NEW ORLEANS, LA — The New Orleans Saints mourn the passing of former head coach Bum Phillips at the age of 90 years old at his ranch in Goliad, Texas.
“We are saddened by the passing of Bum Phillips,” said New Orleans Saints Owner/Chairman of the Board Tom Benson. “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."
After spending nearly three decades as a high school and college coach and AFL and NFL assistant, Phillips served as an NFL head coach from 1975-85, first with the Houston Oilers and then with the Saints from 1981-85, for who he also handled general manager duties for the majority of his tenure.
During his tenure, Phillips coached two of the most successful Saints clubs up to that time. In a strike-shortened 1982 season, Phillips guided the club through a campaign which had a two month work stoppage to a 4-5 record, narrowly missing the playoffs through tie-breakers. In 1983, the Saints improved to 8-8, as they narrowly missed the playoffs following a loss in the season finale. Phillips’ squad featured the NFL’s second ranked defense overall and the league’s top-ranked pass defense with linebacker and future Pro Football Hall of Fame member Rickey Jackson being selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time. Phillips resigned late in the 1985 season, with his son, Wade, now the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, taking over his duties for the final four games.
Several of Phillips’ roster moves also helped set the club up for future success. The club’s 1981 NFL Draft was among the best in franchise history. In addition to choosing Heisman Trophy winning running back George Rogers with the first overall pick, the selections of Jackson (second round), defensive end Frank Warren (third round), tight end Hoby Brenner (third round) and defensive tackle Jim Wilks (12th round) would all be cornerstones of the club that would later produce the franchise’s first winning season and playoff berth in 1987. In 1982, kicker Morten Andersen, who would go on to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and a six-time Pro Bowl selection with the Saints was picked in the fourth round. In 1985 Phillips would pick wide receiver Eric Martin in the seventh round of the draft, who would go on to be one of the franchise’s most productive wideouts.