The New Orleans Saints are a professional football team in the National Football League (the NFL). The New Orleans Saints play in the National Football Conference (NFC) South Division with three other teams: the Carolina Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The New Orleans Saints have not won any Super Bowl Championships. The Louisiana Superdome, located in New Orleans, Louisiana hosts all New Orleans Saints home games.
In 1966, the NFL granted an NFL expansion franchise to the City of New Orleans. Since the date was November 1st, All Saints Day, the majority stockholder, John W. Mecom, Jr. decided to name the team the New Orleans Saints. In the New Orleans Saints first game in the NFL, John Gilliam returned the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown to give the New Orleans Saints a 7-0 lead over the Los Angeles Rams. However, the Saints went on to lose the game 27-13 and the franchise went on to lose many many more games during their early history. From 1967 through 1986, the New Orleans never finished the season with a winning record. Their only two .500 seasons came when they finished 8-8 in 1979 and 1983. New Orleans morale hit an all-time low in 1980 when the team won only 1 game, finishing the season with an atrocious 1-15 record. New Orleans fans started wearing brown paper bags over their heads – to hide their shame – and calling the home team the “Aints”. During this span, the only significant highlight came when Kicker Tom Dempsey set an NFL record by kicking a 63-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions on November 8, 1970. That kick is still the NFL record, and has only been matched once, by Denver Broncos kicker Jason Elam in 1999 in the thin air of Mile High Stadium in Colorado.
The New Orleans Saints finally recorded their first winning season in 1987. The team finished second in the NFC West with a 12-4 record. The New Orleans Saints lost to the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the playoffs, but the team and the city were both just happy to be there. For 3 years from 1990 through 1992, the New Orleans Saints made the playoffs each year, and they even won the NFC West for the first time in 1991. However, the New Orleans Saints could not get that first playoff victory. The Chicago Bears defeated the New Orleans Saints 16-6 in 1990, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints 27-20 in 1991 and the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New Orleans Saints 36-20 in 1992. The New Orleans endured another 7 straight seasons without a winning record from 1993 through 1999. But in 2000, the New Orleans Saints finished atop the NFC West with a 10-6 record. The New Orleans Saints then recorded their first and only playoff victory with a thrilling 31-28 win over the high-powered St. Louis Rams. In that game, the New Orleans Saints scored 31 straight points to take a commanding 31-7 lead. The New Orleans then survived a furious 4th quarter comeback by Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams to hold on for the 31-28 win. A week later, the New Orleans Saints were no match for the high-powered Minnesota Vikings offense led by Daunte Culpepper, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, as the Minnesota Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints 34-16. The New Orleans Saints bid for a franchise first Super Bowl berth went unfulfilled. Since that 2000 playoff appearance, the New Orleans Saints have recorded only one winning season, and they have not returned to post-season play through the 2005-2006 NFL season.
In August 2005, the entire gulf region was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Because of the extensive long-term damage, the New Orleans Saints could not play any home games at the Louisiana Superdome. The NFL decided that the New Orleans Saints first home game, scheduled for September 18th against the New York Giants, would be played as a Saints “home game” in Giants Stadium on September 19th. The NFL also announced that the New Orleans Saints would play the remaining 7 “home games” in Tiger Stadium at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. During the entire 2005 season, there were many rumors that the New Orleans Saints would permanently re-locate to San Antonio following the end of the NFL regular season. But after much speculation and appeal by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue silenced all critics and conspiracy theorists in November 2005 when he stated that the Saints were Louisiana’s team and that the NFL main’s focus was to keep the Saints in New Orleans. With all the turmoil and adversity affecting the New Orleans Saints ownership, players and fans during the 2005 season, it was not surprising that the Saints finished with a disappointing 3-13 record.
Post - Hurricane Katrina
In January 2006, the NFL announced that the New Orleans Saints and NFL football would return to the Louisiana Superdome in September 2006. And as predicted, the New Orleans Saints did play their first home game at the Louisiana Superdome on Monday Night Football on September 25, 2006. And the home team New Orleans Saints surprised everyone, maybe even themselves, with a dominating 23-3 victory of the previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons. Attendance for the game was 70,003 and the TV ratings reached an all-time high for any ESPN event, with an 11.8 rating. Over 10,800,000 homes tuned in for the game on television and it was the 2nd highest rated cable program of all time. Famous rock bands U2 and Green Day performed live sets for the record crowd and much hype and excitement surrounded the return of professional football to the Big Easy.
The 2006-7 NFL season turned into a dream season for the New Orleans Saints as the team battled adversity to win 10 games and finish 1st in the NFC South for the 1st time in franchise history. The New Orleans Saints secured a 1st round bye in the playoffs and defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-24 in a thrilling divisional playoff game. The New Orleans Saints advanced to an NFC Championship Game for the 1st time in franchise history, but the Saints high-powered offense - led by Drew Brees, Deuce McCalister, Reggie Bush, Joe Horn and Marques Colston - was shut down by the NFL's best defensive team, the Chicago Bears on a cold wintry day in January. Although the game was close early on, the Chicago Bears defeated the New Orleans Saints 39-14 denying the New Orleans Saints the opportunity to play in their franchise's first and only Super Bowl. With the right pieces in place for the young and talented New Orleans Saints, expectations were high for the 2007-8 NFL season. And unfortunately, the New Orleans Saints did not deliver. The Saints finished with a 7-9 record and did not qualify for post-season play.