NFL - NFC SOUTH
2021-2022 TEAM LEADERS
New Orleans Saints
An expansion team in 1967 as part of quid-pro-deal to help ease Congress’s fears regarding the AFL-NFL merger, the Saints entered the league like no one else. They had a 26-year-old oil tycoon as their new owner and a collection of castoffs to fill out their roster, gathered from as many as 400 players who cycled through their first training camp.
The NFL set up its expansion teams to lose, and the Saints were no different. But then they won five of their six preseason games, and in the first regular-season game, they returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Could it be that the Saints were going to storm into the league and be competitive?
Not a chance
The team was a hit with the locals. For their opening game against the Rams, nearly 83,000 fans packed Tulane Stadium – 33,000 of those were new season ticket holders. But the Saints lost that day. And the next week. And all the way through the first seven weeks of the season.
The fans kept coming, and the team did its best to entertain them, with marching bands, hang-gliders, cannons reenacting the Battle of New Orleans, ostrich races, and a weekly atmosphere of Mardi Gras in the fall.
But the losses also kept coming throughout 1967 and for the next 20 years.
Championships by the New Orleans Saints
For quite some time, it looked like the Saints would never win a championship. Or even compete for one. Under the ownership of John Mecom, which lasted from the franchise’s founding in 1967 to when he sold the team in 1985 to Tom Benson, the Saints never finished above .500. And it was 1980 when they hit rock bottom, losing their first 14 games, which led to fans wearing paper bags over their heads and calling the team the ‘Aints.
But Tom Benson was a different kind of owner, and he immediately upgraded the talent finders in the front office by hiring general manager Jim Finks and new head coach Jim Mora.
Within two years, the Saints run of 20 years without a winning season was over, as was their playoff drought. And even though Mora never won a playoff game in New Orleans, he laid the foundation for the successes that followed.
Super Bowl XLIV
With Sean Payton as the head coach and Drew Brees at quarterback, the Saints made it as far as the 2006 NFC Championship Game. But four turnovers and seven penalties against the Bears had the Saints lose a game in which they outgained Chicago by 35 yards.
Three years later, the Saints were back in the NFC Championship Game, and with the number one offense in the NFL, they would not be denied. An overtime win against the Vikings sent them to the Super Bowl, and Drew Brees outdueled the Colts and Peyton Manning to win it, 31-17.
Brees completed 32 of 39 passes for 288 and two touchdowns and set a record for most completions in a Super Bowl. He was named the game’s MVP and instantly became the most popular person in New Orleans.
Key Stats by the New Orleans Saints
The Saints 2009 NFC title is the only time the team has advanced to the Super Bowl.
They have won nine division titles in their history, including seven since realignment moved them to the NFC South. Overall the Saints have made 14 playoff appearances.
The Saints were terrible for their first 20 years, but during that time, kicker Tom Dempsey kicked a record 63-year field goal, breaking the old record by a full seven yards. Dempsey set the record in 1970, and it stood for 43 years when Matt Prater kicked a 64-yard field goal in the mile-high elevation of Denver.
The 1967 draft was the first common draft between the NFL and AFL, and the expansion Saints picked first and last in each of the 17 rounds. Altogether the Saints made 36 picks in that draft, and not a single player they selected made a Pro Bowl.
A total of eight future Hall of Famers were drafted in 1967, and two more signed as undrafted free agents. None of them by the Saints.
Top Players in New Orleans Saints History
The terrible draft in 1967 set the Saints up for early struggles, as their talent simply didn’t match the rest of the league. But over the years, that improved, and a number of great players have come through New Orleans.
Archie Manning may not be as famous as two Super Bowl-winning sons, but as a quarterback with the Saints in the 1970s, he made a pair of Pro Bowls and is in the Saints Ring of Honor.
Morten Andersen kicked for six different teams during his 25-year Hall of Fame career, but the Saints were his first and longest team. Four of his five First-Team All-Pro nods came in New Orleans, and 1,318 of his 2,544 points came in a Saints uniform. He is the second-leading scorer in NFL history.
The Saints have two other players in the Hall of Fame – linebacker Rickey Jackson, a six-time Pro Bowler, and offensive tackle Willie Roaf, a six-time First-Team All-Pro.
There is also the guaranteed future Hall of Fame status of quarterback Drew Brees, who retired after the 2020 season with 80,358 passing yards. He is a two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year and 13-time Pro Bowler.
Top Coaches in New Orleans Saints History
Nine head coaches handled the duties with the Saints from 1967 through 1985, and not one of them did a good job.
However, the dearth of good coaches in New Orleans changed in 1986 when Jim Mora took over. Mora’s 93 wins with the Saints is second-most all-time, he won the franchise’s first-ever division championship, and he was the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 1987 when he led the Saints to their first playoff berth.
The only other Saints coach with a winning record is Sean Payton, the NFL Coach of the Year in 2006 and a Super Bowl champion three years later. All seven of the Saints NFC South division titles have come with Peyton on the sideline.
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