Two long-time NFL assistant coaches were given the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award for lifetime achievement as assistant NFL coaches by the Professional Football Writers of America.
Monte Kiffin and Wade Phillips were selected this year, the PFWA announced this week.
Kiffin has been an NFL coach for 28 years and is joining the Jacksonville Jaguars for the first time this year after spending time with the Green Bay Packers in 1983, then coached linebackers for the Buffalo Bills (1984-85), Minnesota Vikings (1986-89) and the New York Jets (1990). He returned to Minnesota as the defensive coordinator in 1991, and he then coached the Vikings’ inside linebackers from 1992-94. He served one season as the New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator in 1995 before spending 13 years as the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2008), where his defenses ranked in the league’s top 10 in 11 of his 13 seasons.
After spending time in the college ranks for four years, Kiffin returned to the NFL in 2013 as the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys and was their assistant head coach/defense in 2014. He spent last year out of football.
Kiffin was known for popularizing the “Tampa-2” defense as an offshoot of the Cover-2 defensive concept and coached the Bucs defense to a Super Bowl XXXVII victory, being named the PFWA’s Assistant Coach of the Year in 2002.
Kiffin’s coaching career also saw stops at the University of Nebraska (1966-76), Arkansas (1977-79) and his only head-coaching opportunity at North Carolina State from 1980-82. He played as a two-way tackle at Nebraska and was a defensive end with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1965.
Phillips, currently the defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos, has 38 years of NFL experience as an assistant coach. He has been with the Houston Oilers (1976-80), Saints (1981-85), Philadelphia Eagles (1986-88) and was with the Broncos from 1989-92. After two seasons as the Broncos head coach, he was a coordinator with the Bills from 1995-97 before becoming their head coach from 1998-2000. He followed that up with jobs with the Atlanta Falcons (2002-03) and San Diego Chargers (2004-06) – where he served as head coach from 2007-10 – Houston Texans (2011-13) and finally again with the Broncos.
Phillips gained his fame as a creative defensive playcaller and has been part of 20 top-10 defensive units. He has coached in two Super Bowls, winning it in February 2016 with the Broncos.
He has won the PFWA’s Assistant Coach of the Year twice, with the Texans in 2011 and a co-winner with Cincinnati’s Hue Jackson in 2015.
Phillips played linebacker at the University of Houston and coached high school football at Orange (Texas) from 1970-72. He also coached linebackers at Oklahoma State from 1973-74.
The “Dr. Z” Award is named after Zimmerman, who covered the NFL for 29 years as Sports Illustrated’s lead pro football writer.