The New Orleans Saints are a professional American football team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints play in the Southern Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL).
The Saints were founded in 1967, as an expansion team. They went more than a decade before they managed to finish a season with a .500 record and two decades before having a winning season. The team's first successful years were from 1987–1992, when the team made the playoffs four times and had winning records in the non-playoff seasons. In the 2000 season, the Saints defeated the then defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams for the team's first playoff win.
The Saints' home stadium is the Louisiana Superdome. The team has played its home games in the "dome" since 1975. However, due to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina to the New Orleans area, the Saints' 2005 home opener was played at Giants Stadium, the home stadium of their opponent, the New York Giants. The remainder of their 2005 home games were split between the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and LSU's Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After a $185 million renovation of the historic stadium, the team returned to the Superdome for the 2006 season. The team played its 2006 home opener in front of a sold-out crowd and national television audience on September 25, 2006, defeating its NFC South rival, the Atlanta Falcons by a score of 23–3. The victory received a 2007 ESPY award for "Best Moment in Sports."
The Saints are one of six teams never to have played in a Super Bowl. The Saints did qualify for the NFC Championship Game on January 13, 2007, after defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-24 in the divisional round of the playoffs. They were the first team in NFL history to reach a conference championship after losing 13 or more games the previous season. They came up short in a 39–14 loss the following week to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship.
That first season started with a 94 yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown by John Gilliam, but the Saints lost that game 27–13 to the Los Angeles Rams at Tulane Stadium. Their first season record was 3–11, which set an NFL record for most wins by an expansion team. However, they could not manage to finish as high as second in their division until 1979. That 1979 team and the 1983 team were the only ones to even finish at .500 until 1987.
One of the franchise's shining moments came on November 8, 1970, when Tom Dempsey kicked an NFL record-breaking 63-yard field goal to defeat the Detroit Lions by a score of 19-17 in the final seconds of the game. This record, although equaled 29 years later by Jason Elam of the Denver Broncos, has yet to be broken.
In 1980, the Saints lost their first 14 games, prompting local media personality Bernard "Buddy D" Diliberto to advise Saints supporters to wear paper bags over their heads at the team's home games; many bags rendered the club's name as the "'Aints" rather than the "Saints." The practice of wearing a bag over one's head then spread rapidly, first to fans of other poorly-performing teams within the NFL, and ultimately to those of other American team sports, and has become a firmly-established custom throughout the United States.
After the end of the 1996 season, ironically as Diliberto had suggested before Mora's resignation, former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka was hired to replace Mora. Although this initially generated a lot of excitement among Saints fans, Ditka's tenure ended up being a failure. The Saints went 6-10 in their first two seasons under Ditka (1997 and 1998). During the 1999 NFL Draft, Ditka traded all of his picks for that season, as well as the first-round and third-round picks for the following season, to the Washington Redskins in order to draft University of Texas Heisman Trophy running back Ricky Williams in the first round. Ditka and Williams had a mock wedding picture taken to commemorate the occasion. However, Ditka, most of his coaching staff, and general manager Bill Kuharich were fired at the end of the 1999 season due to the club's 3-13 record.
Jim Haslett held the post from 2000 to 2005. In his first year, he took the team to the playoffs but lost to the Minnesota Vikings a week after beating the St. Louis Rams for the team's first ever playoff win. After winning the 2000 NFL Executive of the Year Award, General Manager Randy Mueller was fired between the 2001 and 2002 seasons without explanation by Benson. The Saints failed to make the playoffs in 2001 and 2002, although in the latter year they had the distinction of beating the eventual Super Bowl XXXVII champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in both of their regular season meetings, only the second team to do so in NFL history (the 1995 Washington Redskins did so against the to be World Champion Dallas Cowboys). In 2003 the Saints again missed the playoffs after finishing 8-8. The 2004 season started poorly for the Saints, as they went 2-4 through their first six games and 4-8 through their first twelve games. At that point Haslett's job appeared to be in jeopardy; however, he managed to win the three straight games leading up to the season finale, leaving the Saints in playoff contention in the final week of the season. In week 17, the Saints defeated division rivals Carolina; however, the Saints needed other results to break their way and when the St. Louis Rams beat the New York Jets the Saints were eliminated despite having beaten the Rams, who finished with the same record. Haslett left after the 2005 season, in which the Saints finished 3-13 and did not play one regular season contest in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. On January 17, 2006, the Saints hired Sean Payton as their new head coach. In the 2006 NFL draft Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush was drafted #2 overall by the Saints.
On December 17, 2006, the Saints clinched their third division title in franchise history. For the first time in Saints' history, they clinched their NFC South title on their home field. Sean Payton became the second consecutive Saints coach to win a division title in his first season. After a loss by the Dallas Cowboys to the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Day 2006, the Saints clinched a first-round playoff bye for the first time in franchise history.
On April 6 the Saints released their 2006 schedule, with all home games scheduled to be played at the Superdome. The home opener against the Atlanta Falcons was moved to September 25 and was shown on ESPN's Monday Night Football.
The September 25, 2006 home opener, the first home game in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, was won by the Saints 23-3 against the Atlanta Falcons, who were undefeated in the 2006 season at that time. The attendance for the game was a sellout crowd of 70,003. Meanwhile, the broadcast of the game was ESPN's highest-ever rated program to date, with an 11.8 rating, and viewership by 10,850,000 homes. It was the most-watched program for the night, broadcast or cable, and was the second-highest rated cable program of all time. U2 and Green Day performed "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and "The Saints Are Coming" before the game.
After the first-round bye, the Saints beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-24 in the Superdome in the 2006 Divisional Playoffs. No team had ever had such a poor record in the prior year and then went on to a league or conference championship game. Since the Saints' only other playoff win was in the wild card round, this is the farthest the Saints have ever advanced. The victory was only the second playoff win in team history.
The first game of the season was against the defending Super Bowl XLI champion Indianapolis Colts. The Saints lost this game, 41–10, and lost their next three games. In one of these three games, against the Tennessee Titans, the Saints lost running back Deuce McAllister for the season with his second career (second time in three seasons) ACL tear. After winning their first game, against the Seattle Seahawks, two weeks later, the team went on a four-game winning streak to bring their record to an even 4–4. After reaching 7–7, the Saints lost their final two games to finish 7–9.
Except for minor modifications, the Saints' logo and uniforms have basically remained the same since the club debuted in 1967. The team's logo is a fleur-de-lis, while its uniform design consists of gold helmets, gold pants, and either black or white jerseys. Minor changes to the uniform stripes and trim have been made throughout the years. The team wore black helmets during the 1969 preseason, but NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle barred the Saints from using the helmets during the regular season, since owner John Mecom, Jr. did not notify the league office of the change.
The Saints predominantly wore white at home when the club played at Tulane Stadium from 1967 through 1974 (except in 1969 and 1970), forcing opponents to wear dark colors in the subtropical climate of New Orleans. When the surface at Tulane Stadium switched from natural grass to AstroTurf in 1971, field temperatures became hotter still. In Archie Manning's first game, in the 1971 season opener against the Los Angeles Rams, temperatures on the field reached as high as 130 degrees. The heavily favored Rams wilted in the stifling heat, and the Saints claimed their first-ever victory over their NFC West rivals, 24-20, on Manning's 1-yard quarterback sneak on the last play of the game.
The Saints switched to white pants in 1975, coinciding with the team's move from Tulane Stadium to the Superdome. One year later, they started to wear black pants with their white jerseys, a move influenced by coach Hank Stram, who introduced red pants to the Kansas City Chiefs' uniforms in 1968. In an Oct. 3, 1976 home game against the Houston Oilers, Hank Stram used the Saints' road uniforms, the white jerseys and black pants. The Saints lost that game 31–26. During the 1981–82 seasons (Bum Phillips' first two seasons as coach), the team wore white jerseys with black pants at home, but reverted back to the black jerseys and white pants for 1983. They reverted back to wearing gold pants with both their black and white jerseys in 1986 under new coach Jim Mora. From 1986 through 1995, the sleeves of the jerseys and sides of the pants featured a logo with a fleur-de-lis inside an outline of the state of Louisiana. The logo replaced the striping pattern that had been on the uniforms since the team's inception; save for color variations, the striping pattern was similar to that used by the Washington Redskins (until 1979), Green Bay Packers (until 1997), and Cleveland Browns (still in use as of 2007), which is likely why the change was made. That logo was removed in 1996 and replaced with a fleur-de-lis on both the sleeves and sides of the pants.
From 1996 through 1998, the Saints returned to gold numbers on both the white and black jerseys, but complaints about the numbers on the white jerseys being too difficult to read forced the numbers on the white jerseys to be changed to black in 1999. The Saints wore black pants with a wide gold stripe with their white jerseys in 1999, but following a 3-13 season and the dismissal of coach Mike Ditka, the black pants were mothballed by new coach Jim Haslett.
In 2000, the Saints won their first playoff game as they hosted the St. Louis Rams and after having a better road record than home record, they wore their white jerseys, helping them get a 31-28 win over the defending champion Rams. The defining play of the game came with the Saints clinging to a three-point lead with minutes to play. The Saints punted to the Rams' Az-Zahir Hakim, who fumbled the punt deep in Rams' territory. Brian Milne recovered for the Saints, who then ran out the clock to preserve the victory.
In 2001, they wore their white jerseys in the first six home games. During that same year, they primarily wore black pants with both their white and black jerseys. They became the first NFL team to wear all-black uniforms in a week 5 road game against the Carolina Panthers, and again in weeks 16 and 17 in home games against the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. (It is notable that the all-black outfit made a comeback on December 3, 2006 in a 34-10 victory over the 49ers. The team used it the week after against the Dallas Cowboys on December 10, 2006 in a 42-17 victory.)
In 2002, the Saints wore black pants with their white jerseys, and gold pants with their black jerseys, a gold alternate jersey, and a 1967-style throwback uniform. But one season later, they stopped using the alternates and again reverted back to wearing gold pants with both their black and white jerseys.
The team introduced a gold alternate jersey (worn with the black pants) during a December 15 2002 game versus the Minnesota Vikings, a 32-31 loss, but have never worn them since then. Because of the metallic gold's bright color, the gold jerseys were considered the "light" jersey in the game, so the Vikings wore their purple home jerseys as the "dark" colored team. One team must wear "dark" and one team must wear "light". Today only the New England Patriots have a "light" jersey (their alternate, a bright metallic silver) that isn't white in which the other team would wear their colored, or "dark" jerseys against them since the third jersey rule was implemented in the NFL in 2002.
The Saints also introduced a 1967-style throwback uniform in a 23-20 win in week 13 (Nov. 28) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This also was never worn again but re-introduction of the jerseys in stores suggests they may make a comeback as the Saints' alternate uniform this season.
In 2006, to honor their return to Louisiana, the Saints wore a patch on their uniforms with an outline of the State of Louisiana with a fleur-de-lis superimposed, similar to the logo from the 1980s.
The Saints originally planned to wear white jerseys at home for the 2006 season, but during the season, the players voted to wear the black jerseys at home. Since the team had informed the NFL office that they planned to wear white jerseys at home, each of the Saints' remaining home opponents would have to agree to New Orleans' request. The Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Cincinnati Bengals did not agree to the switch, forcing the Saints to wear white for those games.
Starting in week 13 of the 2006 season, the Saints wore white jerseys with black pants and in a Week 16 game in The Meadowlands against the New York Giants (a 30-7 Saints win), the Saints wore the black pants with their road white jerseys.
The Saints will wear white jerseys for all 2008 home games, including the overseas game in London, in which the Saints are designated as the home team.
* - Saints home game, relocated due to Hurricane Katrina
It should be noted that with the exception of Jim Finks, whose tenure with the Saints contributed to his induction, there are no members of the HOF who are there for their time with the team. All are in for their work with previous teams.
|Tom Fears||1967||1970||13||34||2||--||--||1-5-1 in 1970; Fired November 3, 1970|
|J.D. Roberts||1970||1972||7||25||3||--||--|| Won first game on Tom Dempsey's 63-yard field goal vs. Detroit Lions|
1-6 in 1970; Fired August 25, 1973 after fourth Preseason Game
|John North||1973||1975||11||23||0||--||--||1-5 in 1975; Fired October 27, 1975|
|Ernie Hefferle||1975||--||1||7||0||--||--||Interim Coach after firing of John North|
|Dick Nolan||1978||1980||15||29||0||--||--||0-12 in 1980; Fired November 25, 1980|
|Dick Stanfel||1980||--||1||3||0||--||--||Interim Coach after firing of Dick Nolan|
|Bum Phillips||1981||1985||27||42||0||--||--||4-8 in 1985; Resigned on November 25, 1985|
|Wade Phillips||1985||--||1||3||0||--||--||Interim Coach after resignation of Bum Phillips|
|Jim E. Mora||1986||1996||93||78||0||0||4|| Earned first playoff appearance and first division championship in franchise history|
2-6 in 1996; Resigned on October 21, 1996
|Rick Venturi||1996||--||1||7||0||--||--||Interim Coach after resignation of Jim E. Mora|
|Jim Haslett||2000||2005||45||51||0||1||1||Earned first playoff win in franchise history|
|Sean Payton||2006||Present||19||18||0||1||1||Earned first trip to the NFC Championship Game in franchise history|