Saturday, October 19, 2013

We'll always have Faith and Hope

If not always, Bum.

HOUSTON - Bum Phillips, the folksy Texas football icon who coached the Houston Oilers during their Luv Ya Blue heyday and also led the New Orleans Saints, died Friday. He was 90.

"Bum is gone to Heaven," son Wade Phillips tweeted Friday night. "Loved and will be missed by all — great Dad, Coach, and Christian."

Phillips died at his ranch in Goliad. Wade Phillips is the Houston Texans' defensive coordinator.

Born Oail Andrew Phillips Jr. in 1923 in Orange, Phillips was a Texas original in his blue jeans, boots and trademark white Stetson — expect at the Astrodome or any other dome stadium because he was taught it was disrespectful to wear a hat indoors.

Phillips loved the Oilers and when coaching the team in the 1970s, he famously said of the Cowboys: "They may be 'America's Team,' but we're Texas' team."

He took over as coach of the Oilers in 1975 and led Houston to two AFC Championship games before he was fired in 1980. He was responsible for drafting Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell, the player who was largely credited with the success of the franchise.
Bum went on to become (perhaps even to this day, although Payton is probably on par now) the most beloved coach in Saints history as well.

He never guided the Saints to a winning record going 27-42 in New Orleans, but Phillips did help put together one of the best draft classes in Saints history in 1981 by selecting players like Rickey Jackson, George Rogers, Frank Warren, Hoby Brenner, Jim Wilks and Hokie Gajan.

Phillips did lead the Saints to their first non-losing season in franchise history as New Orleans narrowly missed in the postseason in 1983 with an 8-8 mark. But players always noticed his down-to-earth Texas charm.

"I remember getting a call from Bum Phillips after I was drafted (1982) and he asked me if I liked Budweiser and country music," former Saints kicker Morten Andersen said in a 2009 interview. "Those were the first words out of his mouth. So, lying through my teeth, I said, 'Yes sir, ' because everybody knows I like Abba and Merlot."
The core of the team Bum put together, along with one more great draft class largely put together by his scouting department, went on to enjoy the success that barely eluded the '83 team... only with a far less pleasant person as head coach.  But that's how it goes sometimes. As Bum once said, "I always thought I could coach. I just thought people were poor judges of good coaches."

Some of us Saints fans of a certain age were trading Bum quotes on Twitter earlier.

This one also caught my eye. 
Phillips picked up the nickname Bum as a child when his younger sister couldn't pronounce brother correctly and it sounded like bum. He embraced the nickname and was quoted as saying: "I don't mind being called Bum, just as long as you don't put a you in front of it."
Here's some more nostalgia. This first video is an NFL Films feature put together sometime in the early 2000s.  It's 47 minutes long but well worth the time if you have it.

Here is a 1984 NFL Yearbook video where Saints players express their appreciation for Bum's laid back style.

This is that awful Mike Lansford kick that killed the Saints' shot at a playoff berth in 1983.  Even though I know now that the Saints would eventually go on to win football almost 30 years later, this still hurts a bit to watch.

These are more fun. They're an episode of The Bum Phillips Show hosted by a young Jim Henderson in 1984.  Look for the vintage local commercials as well as the, "Hey, Bum" segment toward the end.

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