Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley has coached some of the top names in the league, from future Hall-of-Famers to perennial Pro Bowlers.
He’s clearly been around some of the game’s top talent, which makes what he said about Adrian Phillips so noteworthy as he lauded the versatile safety with the highest praise you could imagine.
“He's extremely intelligent,” Bradley said. “He can play strong safety, free safety, dime and nickel for us, and we'd feel extremely comfortable if he was in any of those positions. So that intelligence (is impressive). He's got a football IQ that is, to say compare him to anybody, he's just one of the most elite guys in that area that I've ever been around.”
Those words resonated with Phillips.
In fact, he could barely speak when told what Bradley said to the media.
“Wow,” he simply muttered as his eyes grew wide.
He then let out a small chuckle, seemingly in disbelief to hear someone who has coached that level of talent say that about him.
“That means a lot,” he continued. “That’s crazy. I always took pride in film studying and understanding what the offense was trying to do because you have so many talented guys who run a 4.3, jump out the gym and are so talented. But how I always got the upper edge on those guys was that I would take it to the film room. My movements would be more efficient, and I just really took pride in that.”
That’s not to say AP feels he’s less talented than his contemporaries. It’s just that his football IQ gives him that edge. And in the NFL, any edge, no matter how minuscule, is a major advantage.
Now, you’ve probably heard the football IQ term quite often.
But what exactly does it mean?
Basically, it’s something that comes naturally and can’t be taught.
“To me, football IQ is really understanding what the offense is doing and being able to react off it,” Phillips explained. “A lot of people can watch film and they can realize what the offense is doing. They can say, ‘Oh, this (play) is coming this certain place, this certain run or this certain pass,’ but they can’t apply it to the field. They can’t apply what they learned in the film room to the field.
“So, what the IQ is I think is just being able to practice what you study and understanding those concepts. Understanding how offenses are trying to attack you. This league is a copy-cat league. People try to attack our defenses in so many different ways and trying to find new avenues to get the upper edge on us, but when you have that high football IQ, you can see how they’re trying to attack you. You understand those concepts and understand how they’re disguised on different things. And then you go out and just make a play.”
The 26-year-old Phillips realized back in college how important his football IQ was to his success.
It didn’t take Bradley long to figure it out either.
“They told me about him (and his high football IQ) when I first got here, but now being around him and just seeing him, I think it's something that you appreciate once you see him involved in the games,” the defensive coordinator said.
Equally impressive is the way Phillips shares what he knows with his teammates.
Take Jatavis Brown for example.
The third-year linebacker has played lights out as of late, and while giving Brown a ton of credit, Bradley also explained how Phillips has played a big part in Brown’s success.
“He's helping guys next to him,” Bradley said. “I think JB has played very well for us, and I think a lot of that credit goes to AP. I think just that presence with him on the field. They're constantly challenging one another and talking through some things.”
Phillips doesn’t disagree with his coach’s assessment, explaining how important it is to share what he knows. At the same time, he stresses how it isn’t a one-way street.
“JB’s been balling this year,” he said. “He does film study as well, and we just kind of bounce things off of each other. It’s natural conversation. Two minds are better than one sometimes. If I see a certain thing I’ll go tell him, ‘Hey, this is what I’m seeing. Be alert for this,’ and he might catch something on film that I didn’t see, so we’re just constantly bouncing ideas off each other and each other’s heads. And we’re also just competing. We want to be the best, and when we’re by each other, we hold each other accountable. I think that’s what’s really taking us over the hump.”
Browse through top photos as the Chargers hold practice at Orange Coast College ahead of Week 14's matchup versus Cincinnati.