New Orleans Saints,
professional football team and one of five teams in the Western Division
of the National Football Conference (NFC) of the National Football
League (NFL). Under the league’s realignment plan, which will take
affect in 2002, the Saints will play in the South Division of the NFC.
The Saints play at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana,
and wear uniforms of gold, black, and white. The team is named after the
Dixieland classic and team fight song, “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.”
The Saints joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1967. The new club
struggled for many years, employing six head coaches, posting 12
consecutive losing records, and averaging only four wins per season from
1967 to 1978. The team’s leader during much of this time was quarterback
Archie Manning, who won the NFL player of the year award in 1978. The
greatest moment in Saints history came on November 8, 1970, when New
Orleans kicker Tom Dempsey sealed a 19-17 upset of the Detroit Lions
with a 63-yard field goal—the longest in NFL history.
The Saints began playing in the Superdome in 1975, and four years later
they recorded their first non-losing mark, finishing with an 8-8
win-loss record under head coach Dick Nolan. The team’s woes continued
during the 1980s, however, and New Orleans was never able to compile
more than 8 wins in a season.
Under head coach Jim Mora, the Saints achieved their first winning
record and their first playoff appearance in 1987. A former defensive
coodinator for the New England Patriots, Mora was named NFL coach of the
year. Running back Rueben Mayes, the 1986 rookie of the year, and wide
receiver Eric Martin, a three-time 1,000-yard gainer, anchored the NFC’s
Mora steered the Saints to three consecutive trips to the postseason
from 1990 to 1992. New Orleans assembled the NFC’s toughest defense in
1990 and 1991, led by one of the best linebacker units in the league. In
1992 linebackers Rickey Jackson, Vaughn Johnson, Sam Mills, and Pat
Swilling all played in the Pro Bowl, and the Saints led the league in
quarterback sacks. Despite its tenacious defense, the team lost in the
first round each time it made the playoffs. At the end of the 1996
season, former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka replaced Mora. Ditka
was fired after the 1999 season.
The New Orleans Saints have never played in the Super Bowl.
NFL History Guide