The 1966 Season, Part 1

“The Cat’s Out of the Bag, Bones is Gone, and Wally’s Back”

By ED WETTERMAN

Ernie Ladd as a Charger against the Boston Patriots

At the end of the 1965 season, after a game between the Oilers and the San Diego Chargers at Rice Stadium, Bud Adams entered the Chargers’ changing room and spoke to their great defensive linemen duo of Ernie Ladd and Earl Faison

The tandem was at the end of their contracts, and Adams told them he would pay them very well if they would play for the Oilers after their options were done. 

This was considered bad form and violated league tampering rules, since they were still under contract with the Chargers, and their options could still be negotiated.

During the AFL All-Star game, Houston announced they had traded for the two linemen. 

Many reporters believed this would change the Oilers’ fortune immediately and turn them into contenders once more.  

Old Oiler nemesis and Chargers Head Coach Sid Gillman was furious. 

Earl Faison as a San Diego Charger

At a press conference, he announced that he was reneging on the trade and turned Adams into the league for tampering.

The AFL Commissioner Joe Foss agreed, nullified the trade, and fined Adams. 

Gillman, who had a long-standing feud with Adams going back to the 1960 season, was thrilled, exclaiming “I’ve done it! I’ve finally done it! I’ve finally screwed the fat Indian.”

This chaos was Don Klosterman’s welcome to the Oiler organization. 

Klosterman was hired to take over as the Oilers’ general manager after amazing jobs of building winners with the Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs

However, he apparently didn’t like Kansas City much and made a public statement, saying, “Kansas City is not heaven or hell, but more like purgatory.” 

The Chiefs fired him soon afterwards, and Adams, in one of his rare good moves, snatched him up. Finally, the Oilers had a football guy as a general manager.

Houston Head Coach Wally Lemm in his second stint as the Oilers’ head coach

One of the last things Carroll Martin did as general manager before Klostermann replaced him was to contact ex-Oiler Head Coach Wally Lemm when Lemm left the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals

Martin was then promoted to vice president and director of operations for the Oilers organization, Klostermann was hired, and 16 days later on January 29, 1966, Lemm was named the Oilers’ head coach a second time.  

In 1961, Lemm, who was serving as an assistant under original Oiler Head Coach Lou Rymkus, was promoted to head coach after Houston’s disastrous 1-3-1 start after claiming the first AFL championship in 1960.

Lemm promptly guided the Oilers to 10 straight victories and a second consecutive AFL title.

The second hiring of Lemm was a coup for the Oilers, as the Cardinals wanted to re-sign him as coach, and the Buffalo Bills had offered him a position, as did Foss to take over the AFL’s expansion Miami Dolphins franchise.

Lemm filled a vacancy created after Hugh “Bones” Taylor had allegedly called Oiler quarterback George Blanda a “bad influence” and said he would not continue with the Oilers if “evil George was still around.” 

Adams and Lemm celebrate the Oilers’ 1961 AFL title

During the 1965 campaign, Taylor and Blanda had numerous tiffs that turned very public and very ugly.

Taylor was let go, as was Slingin’ Sammy Baugh, his long-time friend and part time assistant coach. 

Taylor became an assistant coach with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baugh became an assistant coach with the Detroit Lions.

Adams and the Houston faithful hoped that this new breeze that blew out the dysfunction that centered on Taylor and Baugh would help chart a much more competitive course for the franchise.

Little did they know that things would go in the opposite direction for a second straight season.

Ed Wetterman is a native Houstonian and lifelong Oiler fan/historian. He is a teacher, genealogist, game creator, and writer who lived and died on Sundays with the Oilers. Ed has created many games such as “East Texas University: Degrees of Horror” and written short stories such as “HellFighter,” published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Football has always been one of his greatest passions. He experienced the highs and the lows of being an Oiler fan, and like many others, he was crushed when the Oilers left Houston. Writing for Miss Ya Blue! gives him an outlet for his Columbia Blue love.

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