Bum Phillips was one of those people who transcended his job and came to symbolize and characterize a time and a place.
“Luv Ya Blue” in Houston with the Oilers was, in many ways, loving Phillips -- his drawl, his style, his hat and the team he coached.
Now the city mourns his passing.
His son, Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips tweeted: “Bum is gone to Heaven-loved and will be missed by all -great Dad,Coach, and Christian.”
As famous sports quotations go, I rank his comment on Don Shula as one of the all-time greats: "He can take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n."
The Oilers lost consecutive AFC Championship games to Pittsburgh to close out the 1970s. In 1980, after a first-round playoff loss, Oilers owner Bud Adams fired Phillips in what he later called one of his most regrettable moves.
This is from David Barron’s obituary of Phillips in the Houston Chronicle:
Former KHOU (Channel 11) sports director Gifford Nielsen, who played quarterback for Phillips in the late 1970s, then worked with him on Oilers radio broadcasts in the 1990s, said Phillips built winning teams by knocking down barriers between players.
“He could take a conservative kid out of Utah, put him with a kid who grew up in the projects in Pittsburgh, a guy from Southern California and a guy from the Deep South, and it didn’t matter what color was their skin, how big they were and what their talent level was,” Nielsen said. “He would bring them together as a team.
“The reason people liked Bum so much is because he was real. He always said, ‘Trust me, and we’ll do things my way and great things will happen.’ When we did trust him, we were successful, and it carried over not only to the team but the fans.
“Whenever we went on the road, people wanted to see Bum Phillips, and it was because of the genuine person he is. That is his legacy.”
Update: The Titans sent out this statement today on Phillips' passing:
We are very sad to hear of the passing of Bum Phillips. He meant a great deal to this franchise, the NFL and the city of Houston, and he was instrumental to the Oilers during the ‘Luv Ya Blue’ era. Growing up in Texas and working his way up through the Texas football ranks, he was a natural match for our team. Those were such magical years, and his leadership and personality helped our team rise to the top. He became an iconic figure on our sideline. Our thoughts are with his family, and we know he will be missed.