Much of this came about quickly after the Rams made the decision to hire McVay in early January. In fact, he had been immediately rumored to be his first choice for the position. This came just a couple of weeks after Phillips declared himself readily available on the market after two seasons with the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos under Phillips over the last couple of seasons have boasted one of the league's top defenses ranking first in 2015 and fourth in 2016. In light of that, KUSA's Mike Klis has reported that the reason for the 69-year-old's departure from Denver occurred due to a contract dispute.
Phillips didn’t take the Rams’ job until he learned the Broncos weren’t bringing him back. Here are the events that led to Phillips departure: After his defensive unit was largely responsible for the Broncos winning Super Bowl 50, he asked general manager John Elway for a pay raise and an extension.
Elway gave most of the Broncos’ assistant coaches extensions and raises after their Super Bowl victory, but Phillips was asking to become the league’s highest-paid defensive coordinator by a substantial margin. It was Phillips’ right. The Broncos’ defense was the best in the league.
But it was also Elway’s right to balk. According to multiple sources, Elway gave Phillips an either-or option: An extension or raise, but not both. Phillips took the raise. Once the 2016 season ended and Phillips’ contract was set to expire, the Broncos quickly moved to the Joseph-Woods duo to replace him.
This clears up any mystery in terms of why the process of joining the Rams' staff was drawn out a bit longer than originally anticipated. The Rams didn't officially announce the move until a few days later from the initial reports from several major news outlets.
The situation in Denver had become a mutual agreement on both ends for Phillips and general manager John Elway that only gained clarity with the hiring of the next head coach in Vance Joseph, who was the former defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins for the 2016 season.
With that decision made for him, it then became a simple choice to join Los Angeles effectively replacing Gregg Williams, who had left a couple of weeks prior taking the same position with the Cleveland Browns. Phillips possesses a wealth of NFL coaching experience that spans over 25 seasons as a defensive coordinator with seven different teams.
He has already made it clear that he plans on altering the Rams' defense to a 3-4 scheme, which he has made much success running with the Broncos over the last couple of years. Los Angeles had primarily been under the 4-3 defensive formation during Jeff Fisher's tenure with the team.
Despite the Rams' significant issues on the offensive side of the ball last season, they managed to finish ninth in total defense, 10th against the pass, and 16th against the run.