Connor Barwin knew he was at the end of the line with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was entering the fifth year of a six-year contract that would push his salary to a level that would price him right off the roster.
It was just a matter of Barwin figuring out the best place to continue his career as an NFL outside linebacker, and the possibilities were attractive. There were the Cincinnati Bengals, taking the former University of Cincinnati Bearcat back to where he played college football, and the Los Angeles Rams, whose defensive coordinator was part of Barwin’s highly successful stint with his first team, the Houston Texans.
‘I just felt a little bit more comfortable going and playing with Wade’
In end, reuniting with Wade Phillips and being part of a defense that fits his skills far better than the one in which he played in Philadelphia made joining the Rams an easy decision.
“(Cincinnati’s) a great city,” Barwin told Vic Carucci and Bill Polian on Late Hits. “Obviously, that’s a great division to play football in. I met with (Bengals coach) Marvin Lewis, I met with all the coaches. It would have been great to go back there, but I just felt a little bit more comfortable going and playing with Wade and being an every-down player and then playing ‘Sam’ again in his defense.
‘I had success and, obviously, the whole unit had success’
“Obviously, I’m comfortable with Wade, I know Wade. Our first year in Houston together, we went from the worst defense in the league to second in one year. And I had success and, obviously, the whole unit had success.”
One of the key reasons for that success is Phillips, widely considered one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history and whose dominant defense allowed the Denver Broncos to beat the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. The combination of his personality and the simplicity of his highly effective scheme is something Barwin couldn’t resist.
‘First and foremost, people love playing for him’
“First and foremost, people love playing for him,” Barwin said. “I mean, Wade obviously loves being around football, loves being around the guys. And as players, you feel that and you want to be around him and you want to play as hard as possible for him. I think, scheme-wise, his defense is a 3-4, some people say, but he likes to call it a 5-2. … And then, he doesn’t make things too complicated. He has a couple calls that we know how to run and we run them really fast and we’re really effective at running them.”