Bum Phillips passed away from natural causes Friday at the age of 90. He was a colorful man who's unorthodox way of coaching and his folksy humor made him a fixture on the sidelines during the seventies and eighties. Sporting a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, a big belt buckle (except when playing in dome stadiums) and corn pone way of speaking to the press and public, Phillips became a part of Americana and pop culture thanks to the Houston Oilers exposure on Monday Night Football. During his head coaching career, Phillips won eighty-six games coaching the Oilers (one AFC Central Division title) and New Orleans Saints.
Phillips was born on September 29, 1923 in Orange, Texas. He joined the United States Marine Corps during World War II and served in the Asia Theater. After the war he returned to college and graduated from Stephen F. Austin with a degree in Education. During that time he also lettered and coached football. During the fifties, Phillips coached high school football in Texas for Nederland and Jacksonville then moved on to college where he was an assistant coach to Paul "Bear" Bryant (Texas A&M) and a defensive coordinator for Bill Yeoman and Hayden Fry (SMU). In 1967 he joined Sid Gilman in San Diego to become his defense coach for the next three years. He left the Chargers after the 1970 season and returned to the NFL in 1974 to become the Houston Oilers' defensive coordinator.
Phillips got promoted to head coach/general manager of the Oilers in 1975. During his tenure in Houston he drafted future Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell with the first overall pick in the 1978 NFL Draft and used his legs to win three straight ten plus win seasons. In 1981 Phillips left Houston to coach the struggling New Orleans Saints. During his tenure with the franchise he used the team's first pick in the 1981 NFL Draft and selected George Rogers, another power running back in the mold of Earl Campbell. The next season he drafted Morten Andersen and Brad Edelman but the team won no more than eight games and retired from his coaching duties during the 1985 season. After leaving pro football, Bum Phillips dabbled as an color analyst for radio and television but eventually retired to his farm.
Bum Phillips was a very colorful individual. He didn't wear a suit and tie on the sidelines, always spoke his mind and made the game of football fun. His laid back style of coaching and overuse of key players may have had its drawbacks in the long run but it got immediate results on the field. Phillips is survived by his second wife Debbie and his six children (one is Wade, his former assistant and head coach). He will be missed.