The Luv Ya Blue era was fading out. Bum Phillips was gone and his defensive coordinator, Ed Biles, took over as the head coach of the Houston Oilers.
“A lot of people blame me for Bum getting fired and that’s not true at all. Me and Bum have been great friends all our lives,” Biles said.
Biles has lived in the Quail Valley section of Missouri City for the last 45 years. He recently moved into The Huntington at Missouri City, a retirement community. There, in an apartment filled with enough memorabilia to fill a wing of museum, he reflected on his coaching career and his years of civic service that followed.
“It was a tough situation when I stepped into that job because of the entire mess that was going on,” he said of his promotion to head coach. “Bum pretty well knew he was going to get it out of here because he sacrificed the future. He gave two firsts and two seconds for Dave Casper, who was finished. … There was nothing there when I took over. The first draft, I didn’t have a draft choice until the third round. I did what was right. I drafted (Mike) Munchek and (Bruce) Matthews to rebuild my offensive line.”
Biles coached the Oilers from 1980 until his resignation half way through the 1983 season. His 8-23 record (the 1982 season was strike shortened) isn’t one of the highlights of the Oilers time in Houston, but it set the cornerstone for great things to come.
“I’m responsible for bringing Warren Moon here to the Houston Oilers,” he said.
He never coached Moon, but he did recruit him to the Bayou City.
“I was head coach of the Oilers and I desperately needed a quarterback. I had Kenny Stabler who was finished. He was old; couldn’t lift his arm higher than this,” Biles said, holding his arm at shoulder level. “And the backup was Gifford Nielsen, who was a great person, a wonderful person, but you’re not going to win an NFL championship game with him.
“So Leigh Steinberg, who was an agent, called me and said Ed, there’s a great quarterback, Warren Moon, who’s playing in the Canadian League and he wants to get out. To make a long story short, I met with him at the Olive Garden in San Francisco. I went out there for the East-West game, and talked to him. He said, ‘Coach, I’m very interested but my wife doesn’t think too much about Houston. There have been reports about Houston. …’”
Undaunted, Biles flew Moon and his wife to Houston on his own dime and put them up at a hotel near the Galleria.
“My wife wined them and dined them just like a recruiting a college kid basically,” he said.
That did the trick.
“As it turned out, he had a 10-year contract in the Canadian League. Edmonton agreed that if he came back and played one more year they’d let him out of the other nine years of the contract. That’s what happened,” Biles said.
Biles is a native of Reading, Ohio, where he earned 12 athletic letters at Reading High School. He went on to play football at Miami (Ohio) University but suffered a career-ending injury. In 1953 he became an assistant coach for Woodward High School in Cincinnati and the next year was named head coach. He was then named the freshman football coach at Xavier University. Six years later he was promoted to head coach. He coached Xavier from 1962-68, compiling a 39-28-3 record.
It was there that he had one of his greatest moments in coaching. He broke the color barrier for major college quarterbacks by recruiting Carroll Williams.
“I get a call from a Xavier graduate in Miami, Florida, he says, ‘Ed, there’s a quarterback down here that’s a great quarterback but nobody is going to give a scholarship to him because he’s black.’ I said I don’t care if he’s purple, green, red, but can he play? To make a long story short, he could play. I provided a scholarship; broke the racial barrier,” Biles said.
It was 1962 and Williams was just out of high school working at a Burger King when he got the call.
“I was wondering what the heck I was going to do with my life,” Williams said, adding that having put most of his effort into being a quarterback, he was short on options.
“The next thing I know I was headed to Cincinnati,” he said.
“We were undefeated and we go down to play Chattanooga, (Tenn.),” Biles said. “Deep South, worst place you can be. The pre-game meal is over and I’m in my room and get a knock at the door. Fella says, ‘coach, we’ve got a problem.’ What do you mean we’ve got a problem? Everybody’s ready to go. He says, ‘look out the window.’ Ku Klux Klan.
“The Ku Klux Klan marched against us. I thought there was 5,000 but there was probably 400-500 of them. I had to walk out of the hotel holding Carroll Williams by the arm to go to the buses. They’re calling me names … Scared to death – both of us. They might shoot us. It was a very scary situation,” he said.
Williams recalled being 19 at the time and a junior in college.
“All of a sudden Coach Biles bangs on my door and tells me to look out the window,” he said.
He said they locked arms and walked from the hotel to the bus with “all of those people calling us wonderful names.”
“Those people were all around us,” Williams said.
Williams played the game but Xavier lost on a blatantly bad call on a field goal at the end of the game.
“We were 8-2 that year. We should have been 9-1. That cost us a bowl game,” Williams said.
After all these years Williams stays in contact with Biles and retains the highest level of respect for him.
“He taught me the importance of focusing, moral ethics, determination, and never freaking giving up,” he said.
In 1969 Biles left Xavier to become an assistant coach for the New Orleans Saints. After two years he joined the New York Jets, first as a scout and then the defensive backs coach.
Hanging prominently on a wall in Biles’ apartment is a giant black and white photo of him with Jets quarterback Joe Namath.
“We go into Cincinnati to play the Bengals, and I didn’t know it, they took the picture on the sideline. The headline in the paper the next day wasn’t Joe Namath. It said Ed Biles and friend. They sent a copy of it to me and I showed it to Joe and said you’re the big man around the country but when you come to my town, I’m the man!”
In 1973 Biles moved to Missouri City and became the Oilers defensive coordinator under Bum Phillips. He held that position until he replaced Phillips in 1980.
“The Luv Ya Blue days was an amazing situation,” he said. “The people reacted … Bum Phillips was the perfect guy for this area. … Bum with the cowboy hat. Everything was just perfect timing for Bum to be the head coach of the Houston Oilers when he stepped in.”
Biles said Phillips brought in many great players, especially Earl Campbell, but they were only good enough to reach the AFC Championship game in 1978 and 1979.
“The football team was good. We got to the playoffs but we couldn’t beat, we wasn’t good enough to beat Pittsburgh in the championship game and go to the Super Bowl. The reason is simple enough. They’ve got about 12 guys in the hall of fame and we’ve got three or four.”
After coaching, Biles began a broadcasting career with a startup network called ESPN.
He won ESPN’s Rookie of the Year award. A commentary at the time noted, “ESPN Rookie of the Year Ed Biles has been a better analyst than he was a Houston Oilers coach.”
Not only has Biles had the privilege of seeing three former Oilers players go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he has also been enshrined in three other halls of fame: Reading High School, Hamilton County (Ohio) Hall of Fame, and at Xavier University.
Although Biles’ NFL career was over, he wasn’t finished coaching. In 2005 he became the head coach of the Cincinnati Marshalls of the National Indoor Football League. He said it was fun but the organization wasn’t very stable, so he left.
Now his only connection to football is as a color commentator on radio doing high school games on Friday nights. He can be heard on the CMC Radio app. For Biles, it’s just another way he can give back to the community. He served on the Missouri City Parks Board from 1987 to 1995 and also served on the Thunderbird Utility District for many years.
“Coach Ed Biles has served the city in many different ways,” Mayor Allen Owen said. “He served on the city parks board for 10 years and was very active during those early years when many of our parks were just being built. He also served on the Economic Development Committee and the Quail Valley Golf Course Acquisition Committee.
“Coach Biles currently serves on my Mayor’s Advisory Committee and is very helpful with ideas to help our senior citizens. Coach Biles is one of the few if not the only former Houston Oilers coach that has continued to call Missouri City his home. He is very active and continues to support the city in many ways. He loves his golf game and spending time telling tales to his friends at the Quail Valley Golf Course. He is truly a legend in his own way,” Owen said.
Biles does a lot of charity work, especially through golf tournaments. Even though a lot of time has passed since his days in the spotlight, he still gets recognized.
“What’s amazing is the number of people who recognize me and talk to me and what not,” he said.
He said it’s important for him to stay active and involved with the community.
“I think that is true of all older people. The more active you stay, the more you talk, the more you use your mind I think it helps you age a lot better. Nobody takes me for 87 years old. They all think I’m in my 60s,” he said. “The fact is I stay active, laugh, have fun, cut up, and kid, I think that’s one of the keys. The people here who sit there and watch TV, they go downhill. The people that are active … they stay a lot younger.”