this situation and prove to everybody why he should have been coaching the whole time is exciting," Stewart said.
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The two have a long history. Stewart had coached the secondary for San Diego form 2004-06 while Phillips was the team's defensive coordinator. Then when Phillips was hired as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Stewart came with him and served as his defensive coordinator in 2007-08.
Given that, a lot of things looked familiar to Stewart as he watched Denver's defense in action.
During the Super Bowl, “I was screaming, yelling, calling out the defenses. It was awesome," Stewart said.
And yet, what makes Phillips so good are the little twists he'll put in each week to throw off an opponent. "He always has a little something special for every game. Every game, you’re like, ‘OK, I see what you’re doing.’"
Stewart also still often thinks of this coaching advice from Phillips: "Don’t try to impress everybody with how smart you are."
All the clever schemes in the world don't matter if players don't know what they're doing, Phillips would tell him. Stewart keeps that in mind when thinking about coaching his current players.
"That’s one thing when I was a coordinator, I didn’t have a lot of checks … I didn’t do that because in talking to him, he’d say, ‘Who you fooling?’ You end up fooling your players instead of getting what you want, getting them to play fast. His big thing is if everyone can play fast, you will see their true athletic ability.”