Bum Phillips

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Bum Phillips
Bum Philips with G.H.W. Bush cropped.jpg
Phillips in 2010 with former President George H. W. Bush
Personal information
Born:(1923-09-29)September 29, 1923
Orange, Texas
Died:October 18, 2013(2013-10-18) (aged 90)
Goliad, Texas
Career information
College: Stephen F. Austin
Career history
As a coach:
Career highlights and awards
Head coaching record
Regular season:NFL: 82–77 (.516)
Postseason:NFL: 4–3 (.571)
Career:NFL: 86–80 (.518)
NCAA: 4–5 (.444)
Coaching stats at PFR

Oail Andrew "Bum" Phillips Jr. (September 29, 1923 – October 18, 2013) was an American football coach at the high school, college and professional levels. He served as head coach in the National Football League (NFL) for the Houston Oilers from 1975 to 1980 and the New Orleans Saints from 1981 to 1985.


Early football career

Phillips played football at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, but enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He became one of the elite Marine Raiders. [1]

After he returned from the war, Phillips completed the remaining year on his degree at Lamar (a junior college at the time), and enrolled at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, lettering in football in 1948 and 1949 and graduating with a degree in education in 1949.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Phillips coached high school football in various Texas cities including: Nederland, Jacksonville, Amarillo High School, and Port Neches–Groves (1963–1964).

His college coaching stints included serving as an assistant coach at Texas A&M University (for Bear Bryant), the University of Houston (for Bill Yeoman), Southern Methodist University (for Hayden Fry), and Oklahoma State University with Jim Stanley. He was the head coach at the University of Texas at El Paso (then known as Texas Western University) for one season in 1962.

NFL coaching career

In the late 1960s, Phillips was hired by Sid Gillman to serve as a defensive assistant coach for the San Diego Chargers. In 1973, Gillman became head coach of the Houston Oilers, and he brought Phillips with him as his defensive coordinator.

In 1975, Phillips was named head coach and general manager of the Oilers, and he served in that capacity through 1980. [2] As coach of the Oilers, he presided over the team's most successful era since its days in the American Football League. Under Phillips, the Oilers reached the AFC Championship Game in two consecutive seasons, losing to the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers 34–5 in 1978 and 27–13 in 1979. Both teams were members of the competitive AFC Central Division and thus played three times in both 1978 and 1979, fueling an intense rivalry. During this period of league-wide AFC dominance, some commentators considered the Oilers and Steelers to be the two best teams in the NFL. Phillips remarked at the time, "The road to the Super Bowl goes through Pittsburgh."

Phillips was fired on New Year's Eve 1980 by Oilers owner Bud Adams. Phillips was fired because he failed to report a player's in season recreational drug use to Adams until after the season ended. His 59 wins would be the most in franchise history until Jeff Fisher passed him in 2001 (by then, the team had become the Tennessee Titans). Soon afterward, he was hired by New Orleans Saints owner John Mecom Jr. as head coach and general manager of the Saints, serving from 1981 through the first 12 games of the 1985 season. As in his coaching tenure with the Oilers, Phillips took off his trademark Stetson inside the Louisiana Superdome. In 1983, his Saints went into the final week needing one more win to secure the first winning season and playoff berth in franchise history. The Rams beat the Saints for the final playoff spot in week 16, 26–24 on Mike Lansford's 42-yard field goal with 00:02 to play.

Phillips offered to resign prior to the 1985 season after Tom Benson purchased the Saints for $70 million from Mecom, but Benson asked him to stay on to help his transition into NFL ownership.

Phillips resigned as Saints coach on November 25, 1985, one day after a 30–23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, 12 games into the season. His son, Wade, would take over the coaching reins on an interim basis for the remaining four games of the 1985 season. The Saints defeated the Rams 29–3 in Wade Phillips' first game at the helm, but finished with losses to the Cardinals, 49ers and Falcons.

Later life and family

Phillips later worked as a football color analyst for television and Oilers radio broadcasts. He subsequently retired to his horse ranch in Goliad, Texas.

His son, Wade Phillips, has also held assistant and head coaching jobs in the NFL and was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from February 2007 to November 2010. Wade was hired by the Houston Texans on January 5, 2011, as their new defensive coordinator almost exactly 30 years after his father was terminated by Oilers owner Bud Adams on December 28, 1980, after the Oilers failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. Wade won a Super Bowl title at Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos as defensive coordinator, and was the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams who advanced to Super Bowl LIII and later parted ways with the Rams following the 2019 season.

His grandson Wes is also an NFL assistant coach.

In 2010, he published his memoirs, Bum Phillips: Coach, Cowboy, Christian.


Phillips died at his ranch in Goliad, Texas, on October 18, 2013, at the age of 90. [3] He was survived by his second wife, Debbie, and six children from his first marriage along with almost two dozen grandchildren. [4]

In honor of Bum Phillips coaching both Nederland and Port Neches-Groves High Schools, the rivalry game between his two favorite schools [5] will now be named the Bum Phillips Bowl.


Phillips was known for his trademark Stetson cowboy hat on the sidelines, except when the Oilers played in the Astrodome or other domed stadiums. He stated that his mother taught him not to wear a hat indoors; his former boss Paul Bryant similarly refused to wear his trademark houndstooth hat during indoor games. [6] Phillips wore his cowboy hat with blue jeans and a button down shirt, in contrast to Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry who wore a suit and tie with his trademark fedora. [7] [8]

Besides his trademark cowboy hat, Phillips is also known for his colorful quotes, such that Sports Illustrated noted that Wikipedia had a whole section of his page dedicated to these quips. In the week leading up to Super Bowl LIII, his son Wade was quoted as saying “Unfortunately, I get older but Tom Brady doesn’t,” while sporting the elder Phillip's sheepskin coat and cowboy hat as the Los Angeles Rams arrived in Atlanta. [9]

Head coaching record


Texas Western Miners (NCAA University Division independent)(1962)
1962 Texas Western 4–5
Texas Western:4–5


TeamYearRegular seasonPost-season
WonLostTiesWin %FinishWonLostWin %Result
HOU 1975 1040.7143rd in AFC Central----
HOU 1976 590.3574th in AFC Central----
HOU 1977 860.5712nd in AFC Central----
HOU 1978 1060.5712nd in AFC Central21.667Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Championship Game.
HOU 1979 1150.6882nd in AFC Central21.667Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Championship Game.
HOU 1980 1150.6882nd in AFC Central01.000Lost to Oakland Raiders in AFC Wild-Card Game.
HOU Total55350.61143.571
NO 1981 4120.2504th in NFC West----
NO 1982 450.4449th in NFC----
NO 1983 880.5003rd in NFC West----
NO 1984 790.4383rd in NFC West----
NO 1985 480.333Resigned---
NO Total27420.39100.000
Total [23] 82770.51643.571

See also

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  1. "Part 1: In new book, Bum Phillips discusses trip to war".
  2. Barron, David (October 18, 2013). "Houston icon Bum Phillips dies". Houston Chronicle . Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  3. Rieken, Kristie (October 19, 2013). "Bum Phillips, colorful NFL coach, dies at 90". Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286. Archived from the original on December 21, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  4. "Bum Phillips dies at 90; folksy Texas football icon coached NFL's Oilers and Saints". Los Angeles Times. October 19, 2013. Archived from the original on December 21, 2020. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  5. "Bum Phillips trophy adds new element to Mid-County Madness". Archived from the original on December 27, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  6. Fowler, Ed (1997). Loser Takes All: Bud Adams, Bad Football, & Big Business. Longstreet Press. pp. 48–49. ISBN   1-56352-432-5.
  7. "Cowboys Flashback: Bum vs Tom – Texas Icons Last Battle". November 6, 2013.
  8. "Bum Phillips Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images".
  9. "Wade Phillips wears dad Bum's coat to Super Bowl".
  10. Fowler, Ed (1997). Loser Takes All: Bud Adams, Bad Football, & Big Business. Longstreet Press. p. 57. ISBN   1-56352-432-5.
  11. Fowler, Ed (1997). Loser Takes All: Bud Adams, Bad Football, & Big Business. Longstreet Press. p. 45. ISBN   1-56352-432-5.
  12. Young, Matt. "How Houston Oilers legend Bum Phillips really got his name". Houston Chronicle .
  13. "Toward Super Bowl: Oilers' Trek Just Beginning". The Victoria Advocate . Victoria, Texas. Associated Press. December 12, 1979. p. 5B. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  14. Cook, Ron (March 26, 1999). "Bum Phillips among carvers at Noll's roast". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette . Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  15. Anderson, Dave (November 1, 1992). "At Age 62, Don Shula Is Still Going Strong". The New York Times . Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  16. Harvey, Randy, Legendary coach Phillips didn't let football define a full life, Houston Chronicle (October 19, 2013). Retrieved on October 23, 2013.
  17. Wesseling, Chris (June 10, 2013). "Houston Oilers legend Bum Phillips' life as an opera?". Around the League. NFL . Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  18. Excerpt from Bum Phillips's speech at the Astrodome on January 7, 1980 on YouTube. Retrieved on October 21, 2013.
  19. Barron, David, Houston icon Bum Phillips dies, Houston Chronicle (October 18, 2013). Retrieved on October 22, 2013.
  20. Goldstein, Richard, Bum Phillips, Homespun Coach Behind Oilers' Rise, Dies at 90, The New York Times (October 19, 2013). Retrieved on October 22, 2013.
  21. Reitmann, Tom (March 24, 1994). "K.U. is wary of Purdue". Indianapolis Star . p. E1. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
  22. Katzowitz, Josh, Former Oilers, Saints coach Bum Phillips dies at 90 (October 18, 2013). Retrieved on October 22, 2013.
  23. Bum Phillips Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks - Pro-Football-Reference.com