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Strange but true: Bum Phillips fired after winning 11 games with Oilers in 1980

Phillips wasn't the only one caught off-guard when the Oilers fired him. Fans and team employees didn't understand, either.

HOUSTON — Did Bum get a bum deal in Houston? You be the judge.

It was Dec. 31, 1980. Three days after the Houston Oilers had lost to the Raiders 27-7 in the AFC Wild Card game.

It was the day the Oilers made a stunning announcement: Bum Phillips had been fired as coach and general manager. Owner Bud Adams made the call.

“I'm sure that Bum was surprised. I don't think he was expecting it,” the team’s new general manager Ladd Herzeg said.

He wasn't. Not at all.

He said as much when he spoke to KHOU 11 News' Dan Patrick at the time.

"Did you have any inkling what was going to happen?” Patrick asked.

“No, no. I thought I was going in to renegotiate a contract,” Phillips said.

Team employees and fans were surprised, too.

The Oilers were 11-5 that season. No NFL coach had ever been fired after winning that many games in a season.

In fact, there has only been one coach since then to match. Marty Schottenheimer was fired in 2007 after going 14-2 with the Chargers because he didn't get along with the team's general manager.

But, why was Phillips fired?

The 1980 Oilers, at times, had trouble scoring and Phillips refused to hire an offensive coordinator.

"I didn't feel like we needed it," he said.

In the end, Phillips said he was shocked, but not sorry.

“That's his privilege as an owner. And I respect it," Phillips said.

The Luv' ya' Blue era was over.


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