The New Orleans Saints were a National Football League (NFL) expansion team in 1967, the year after the league had placed a new club in Atlanta. The Saints got their franchise as a direct result of the merger between the NFL and the American Football League (AFL). After the two leagues had agreed to merge, they were not going to be able to get around the antitrust law sanctions. The House Majority Leader from Louisiana agreed to attach the exemption to a budget bill that was a certainty to pass in both the House and Senate. It passed and New Orleans got its expansion franchise.
Here are some fun facts about the Saints, some of which have an attachment to the Giants.
- The first Saints’ player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season was former first-round draft pick Chuck Muncie in 1979. Two years later, he would score 19 TDs in a single season for the San Diego Chargers.
- Former Giants’ wide receiver Don Herrmann played six seasons from 1969-1974 and then for the Saints from 1975-1977 before retiring. He became a Saint when Tom Blanchard, a former Giants punter, was already with the Saints and recommended they pick him up because they needed a receiver.
- Former Giants’ first-round pick TE Jeremy Shockey played three seasons for the Saints from 2008-2010 after the Giants traded him to New Orleans.
- Saints running back Mark Ingram’s dad was Mark Ingram - the former Giants’ wide receiver and Super Bowl Champion.
- In 1980, the head coach of the Saints was Dick Nolan, whose son Mike has been an NFL defensive coach since 1982 and was the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach from 2005-2008. He was defensive coordinator for the Giants from 1993-1996. Dick played for the Giants from 1959-1961 and ironically Mike is currently the LB coach for the Saints.
- That 1980 Saints squad went 1-15-0. Things got so bad that fans would still show up for games, however, with paper bags over their heads with the inscription “Ain’ts” on the bags. At one point the team was 0-14 until finally a 21-20 win over the New York Jets. The Saints home opener saw 58,621 enthusiastic fans whereas in Week 13 only 30,949 cared to show up – mostly in paper bags. The bag trend was started by Buddy Diliberto, a sports commentator at New Orleans TV station WDSU.
- Saints head coach Sean Payton has several ties to the Giants. He was the quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1997-1998 under former Giants’ wide receiver Ray Rhodes, he was the Giants offensive coordinator in 1999, and from there he went to the Dallas Cowboys as the assistant head coach under former Giants’ head coach Bill Parcells before landing the head gig in New Orleans.
- Payton played QB in the Arena Football League for the Chicago Bruisers and Pittsburgh Gladiators, and the Ottawa Roughriders of the CFL, plus the Chicago Bears of the NFL – all in the same year (1987).
- Payton’s stint with the Bears was on their replacement team. His three-game stats was 8 of 23 tosses for 79 yards, zero TDs and one INT, ironically against the Saints.
- Former Giants’ 1990 fifth-round draft pick QB Craig Kupp’s dad played offensive guard for the Saints. Kupp’s son Cooper is currently a wide receiver with the Los Angeles Rams.
- Trumpet player Al Hirt would play “When the Saints Go Marching In” every time the Saints scored a touchdown in the early years of Saints’ home games at Tulane Stadium.
- The NFL has played numerous games outside of the United States. But the very first was in Mexico City on August 5, 1978 between the Saints and the Eagles.
- The Saints were awarded an NFL expansion team on November 1, 1966, which just happened to be All-Saints Day.
- Giants’ QB Eli Manning’s dad, Archie, played for the Saints from 1971-1982. It was that experience of being a high-round draft choice awarded to a medium-market team that finished annually at the bottom of the standings that promoted Archie to insist that the San Diego Chargers not draft Eli with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft.
- The Saints are one of the few professional sports teams that have two mascots: Gumbo the Dog, and Sir Saint. The latter was the franchise’s first mascot who was canned and then later revived.
- Former Giants’ QB Kerry Collins played one year for the Saints in 1998 before his stint with New York.
- When the Saints were admitted into the NFL in 1967, they were awarded the first overall pick in the 1967 college draft. The Giants had finished dead last in the NFL standings the season before with a 1-12-1 record and would have had that first overall pick. The Saints then traded the pick to the Baltimore Colts who took DE Bubba Smith. Later, four future Hall of Famers were selected: QB Bob Griese, RB Floyd Little, DE Alan Page and OG Gene Upshaw. The Giants and Saints passed on all four players.
- For the first 20-years of existence the Saints failed to make the playoffs. In their 21st year of existence, they finally did in 1987 – with the aid of victories made by replacement players.
- In 1999 Saints’ head coach Mike Ditka traded all of his remaining draft picks to the Washington Redskins for the fifth overall pick in the first-round, and selected University of Texas RB Ricky Williams. The Saints also sent the following year’s first and third-round picks. Williams played only three seasons in New Orleans and failed to make the Pro Bowl.
- Several existing teams had looked at New Orleans as a possible new home to relocate their club, but none more than the Dallas Texans of the AFL in 1963. The Texans had just captured their first AFL title but weren’t happy in Dallas sharing it with the Cowboys, so they sought to move. The first location owner Lamar Hunt looked hard at was the Big Easy and wanted to move his Texans there. However, there was a huge problem for Hunt. The only stadium suitable for large crowds was Tulane Stadium – and that arena still allowed segregation and would not budge on this issue. So Hunt looked elsewhere and then took his team to Kansas City and renamed them the Chiefs.
Barry Shuck is a pro football historical writer and a member of the Professional Football Researcher’s Association