New Orleans Saints

Sat, 26 Dec 2009 12:28

The History of New Orleans Saints

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The dominantly Catholic New Orleans was blessed with an NFL franchise on All Saints Day in 1966. The team was appropriately named the New Orleans Saints. On the following month, John W. Mecom, Jr. was named team president and majority shareholder.

Strong start for the Saints in the '60s

The New Orleans Saints debuted in a game against the Los Angeles Rams. The start was great, with rookie running back John Gilliam being able to perform very well from the kickoff. He was able to return the opening, making it travel a whole 94 yards for a touchdown. However, the Saints did not end up victorious. The September inaugural game went badly in the end, with a 27 to 13 loss. The team had to wait until November to nab their very first win. T hey beat the Philadelphia Eagles 31 to 24. Walt Roberts of the Saints was able to score three touchdowns.

The second year was a surprise, in a good way. The New Orleans Saints was able to perform well, splitting the first six games. This may not be thought of as spectacular but a team with a 3-11 first season should be thrilled with a third place finish in the second season at 4-9-1.

The last year of the decade saw the New Orleans Saints achieving its best record yet, at 5-9. This was partly due to the outstanding performance of Danny Abramowicz, who managed to gain NFL receiving honors. His record consisted of seven touchdowns and 73 catches for 1015 yards.

The ups and downs of the '70s

The beginning of a new decade saw the beginning of a new era for the team headed by a new coach. Original head coach Tom Fears was replaced by JD Roberts. It was Roberts who led an exciting victory against the Detroit Lions in 1970. The head coach prompted Tom Dempsey to go for a 63-yard goal. Dempsey had to wear special shoes because he had no toes on his right foot, a congenital feature. Still, Dempsey was able to clinch the goal, allowing the Saints to win a 19 to 17 victory over the Lions. Unfortunately, the Saints still ended up with 2-11-1 record, which was a disappointment to say the least.

In 1971, the team was able to snatch bits of glory through exciting wins under a new draft, Archie Manning. With Manning in the team, the Saints managed to cause some NFL upsets. One such upset was a win over the LA Rams in the Tulane Stadium at 24 to 20. The team was also able to defeat the eventual Super Bowl winner of the year, the Dallas Cowboys. However, good things could not go on forever. Though the team still had Manning the following season, the struggles came back. Manning was badly pressured, which led to a significant fall in his performance. The whole franchise was suffering greatly in 1972.

The 1973 to 1974 seasons were vast improvements. The New Orleans Saints was able to bounce back through wins. However, the following year found the team struggling yet again. The Saints was moved from Tulane to the Superdome. The Superdome was witness to the Saints' humiliating loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, at 21 to 0. Approximately 52,531 spectators witnessed the horrible loss. Coach John North, Robert's replacement in the 1973 firing, was also fired after the terrible 2-12 season. It was a justified decision on the part of the franchise.

Though the end of the decade saw the New Orleans Saints continue to struggle with consistency, quarterback Manning managed to earn an important recognition, the NFC Player of the Year in 1978. In 1979, the team also managed a non-losing 8-8 season even after a very slow start.

Missed opportunities in the '80s

At the end of the '70s, the Saints were performing rather well. The competitive edge, however, was not sustained. The beginning of the '80s found them playing mediocre games. In 1980, these mediocre ways resulted in the worst ever record for the NFL franchise. That record was a demeaning 1-15. The following year was not much better. The result was a poor 4-12. Though 1983 saw the Saints playing a relatively much better game with the team going into the finals at 8-7, they still missed out on placing in the playoffs. The loss was heartbreaking not because the gap was wide but because there was only a two-point difference, at 26-24. The Saints could have reinvented themselves if they have won the game and a spot at the playoffs.

The highlight of the '80s was when rookie running back Reuben Mayes won as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1986. New coach Jim Mora was able to lead the team to a solid 7-8-1 season. In 1987, the Saints lost an exciting game to the San Francisco 49ers at 24 to 22. This was with regular players back from a strike. But just One week later, the team was able to redeem itself through its largest-margin win against the Atlanta Falcons. The Saints pulled off the 38 to 0 win during the anniversary of the day the team was founded, on November 1. Nine consecutive wins made 1987 a very successful season. The end of the season was not as lucky though. Starting off with 7-0 lead against the Minnesota Vikings, the Saints still lost a 31-10 game.

A struggling franchise in the '90s

The Saints franchise was unfortunately associated with failure and missed opportunities. There were rare occasions when there was a glimmer of brilliance that came in short, sudden spurts. However, the team members did not seem to have the energy and motivation to continue any winning run. In the previous decade, the rare nine consecutive wins and 38-0 win showed that there was something in the team that could have been energized but the spark seemed to die down so fast. In 1991, fans were able to get a glimpse of the Saints' rare brilliance. It was in 1991 when the team celebrated their 25th anniversary. The team celebrated their 25th anniversary with a 7-0 start.

In 1996, Jim Mora resigned as head coach. This was after declaring "We Suck" after a 19-7 loss against the Carolina Panthers. Rick Ventura then took over. Sadly, the season ended with a 3-13 record. In 1998, the team experimented with four different quarterbacks. The shuffling did little good, resulting in a 6-16 end of season.

The 21st century catastrophes

Unfortunately, accomplishments by the New Orleans Saints are still overshadowed. It was Hurricane Katrina, however, that dealt the biggest blow in the 21st century. The hurricane victims were housed in the Superdome, so the team had to find a place to play. NFL had them play a charity game first before letting them play a "home game" in the New Jersey Meadowlands against the New York Giants.

The great thing about the franchise is that it has gone through a remarkable change for the better in 2006. This may be thanks to new coach Sean Payton. The coach decided to fire almost half of the Saints' roster. Aaron Brooks, who proved to be an inconsistent quarterback, was among those released. The team also acquired Reggie Bush as running back. As a result,the team ended with a strong 2006 season, at 10-6. The team also won the divisional title.

The much-improved Saints still meet with losses and disappointments from time to time. Fans hope, however, that the team can sustain its better gameplay.