Maybe call it cruel irony. Perhaps just coincidence. On Monday, Oct 21, Tennessee Titans (formerly the Houston Oilers) owner Bud Adams passed away at the age of 90. Incredibly, just three days earlier, O.A. "Bum" Phillips, the most iconic Head coach in Houston Oilers' history, had passed away - Also at the age of 90.
This is the kind of thing which normally only happens in the movies.
Everyone old enough to remember the old Houston Oilers of the 1970's, remembers Bum Phillips strolling the sidelines in that big Texas cowboy hat. Also, the images of strong-armed Oilers QB Dan Pastorini, RB Earl Campbell, and heartbreaking AFC Championship game losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Though they never made it to the Super Bowl, the Oilers provided some great moments, and did much to flavor the decade of the 1970's.
Houston Oilers' role in the advent of Instant replay:
The 1979 AFC Championship game, Dan Pastorini hits WR Mike Renfro for an apparent TD against the Steelers. Renfro toe-tapped, but was ruled out of bounds. It was hotly contested/debated. That play planted the seed which grew the embryo of what has now become Instant replay in the NFL.
RB Earl Campbell may have been the best pure power runner the league has ever seen. He only lasted 7 seasons, but what a magnificent 7 they were. We've all seen his signature run through the Los angeles Rams' defense, highlighted by his burying a shoulder pad into the chest of LB Isaiah Robertson, flattening the All-Pro, and rumbling toward the goal line.
Of Campbell, Bum Phillips said, "I don't know if he's in a class by himself, but I do know that when that class gets together, it sure don't take long to call the role."
Bud Adams not only founded the Oilers in 1960, but was also a co-founder of the AFL. Adams was known for marching to his own beat. He made some brash business decisions, but ultimately he wanted a Super Bowl title. That is why he abruptly fired Phillips after a playoff loss to the Oakland Raiders in 1980, and then tore apart a very successful team after a playoff loss in 1993. His team finished 12-4 in 1993, and in 1994 fell to 4-12. Despite those harsh moves, his Super Bowl dream went unfulfilled.
Despite the popularity of the Oilers in the 1970's, and their resurrection in the 1990's after a mediocre 1980's, Bud ultimately alienated the Oilers' fans. When Adams made it clear the Oilers intended to leave Houston, the city tried to organize a "Save the Oilers" rally in downtown Houston. All of 64 people showed up.
His greatest high, had to be the "Music City miracle" and the Titans' subsequent trip to the Super Bowl in 1999. The low point came in 1992; watching his then Houston Oilers blow a 32 point halftime lead to the Buffalo Bills. It was not Jim Kelly, but Frank Reich at QB for Buffalo. Still the biggest comeback in NFL playoff history. It is possible Adams never got over that loss.
Bum Phillips coached the Oilers from 1975-1980, and was known for his matter of fact type quotes, such as "There's two kinds of coaches, them that's fired, and them that's gonna be fired." Then there's, "The harder we played, the behinder we got."
Great stuff from a great coach.
Bum Phillips (Sep 29, 1923 to 10-18-2013), and Bud Adams (1-3-1923 to 10-21-2013) are both gone within a few days of one another.
They were born the same year, and died the same year. Perhaps Football Heaven wanted them as a pair.
Despite past differences, the two were perhaps kindred spirits.
The memories will remain. It is impossible not to feel a bit nostalgic when thinking about them in those Houston Oilers glory days.
Adams lived just long enough to release a statement regarding the death of Phillips.
Perhaps fitting too, is that DL Curley Culp (1975 defensive player of the year for Houston Oilers), finally made it to the Pro Football Hall of fame this year - both Adams and Phillips lived to see it.