- Team Name: New Orleans Saints
- Year Established: 1966
- Stadium Name: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
- Stadium Capacity: 73,208
- Conference: NFC
- Division: South
- Super Bowl Appearances: 1
- Super Bowl Victories: 1
The New Orleans Saints NFL franchise started out life in 1967 after their founding by John W. Mecom Jr and David Dixon at their first home, Tulane Stadium.
Their nickname, “Saints”, comes from the city of New Orleans’ large catholic population and is an inference to ‘All Saints Day’, which is a Christian festival held annually in honour of the religion’s saints.
The team’s creation and inclusion in the NFL was announced on November 1st, 1966 which, by no coincidence, is the annual date of ‘All Saints Day’. It is also a reference to the jazz song most associated with New Orleans, “When the Saints Go Marching In”.
The team’s colours of black and ‘Old Gold’ are symbols of founder John W. Mecom Jr and New Orleans’ strong ties to the lucrative oil industry.
The team didn’t have much success in its first 20 years of existence and only managed to achieve a .500 season record (to win as many games as they lost) in two of those initial 20 seasons.
The franchise was purchased in 1985 by Tom Benson who then hired a head coach by the name of Jim Mora as one of his first duties as the owner. This proved to be a turning point for the team as they went 12-3 in 1987 and made it to the NFL playoffs for the first time in their history. The 12-3 record was as a result of a shortened season due to a player’s strike that year. This record saw them finish second in their division, NFC West, to the San Francisco 49ers who pipped them to the division title with their 13-2 record.
The Saints progression would continue under head coach Jim Mora as they went a step further in 1991 by winning their NFC West division with an 11-5 regular season record to allow them to enter the playoffs as division champions.
They wouldn’t be able to go all the way to the Super Bowl under Jim Mora, though, and he resigned from his position as New Orleans Saints head coach mid-way through the 1996 season in which they would end up with a poor 3-13 regular season record.
The legendary former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka would replace Jim Mora as head coach of the Saints, to which many fans were excited.
After three seasons and a bonkers 1999 NFL draft by Ditka and his front office staff, ties were cut and they were fired by the Saints franchise. Ditka had decided to trade all of his draft picks for that year plus his 1st and 3rd round picks in the following years draft so he could get running back Ricky Williams in the first round using the Washington Redskins’ pick they got in return for all theirs.
The team went 3-13 again the year after that draft and Mike Ditka and his coaching staff and General Manager were fired by the organisation.
Things got slightly better, albeit briefly after Jim Haslett was hired as head coach. They reached the NFL playoffs in 2000 and narrowly missed out in 2003. Haslett was fired after the 2005 season as the team dipped to its lowly ways again with another 3-13 finish.
Then came the era of head coach Sean Payton. He was hired for the start of the 2006 season which coincided with the re-launch of the Superdome stadium following its $185 million renovation work after its run-in with the devastating hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The Saints won an emotional first home game back in the Superdome after the devastation the city had suffered by a 23-3 scoreline over their divisional rival Atlanta Falcons.
In this first year of Sean Payton’s tenure, the team went back to the playoffs as division winners. This time they were the NFC South champions, as opposed to being previously the NFC West champions, after moving in an NFL reshuffle in 2002. They lost to the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game by a score of 39-14, but this was indeed great progress and a brand new beginning for the franchise and city as a whole.
After two further mediocre seasons, the Saints finally reached the ultimate prize in the NFL as they made it all the way to the Super Bowl. They reached it on the back of an impressive 13-3 season in which they went undefeated in their first 13 games.
In front of a record TV audience the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV (44) at Sun Life stadium, Florida, to become the 2009 season NFL champions.
A couple of successful seasons of reaching the NFL playoffs followed their Super Bowl triumph up until the 2012 “Bountygate” scandal rocked the team. The scandal alleged that the players were being paid bounties (bonuses) for injuring opposition player. It was claimed that this had been going on since the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl winning season. The NFL took a very dim view of this practice and handed out some of the harshest penalties in North American sports history. They ranged from a few games to indefinite suspensions to a $500,000 team fine to them forfeiting their 2nd round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.
The suspensions imposed on the players were soon overturned as it was found that the coaches were responsible for the savage practice.
One of the coaching casualties was head coach Sean Payton, who was hit with a season-long suspension. The team struggled without him and finished joint last in their division.
After one more brief Wildcard visit to the playoffs in 2013, in which the New Orleans Saints lost to the Seattle Seahawks 23-15, the team has yet to make it back to former glories under Sean Payton’s leadership.
The longest running rivalry for the New Orleans Saints is with their division rivals, the Atlanta Falcons. After joining the NFL as expansion teams within a year of each other, this rivalry started and has existed since 1967.
Another division rival is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is known as the “Battle of the Gulf”, as they are the only two teams on that coast. They have been NFC South rivals since both teams were put in that division in 2002. These two teams actually met many times, before joining the NFC South, between 1977-2001. The Buccaneers also managed to get their first win in franchise history against the Saints in 1977 which could add a little fuel to the fire of this rivalry.
Outside of their division, the New Orleans Saints could be said to have a rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys of the NFC East. This is due to the states of Texas, where the Cowboys play, and Louisiana, where the Saints play, sharing a border. Because of their locations, both fan bases overlap making for some competitive and loud games.
The New Orleans Saints will play the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium, London, England on October 1st, 2017.
Will you be there, how do you think they’ll do and what are you most looking forward to?
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