Oail Andrew (Bum) Phillips of the Houston Oilers let it be known after the 13-7 victory over Denver on Sunday in the American Football Conference wild-card game that he thinks the playoff scheduling is unfair.
The Oilers have to play on Saturday, on the road, at San Diego, permitting only six days to try to heal the injuries to three of his leading offensive players -- running back Earl Campbell, quarterback Dan Pastorini, and wide receiver Ken Burrough.
Phillips wondered why the playoff teams who were off on Sunday were not scheduled to play this Saturday; and why the teams who played on Sunday were not allowed to rest until this Sunday.
As it is, the wild-card Philadelphia Eagles, who eliminated Chicago on Sunday, will play at Tampa Bay on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and the wildcard Oilers will oppose the Chargers at 4 p.m.
On Sunday, Miami, the AFC East winner, travels to Pittsburgh to play THE AFC Central champion Steelers at 12:30 p.m., and Los Angeles, NFC West winner, opposes the NFC East champion Cowboys at Dallas at 4 p.m.
It was revealed yesterday that Phillips was not alibi-ing after the whistle, but had called the National Football League office early last week to register his opposition to the scheduling.
"There is no question that, competitively, the Oilers will be at somewhat a disadvantage," said Don Weiss, executive director of the NFL. "More so in their case, because of their injuries."
Weiss said of Phillips' objection: "It would be something to take into consideration, but it might not be practical to schedule the games the way he suggests.
"We have to have a game at 12:30 p.m. (Washington, D.C., time) and one at 4 p.m., so the maximum number of fans can see the games, or they might overlap. It would not be fair if it came out that four eastern teams had to play in the late games.
"We have to make the playoff games as attractive as possible; one for each television network."
NBC has emerged with what appears to be the best game -- Miami at Pittsburgh on Sunday. Its Saturday game will be less attractive despite the appeal of the entertaining San Diego offense, if Houston does not have Campbell and Pastorini near top form.
CBS has a good attraction on Sunday -- Los Angeles at Dallas, but Philadelphia at Tampa Bay holds out less promise.
Sunday's pro games face no ratings competition from college bowl games.
"It's tough on wild-card teams," Weiss acknowledged, but said the NFL thinking is, "The wild card team has to win its way into the playoffs. In fact, some people think there should be no wild-card teams -- unless their club makes the playoffs.
"One of the privileges of being a division champion is having a bye in the first round, and having the advantage of playing at home. Some division champions are playing on Saturday (San Diego and Tampa Bay)," Weiss noted in answer to Phillips' complaint.
"To Phillips' credit, he made his feelings known prior to Sunday's game. We told all the playoff clubs what the scheduling would be on Tuesday, the morning after the last regular season Monday night game.
"The luck of the draw had Denver (with quarterback Craig Morton ailing from a groin muscle injury) playing on the road at San Diego on a Monday night and then having to play on the road again in its playoff game on Sunday at Houston.
"If the Broncos had won on Sunday they would have had to play on the road again, on Saturday, at Pittsburgh. A wild card team's lot is never an easy one," Weiss concluded.
The Oilers' injuries have resulted in a rare development for oddsmakers.
"Ordinarily, we would have given out the spread on San Diego-Houston five minutes after Denver lost," said odds-maker Bob Martin in Las Vegas. "We have not established a price yet (late Monday afternoon, Washington time), because we just don't know if Pastorini, Campbell or Burrough will play.
"As a rule, injuries are overrated in significance in making odds. But in this case they involve the backbone of the Oilers' offense. If the Houston offense can't move the ball, its defenders will have their tongues hanging out in the second half against that San Diego offense.
"So the Oilers are in trouble, because we think Pastorini won't play. We hear he may have a tear of his abdominal muscle. And Campbell and Burrough will be hampered if they do play.
"If all three are out, San Diego probably will be favored by more than seven points, a lot in a playoff game. If all three were healthy, the Chargers would have still been five-point favorites."
Phillips said yesterday: "I don't know the condition of any of them. We probably won't be able to say for sure until Friday."
Campbell has a strained groin muscle and Burrough an aggravated tailbone (coccyx) injury.He fell on it on Sunday.
Oddsmaker Martin said Pittsburgh is a 9 1/2-point favorite over Miami; Dallas nine over Los Angeles, and Philadelphia four over Tampa Bay.