Oail Andrew “Bum” Phillips, former high school, college and professional football head coach, passed away Friday at his ranch in Goliad, Texas.
Bum started his coaching career in 1954 at Nederland High School, and Jacksonville High School. He jumped from high school to college as both a head coach and an assistant coach before landing his first NFL gig in 1967. As the defensive coordinator from ’67-’70 for the San Diego Chargers, Phillips enjoyed a couple of winning seasons under the legendary head coach Sid Gillman.
It was in 1975 that Phillips landed his first NFL head coaching position with the Houston Oilers after spending one season as the team’s defensive coordinator. Phillips’ Oilers in the late ’70s enjoyed three consecutive playoff berths, and made it to two consecutive AFC Championship games in ’78 and ’79. Both championship games were losses to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.
During his six-year tenure with the Oilers, Houston and Pittsburgh were two of the best teams in the league, and a heated rivalry began to form between the two AFC Central teams. Phillips went 55-35 during the regular season at the helm of the Oilers, and 4-3 in the postseason. Houston fired Phillips a day after the Oilers had lost in the postseason a third consecutive year, 27-7 in the 1980 AFC Wild Card to the Oakland Raiders.
His five-year tenure as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints (or ‘Aints, as they were referred to back then) starting in 1981 didn’t go quite as well. His first season the Saints went 4-12, and he never experienced a winning season in New Orleans. His best season: 8-8 in 1983.
Bum’s Oilers had an outstanding three-year run from 1978-80, but were a bit overlooked due to the success of Pittsburgh. However, his trademark cowboy hat on the sidelines always got him and his team plenty of attention from fans. It’s just a shame that he may be better-remembered for his cowboy hat than his team’s success.
His son, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, made the decision that he would still travel with the Texans to Kansas City and coach the team in today’s match-up despite losing his father just a couple of days ago.