O.A. Bum Phillips – New Orleans Saints Head Coach
After the disaster of the 1980 season Saints owner John Mecom Jr once again went looking for a head coach. Bum Phillips had recently been let go from the Oilers and seemed the likely choice. Phillips had previously been head coach at Houston and had gotten the Oilers to the AFC Championship game twice but failed to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers on both occasions.
To this day he remains one of the the most popular coaches in Saints History. Well known for his down-home Texas attitude and his Stetson hat (which he refused to wear inside indoor stadiums because that’s how his momma raised him) he was a favorite among players and fans alike.
Sports columnist Bill Rainey of the Times Picayune said of Phillips in a 1981 write-up:
“The eighth head coach of the New Orleans Saints comes closer than any of the others to being what folks in these parts like to call ‘our kind of people.’ He’s as down to earth as a Dick Nolan, but a whole hell of a lot more talkative. He’s as talkative as Hank Stram, but a hell of a lot more down to earth.”
While his 27-42 record doesn’t seem very impressive now, in 1985 when retired he was actually the winningest Saints coach at the time. Another accomplishment often overlooked by modern Saints fans is the fact that he arguably laid the groundwork for Jim Mora’s success in the late 80s and early 90s. It was Bum Phillips that brought in the likes of Bobby Hebert, Eric Martin, Mel Gray, Stan Brock and Hoby Brenner. He is also the coach that laid the ground work for the legendary Dome Patrol by drafting Hall of Famer Rickey Jackson and getting Vaughan Johnson as well. And Saints fans will never forget the 1983 season. The Saints finished with an 8-8 record (for only the second time in the team’s history) and missing the playoffs literally by 1 play. Mike Lansford would kick a last second field goal in closing moments of the 1983 season to beat the Saints and end their first-ever real playoff hopes.
In 1985, after a upset of the Vikings in week 12, Phillips resigned saying “Football just wasn’t fun anymore”. That came from a man who stressed that half of football was suppose to be fun.
Bum Phillips passed away in October of 2013 at his ranch in Goliad Texas at the age of 90