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Texas legend Bum Phillips dies

Texas lost a football icon Friday when legendary Houston Oilers head coach Bum Phillips passed away at his ranch In Goliad. He was 90.
Texas legend Bum Phillips dies
Photo Credit: Associated Press/

Phillips coached the Oilers from 1975-1980, leading the team to two AFC Championship games. He was responsible for drafting University of Texas running back Earl Campbell, who helped lead the team to prominence during the late 1970s.

The Oilers were more popular than ever when Phillips was there. In Campbell’s first two seasons, the team played Pittsburgh for the conference championship, only to lose both times.

The next year, he led the Oilers to an 11-5 record, but the team lost in the first round of the playoffs and he was fired.

His legacy was cemented, however. The image of the coach in his blue jeans and Stetson hat became legendary and he turned the Oilers into a respectable team in the NFL.

Fans were amused by his personality and his straight-forward comments.

"Football is a game of failure," Phillips was once quoted as saying. "You fail all the time, but you aren't a failure until you start blaming someone else."

After his time at Houston, he coached the New Orleans Saints from 1981 and 1985, never finishing with a winning record.

The Saints released a statement after learning of Phillips’ passing, saying that they were saddened by his loss.

"We are saddened by the passing of Bum Phillips," Saints owner Tom Benson said in a statement released by the team. "I had the opportunity to work with him when I first purchased the team in 1985 and also enjoyed our friendship following his coaching career. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Debbie, Wade and the rest of his family."

His son, Wade, is the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans.

Phillips played football at Lamar Junior College before joining the Marines during World War II. After the war he went to Stephen F. Austin where he played two more football seasons before graduating with a degree in education in 1949.

He spent about two decades coaching in high schools and colleges mostly in Texas - he assisted the likes of Bear Bryant at Texas A&M, Bill Yeoman at Houston, and Hayden Fry at SMU - before making the jump to the AFL in 1967 as an assistant under Sid Gillman with the San Diego Chargers.

He was an assistant under Gillman with the Oilers before becoming the team’s head coach.


Phillips did some work as an analyst on television and radio football broadcasts for a bit before retiring to his ranch in Goliad. He experienced some health problems in recent years and underwent a triple bypass in 2005.

He always remained close to football and his son Wade. When Wade was the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Bum found himself in a dilemma. His son coached for one team in Texas while his heart has always been with the other – the one that he played a big hand in building.

Friday night, Wade tweeted: "Bum is gone to Heaven." One can only speculate that he showed up in his blue jeans and Stetson. Because that is how he will always be remembered. 

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