Phillips was hired as defensive coordinator on Wednesday, two days after coach Gary Kubiak fired four defensive assistants, including coordinator Frank Bush. The Texans (6-10) lost eight of their last 10 games, mostly due to a defense that ranked 30th in yards allowed (386.6 per game) and last against the pass (267.5 yards per game).
Phillips said in a phone interview on Thursday that he already sees what areas need improvement.
"I won't go into specific things, but I look at things and try to see what I can do to help and get players better," Phillips said. "I've got a lot of experience, so I think I know the kinds of things that can help players, and the schemes that can help them. That's what you do as a football coach."
Texans owner Bob McNair said the addition of Phillips gives the franchise its strongest coaching staff in the team's nine years of existence. McNair spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $7.5-million YMCA that is the first to bear the name of an NFL team.
"I've never been so confident about our coaching staff," McNair said. "It would've made a difference for us last year. It will make a difference for us this year."
Phillips, fired as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys after a 1-7 start, has strong ties to both the city and Kubiak.
He grew up in the area and played linebacker at the University of Houston in the 1960s. He began his NFL coaching career in the late 1970s with the Houston Oilers, who were coached by his father, Bum. Kubiak was a ball boy for the Oilers back then, and the two have remained friends across 30 years.
Phillips was not only thrilled to return to his roots, but also join a team that he believes is close to becoming a winner, even though the Texans are still seeking their first playoff appearance.
"It's a dream job for me, coming back home, being with great people," he said. "And it looks like a great opportunity to win. Those are all positive things."
Phillips interviewed with the team on Wednesday, and was hired by the early evening. As speculation swirled that Phillips would join the staff, defensive ends Mario Williams and Antonio Smith were skeptical at how well they would fit into the 3-4 alignment that Phillips teaches.
Phillips downplayed their concerns, saying that he'll be the one adjusting to Houston's personnel. He said the Cowboys switched between a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme last season.
"I don't think it's as big a deal as everybody is trying to make it out to be," Phillips said.
McNair was impressed by how Phillips broke down the deficiencies in Houston's defense during Wednesday's interview.
"He's looked at our film, we've talked about it," McNair said. "He saw exactly what the problems were, and he had ideas as to how they could be corrected that weren't necessarily requiring a lot of additional personnel.
"I agree with him," McNair said. "We can perform a lot better than we did, and I think with the right coaches in there, you're going to see some great improvement."
Phillips said he's brainstorming with Kubiak about possible assistants to hire. The Texans also fired secondary coach David Gibbs, linebackers coach Johnny Holland and assistant linebackers coach Robert Saleh on Monday.
There was speculation in Dallas that Phillips might want to bring Dallas secondary coach Brett Maxie and linebackers coach Reggie Herring, who worked for the Texans in 2002-03 under former coach Dom Capers.
"We're trying to move as quickly as we can, but we want to get the right people," Phillips said. "We'll look at everybody who's available. Some of them on the Cowboys' staff are unavailable right now."
Phillips will be formally introduced on Monday, and said he'll talk to as many players as he can that day.