The New Orleans Saints and their fans endured decades of suffering on the football field. However, a national tragedy brought a city and a team together. It also eventually brought a champion. Before looking ahead at the upcoming Saints schedule, let’s take a look back at the history of the franchise.
Saints Schedule: Past and Present
New Orleans was granted an NFL franchise in a deal between Congressman Hale Boggs, Senator Russell Long and then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Boggs headed a congressional committee that was overseeing the NFL-AFL merger. Rozelle announced the city had been awarded a team on “All Saints’ Day” in November 1966. Boggs’ committee later approved the merger.
The Saints schedule began in 1967. John Gilliam returned the first opening kickoff of the team’s first-ever game 94 yards for a touchdown. The Saints, however, would lose the game as part of a 3-11 inaugural season. The record was a sign of things to come, as the Saints failed to make the playoffs from 1967-86.
New Orleans captured its first-ever playoff appearance in 1987, but suffered a 44-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card round. The Saints also reached the playoffs in 1990, ’91 and ’92, but were bounced in the first round every season.
It wasn’t until 2000 that the Saints captured their first playoff victory in franchise history. After winning the NFC West, the Saints knocked off the St. Louis Rams in the opening round, 31-28. The Saints lost to the Vikings.
The 2005 season was greatly impacted by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The team was forced to play its first “home game” at Giants Stadium. The Saints also “home” games in San Antonio and Baton Rouge. New Orleans went just 3-13, but it was the beginning of big things to come.
The team made Sean Payton their new head coach and signed quarterback Drew Brees before the 2006 season. In their first year back in New Orleans, the Saints would go on to win the NFC South title and appear in the conference championship game for the first time in franchise history.
In 2009, the Saints went 13-3, won the NFC South title and knocked off the Vikings in overtime in the conference title game to reach the Super Bowl. Brees then led the Saints to a 31-17 win over Peyton Manning and Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
The history of the Saints would be incomplete without the bounty scandal involving players and coaches. Several players and coaches, including Payton, were hit with lengthy suspensions for the “pay for performance” program. The NFL concluded that the program rewarded players for injuring other players.
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