Former Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints head coach Bum Phillips passed away yesterday at the age of 90, and it’s always sad to see a head coaching legend like Phillips pass away. It’s always nice, though, to look back at his career and know that he accomplished a lot in his lifetime and was able to live a full life. Hopefully his son Wade Phillips can lead the Houston Texans, who are starting a rookie QB familiar with the city in Case Keenum, to a somewhat unlikely victory this week against the Kansas City Chiefs in his honor. The news of Phillips’s death was reported yesterday by the Associated Press.
Bum Phillips started his head coaching career with various high school positions upon his return from the Marines, and he made his first big jump in 1958 after being hired as an assistant coach to the legendary Bear Bryant at Texas A&M. He wouldn’t get into the NFL, though, until 1967 when he was a defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers, and he would travel to the Houston Oilers in 1974 to be Sid Gillman’s DC in Houston as well.
His first crack at head coaching came a year later in 1975, and Phillips did an incredible job coaching (he was also the GM) the Oilers. They became one of the NFL’s best franchises during his time coaching the team, and the Oilers had just one season under .500 in the six seasons with Phillips as the team’s head coach. He won the division once and took the Oilers to the AFC Championship in back-to-back years in 1978 and 1979 (they won the division in 1980 but lost their first playoff game), but the Pittsburgh Steelers eliminated the Oilers in both years. The Steelers were the dominant team at the time, but the Oilers success enabled them to form a brief, heated rivalry with the Steelers.
In 1981, Phillips moved on to coach the New Orleans Saints, but he was unable to lead the Saints to a record about .500. He came close with an 8-8 record in 1983 and a 7-9 record a year later, and they were agonizingly close to making the playoffs in 1983. To that point, the Saints had never had a winning season or made the playoffs, and only Dick Nolan had led the Saints to an 8-8 record.
If your team runs the 3-4 defense, you have Bum Phillips to thank. Known for his trademark hat, Phillips is one of the most notable and classiest coaches in NFL history, so he will definitely be missed.