The New Orleans Saints early on in its history looked like a division 2 minor league club of an NFL franchise. They looked like a not ready for prime time operation, with an owner who had nothing to do with pro football before New Orleans. With a general manager who had just as little or as much pro football experience as his boss. With a head coach that literally came from the minor leagues, I believe from a franchise in Richmond or Norfolk, Virginia. Because they were so cheap and so minor league, they were awful for their first ten years or so.
The Saints weren’t even in playoff contention until 1978, when they were 7-9 and 8-8 in 78 and 79. The Saints are remembered for not even having a winning season in their first twenty seasons, 1967-86. When general manager Jim Finks and head coach Jim Mora came in 1986, owner Tom Benson a few years before that. Things started changing in New Orleans in the mid 1980s, Bum Phillips made them somewhat competitive in the early 1980s, after another 2-14 season in 1980. But they were finally putting something together in the late 70s and since these are the New Orleans Saints, they weren’t able to build on that. Going from 8-8 in 1979 to 2-14 in 1980.
Archie Manning of course the father of two Super Bowl champion quarterbacks in Peyton and Eli Manning, is probably the best quarterback in Saints history, at least before Drew Brees arrived in 2006. Played eleven seasons in New Orleans 1971-81 and was a Pro Bowler there. Never played on a winning team in New Orleans, got close a couple of times in the 1970s, but never played for a winner. And this franchise back then had their share of Pro Bowlers, like WR Danny Abramowicz, RB Chuck Muncie who would move on and have a good career with the San Diego Chargers.
They also had WR John Jefferson who again would move on and have a good career with the Washington Redskins. As well as WR John Gilliam who would move on and have a good career with the Minnesota Vikings. Notice where I’m going with this, they would draft good players and then trade them away. Except for Archie Manning because they didn’t want to pay them. One thing I don’t understand about the Saints of this era, is their fans their management is pretty easy to understand.
They were simply cheap and not willing to invest the resources to build a long-term winner that could compete in the National Football Conference. Even though they always had the fan base that would allow them to win in Southern Louisiana and Southwestern Mississippi and perhaps the State of Louisiana as a whole. But their fans have been very loyal to the Saints for this whole time and really love football.