Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips may be new to LA, but he's hardly new to football. Phillips is recognized as one of the greatest coaching minds in football history, achieving numerous accolades (including a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago with the Denver Broncos) over a career that spans decades. Phillips has also *collected a myriad of stories along the way and he shares them in his new book "Son of Bum: Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Football and Life" while paying tribute to his late father, Bum Phillips -- another legendary figure in NFL history. The following is an excerpt from the book that includes a window into how Bum impacted Wade's life and coaching style early on. *
Bum Phillips was my hero. Pretty much everything I know about life, football, and coaching, I learned from him.
My dad shaped me as a man, as a husband, as a father, and as a football coach. It was a non-stop education that played out first in the field house at Nederland, Texas, High School – where he held his first coaching job and I always came by to visit from when I was seven – all the way through the time we coached together in college and the NFL. And that education continued even after he retired.
Dad's actual name was Oail Andrew Phillips. There are a couple of different stories about how he became known as Bum. I'm going to set the record straight by telling the real one. For one thing, he needed a nickname, because no one could pronounce Oail, which sounds like "Uhl." His daddy was Oail, Sr., but everybody called him "Flop."
The version Dad liked to tell about the origin of Bum was that when his sister, Edrina, was three, she stammered and when she tried to say, "brother," it came out, "b-b- b-bum." The real story – and I know this because it came from his mother – was that when he was a little kid, he got into a nest of bumble bees. It was a scary experience that stayed with him.
In the country, they don't say, "bumble bees." They say, "bummel bees." After that, his mom and dad always would say, "Bummel! Bummel! Bummel!" to try to scare him. Eventually, his mother started calling him, "Bummel." But Aunt JoAnnette couldn't say it when she was a little kid. She could only say, "Bum."
Even though the other explanation makes no sense, I think Dad liked telling the story that way because he didn't want to go through the trouble of telling the longer version every time. He also liked to say that one of the best things he ever did for me was not naming me Oail III.
Daddy was a genuine cowboy. He wore a ten10-gallon hat and cowboy boots; my mother claimed the only time she ever saw him wear dress shoes was on their wedding day. He rode horses and chewed tobacco. His granddaddy was a rancher, and that was the life Daddy knew – ranching and football.
He wasn't getting paid a lot when he first started coaching at the high school level, so he would compete in rodeos on the weekend. He was a bulldogger. That's where you jump off the horse, grab a steer by the horns, turn his neck, and take him to the ground. Whoever did it in the fastest time would win.
In 1947, when I was fixing to be born, Dad was working on the Edgar Brown Ranch in Orange, Texas. The ranch belonged to one of the two richest families in town. The other was the Starks. The Browns and the Starks both had ranches, and they basically owned Orange at that time.
Daddy would always look for ways to earn some extra income working on the ranch. People would pasture their horses there, and there was one time when a world-champion quarter horse happened to be on the ranch. In fact, he had just set the world's record in the quarter mile.
Back then, there weren't horse-racing tracks everywhere, so people would stage weekend match races where you could bet on your own horse. Dad and one of the other ranch hands decided they would take the champion quarter horse to a match race in Louisiana, just over the Texas border. Dad was going to bet all the money he had on him, which wasn't a lot.
The people running those match races wouldn't hesitate to pull a gun on you and shoot you if they thought you were cheating them. Fearing that someone might recognize the horse's markings, my dad and his friend used brown shoe polish to cover a big white spot on the front of his head. They also told the guy who would be riding him to pull back as much as possible. They didn't want to win by such a wide margin and
The horse won and as soon as he crossed the finish line, Daddy and the other guy ran over and threw blankets on him. They wanted to get him out of there as soon as they could, especially when they noticed that the horse's sweat was making the shoe polish come off. They ran him into the trailer, collected their winnings, and took off.
My dad's share was about $150 … just enough to pay the hospital bill when I was born. Nice to know I at least had a sure thing bringing me into the world.
Of the many qualities I admired about my dad, the biggest one I admired most was his great common sense. He always seemed to point something out or make a suggestion that would cause everyone around him to say, "Why didn't I think of that?" His real gift was knowing what things to do and when to do them. I like to think I emulate that.
A lot of people think coaching is hollering or screaming at somebody. My dad always said – and I've always said this, too – "Coaching isn't bitching. There's no use bitching about something that's already happened." That's the way a lot of coaches coach. They bitch at guys after the mistake happens, calling them names or whatever, instead of teaching them how to do it right in the first place. The object is to get them to be better players. When you spend more time harping on what they do wrong than showing them how to do it right, you aren't coaching. You're just bitching.
My dad was unlike a lot of coaches in another way: he had no problem with being friends with his players. He believed you shouldn't be afraid to get close to somebody. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, either. Dad was approachable to all his players, and I think that's a big reason why they played hard for him. When players know that you're pulling for them and trying to get them to do their best, that's usually a pretty good combination. I know I'd rather play for somebody I like than somebody I don't like. Common sense, right?
Daddy never believed in using fear as motivation, and he was right about that. These are grown men, and more than a few have seen some of the worst things that life can dish out long before they ever get to the NFL. They're not scared of you. They're not scared of anyone. It's part of the mindset that goes with being a football player. There was a time when coaches could get away with threatening players by saying they would cut them. If you do that now, that player's going to say, "Go ahead and cut me. I'll just play somewhere else."
Using threats and kicking guys in the butt? I just don't think you get the most out of your team that way.
On the flip side of the coin, coaching is about being honest, too. If players make a mistake or they need to hustle more or they need to do things a certain way, you've got to be honest with them about that. You can't just say, "Hey, I want to be your friend and I'm only going to tell you what you want to hear." But there's a difference between that and constantly bitching at them.
Dad warned me early on that there would be a backlash for taking more of a player-friendly approach. "People will say you're too soft because you get along with the players," he said. "But that doesn't matter as long as they respect what you say and do what you say. After that, you just let them do the things that they can do well. You get a good player and a good team that way."
Nice guys can finish first. That's what Daddy always believed. That's what I've always believed. You're not trying to get all the players to like you, because that's not going to happen. But as long as they know you respect them, they seem to reciprocate.
He just had a great feel for how to connect with his players and get the most out of them without trying to jam things down their throat. Daddy never talked about winning and losing. He just talked about playing your best doing your best, working to be the best – all those things. You never heard him say things like, "Now, we're gonna go out and kick their asses!" Or, "We're better than them!" Or, "If we do this, we're gonna win!"
He just talked about being the best you can be in every way possible – being the best team, being a family, being a great teammate.
You can purchase "Son of Bum: Lessons My Dad Taught Me About Football and Life" by clicking here.