History of the New Orleans Saints
It's November 1st, 1966, and New Orleans Louisiana was the proud new owner of an NFL football team. With all the hopes in the world of it being a successful one. Unbeknownst to them, it would be more than a decade before the team finished with a winning record. And nearly four and a half decades before their first Super Bowl appearance.
Without a place to call their own, the Saints played at Tulane University Stadium until the completion of the Superdome.
In their 1st game of their inaugural season the Saints returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. They would not score another touchdown for twenty consecutive quarters. Though they would hold at least one record that stands the test of time. On November 8th, 1970, Kicker Tom Dempsy, kicked a 63 yard field goal in regulation. Today this record has been tied by Denver kicker Jason Elam, but never beat.
Construction begins on The Louisina Superdome August 11th, 1971, with hopes that it would be open for the 1972 season. Estimated construction cost - $46 million
In 1971 The New Orleans Saints used their 1st round draft pick to chose Archie Manning.
Construction on the Louisiana Superdome wraps up in August of 1975, with the construction cost ballooning to a jaw dropping $165 million. With a seating capacity of 72,968, it is the largest fixed domed structure in the world covering 13 acres of land including the old Girod Street Cemetary (the remains had been moved in 1957 after the cemetery fell into a state of disrepair). The first game played inside the Superdome is Super Bowl XII featuring the Dallas Cowboys and the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys manhandled the Broncos in a 27 - 10 victory.
Even with their new home in place, they would not finish above .500 until 1979 where they made it to 8 - 8, the teams first non losing season. But they returned to mediocrity the next year with a record of 1 - 15. In 1980 local TV personality Buddy Dilberto wore a Sonic Drive In brown bag (Sonic being the teams sponsor) to a game thus beginning the great tradition of the "AINTS" brown bag.
In 1982 the Saints would trade away Archie Manning. Despite never having a winning season in New Orleans he was well respected by his peers. And even earned a Pro Bowl selection in 1978, and 79. He would later retire with a career record of 35 - 101 - 3, to date he is the worst QB in NFL history with at least 100 starts.
The Saints' mediocrity would continue through the 80's all the way to 1987 when they won 9 straight games. A remarkable feat considering that they had never won nine games in an entire season prior to that. Second year Head Coach Jim Mora was dubbed a football genius and the savior of New Orleans. His leadership led them to their first ever playoff birth. Where they would go on to lose in the 1st round to the Minnesota Vikings.
Jim Mora would leave the team with two games left in the 1996 season. 1997 would bring the arrival of Coach Mike Ditka, with great fanfare. The "New Savior of New Orleans" had arrived. One thing Ditka will forever be remembered for was trading all seven draft picks in order to move up for a 1st overall pick, and in turn Ricky Williams. In Ditka's first year the Saints finished 6 - 10. The next year they posted an identical record. Ditka's third year brought New Orleans to 3 - 11, and brought Coach Ditka heart problems. He retired from football as soon as the season was complete.
The year 2000 would bring Coach Jim Haslett, and with Coach Haslett the Saints would earn their 1st playoff win against the defending Super Bowl Champion St. Lois Rams. In a miracle finish Lead by Quarterback Arron Brooks, and 2nd year Running Back, Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. The Saints were able to withstand a 4th quarter 3 touchdown rally by the defending champs. Their first ever playoff win, 34 years in the making, was heralded the next day with local newspapers claiming "The playoff curse has been lifted"
However their season would end as uncerimoniously as the past ones when they fell to the Vikings the next week.
SIDE NOTE: In the 2000 draft, Coach Haslett opted for Arron Brooks over a higher ranked QB in Jake Delhomme - Delhomme would later lead the Panthers to win Super Bowl XXXVIII.
2006 would bring Coach Sean Payton, in his first days of the job Payton cuts nearly half of the New Orleans Saints' roster, and moved to acquired Drew Brees from the San Diego Chargers. Brees had been sidelined with a shoulder injury that required surgery. It was unknown at the time of his signing if he would ever be able to take another snap as an NFL Quarterback.
Payton and Brees would lead the Saints to the playoffs for the first time in six years. Progressing all the way to the NFC Championship game where they lost to the top seeded Chicago Bears, all in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
In 2007 the Saints would finish 7 - 9, and out of the playoffs. 08 brings 8 and 8, and again out.
The 2009 New Orleans Saints seemed to play with renewed vigor and a ferocity not seen in prior years. Dominating the season with 13 straight victories. Quarterback Drew Brees, Running Backs Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, and Mike Bell, Wide Recievers Marques Coleston, Devry Henderson, Robert Meachem, and Lance Moore, and Tight End Jeremy Shockey seemed a lethal combination for opposing defenses. Putting up 510 regular season points.
The Saints defense was also dominating with newly acquired Darren Sharper, and All Star Linebacker Johnathan Vilma, Vilma ended up with a team high 86 tackles. Sharper finished the season with 9 interceptions for a total of 376 yars, and 3 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Defensive Lineman Will Smith smothered opposing Quarterbacks for 13 sacks throughout the year.
Saints run over Cardinals 45 - 14
Reggie Bush had 5 carries for 85 yards, and 2 touchdowns (one coming on an impressive kick return) Drew Brees threw for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns. This was more than enough offense to stave off the floundering Cardinals who were under fire all night from the Saints Defense. Kurt Warner was 17 of 26 before being knocked out of the game by a vicious hit in the 2nd quarter.
Farve Wilts Under Saints Pressure
Drew Brees threw for 197 yards to Brett Farve's 310. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas ran for only 69 yards to Adrian Peterson's 122. But somehow New Orleans and Minnesota are tied at 28 with less than a minute remaining. Minnesota takes their second timeout with 19 seconds left on the clock at the New Orleans 33 yard line, just inside kicking distance. Logic says hand off to Peterson, call your last time out, kick field goal, win game, right? No, instead Chidress (Vikings head coach) calls a pass, Brett Farve thrown an interception to Tracy Porter. Some say that his logic in calling this play was the fact that Peterson had alreay fumbled twice and did not seem to be protecting the ball well.
in overtime, Garret Hartley kicks winning field goal in overtime taking the Saints to their first Super Bowl in 44 years.
What all the stats don't tell you is that Brett Farve was under pressure almost every play. It seemed like he was on the ground at every whistle. It was this pressure that helped the Saints hold the potent Vikings offense to only 28 points.
SIDE NOTE: I will be the first to admit that the Vikings were the better team on the field that day. And this was one of very few occasions where a coach lost the game for his team.
Super Bowl XLIV
The Colts came out firing in Super Bowl XLIV scoring 10 quick points. It seemed that Payton Manning and the Colts were going to run away with another Super Bowl ring. But the Saints took control of the ball and the game clock in the second quarter running twenty six offensive plays to the Colts six.
Sean Payton then took control of the 2nd half with a stunning onside kick to start the 3rd quarter.
But the game was sealed when Tracy Porter stepped in front of Reggie Wayne, intercepting a Payton Manning throw and returning it 74 yards for a touchdown putting the Saints up 31 - 17 with only 3:12 left to play.
Neither team would score again and the Sants would go on to win their first Super Bowl, 44 years in the making.
"This isn't the end, this is the beginning" - Sean Payton