Lou Rymkus, the first head coach of the Houston Oilers who still holds the 39-year-old franchise's best career record, has died. He was 78.
Rymkus' success didn't protect him for long. He was fired five games into the 1961 season, a year after the Oilers debuted with a 10-4 record and won the AFL Championship.
Rymkus was bounced after the Oilers lost three of their first five games in 1961.
Replacement Wally Lemm led the team to its second championship, the last for the Oilers who now play in Tennessee.
"Lou will always be an important part of our history," said Bud Adams, the Oilers' founder who hired and fired Rymkus.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family."
Rymkus died Saturday after a lengthy illness. His funeral is Wednesday in San Felipe, Texas.
The son of a coal miner, Rymkus grew up in Chicago and was a star offensive tackle at Notre Dame. He played one NFL season with Washington before World War II, then played for the Cleveland Browns after serving as a Marine.
He played six seasons for the Browns, playing on both sides of the ball. Coach Paul Brown once called him the "best pass protector I've ever seen." Rymkus went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals and coached for the Packers and Rams.
Rymkus' first Oilers team included players such as George Blanda, Billy Cannon and Charlie Hennigan, who helped win two championships and led Houston to a third AFL title game.
Rymkus returned to the Oilers as offensive line coach in 1965 at the request of Sammy Baugh, who led the team for a year before stepping aside. Baugh and Rymkus served as assistants under Bones Taylor.
Rymkus earned a Super Bowl ring in 1971 when he coached the Baltimore Colts' offensive line to victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
"Football was in his heart and soul right up until he died," his son, Mike Rymkus, said.
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