The Worst Teams of All Time, Part 10: The 1980 New Orleans Saints

This is a post in an ongoing series, where we examine and poke fun at some of the most ghastly teams ever to take the field.

The Saints are a team of swagger and arrogance nowadays, but way before that, they were the biggest runt in the NFL. They didn’t post a winning record for the first 21 seasons of their existence, suffering numerous 3 or fewer win seasons, but 1980 was the year they hit rock bottom.

Dick Nolan was a very highly regarded coach before coming to New Orleans, but he burned all his credentials with a disastrous 1980 campaign with the Saints.

Dick Nolan

Dick Nolan wondering how he found himself down in the bayou. 

After 7-9 and 8-8 seasons in 1978 and 1979, Dick Nolan was poised to raise the Saints above the bar to reach something they had never done before: achieve a winning campaign. In short, he did about the furthest thing possible from that.

After an 0-12 start, Nolan was fired, replaced with Dick Stanfel. I don’t know who he is either, you’re not alone.

The Saints plunged to a 1-15 record in 1980, predictably the league’s worst team. The 1980 season was actually the year that fans brought out the infamous “bag heads” on a Monday night blowout to the Rams.

Archie Manning 2

Archie Manning taking a beating, as usual.

On offense, the Saints had Archie Manning, but that was it. The father of Peyton was the only star on a dreadful team, and although he did have an okay season, it was tarnished by his 20 interceptions. Hard to blame him though, he was running for his life most of the time. Manning completed 60.7% of his passes for 3,716 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was sacked 41 times.

Jimmy Rogers

The running game was horrible, as the leading rusher on the team was a guy named Jimmy Rogers. Never heard of him before or since. Rogers carried the ball 80 times for a miserable 366 yards and 1 touchdown. He fumbled the ball 6 times, putting the NFL’s worst defense in poor position constantly. Nobody on the team rushed for over 400 yards, and only two passed 300. This all added up to a team rushing total of 1,362 yards and 9 touchdowns, with a 3.9 yards-per-carry average.

Wes Chand;er

Despite playing on an awful team, Wes Chandler actually had a nice season. He recorded 65 receptions for 975 yards and 6 touchdowns. The other receivers were guys with names like Ike Harris, Henry Childs and Brooks Williams.

Ike Harris

Ike Harris in action.

In all, the offense really couldn’t do the job, averaging 18.1 points per game. Not a good offensive level, especially considering how their defense played.

I’m not sure if there are any records of this team or pictures, because sacks and tackles are not listed. That’s fairly accurate, as it seems the Saints never got a sack and could never tackle anyone. The defense was the worst in the league, giving up 487 points, a 30.4 per game average. The team gave up 31 passing touchdowns and 28 rushing. Wow.

The season was summed up in a Week 14 game against the lowly 49ers, a team that had only won 4 games in 1978 and 1979. In 1980, they weren’t a whole pile better, winning only 6 in total. The Saints, however, were 0-13, and got off to a blazing start. Archie Manning threw three touchdown passes and Jack Holmes run for two 1 yard touchdown runs, making the score 35-7 at halftime. FS Tom Myers told the team: “No long plays.” So what happens on the 49ers first play from scrimmage in the second half? A pass to Dwight Clark for nearly 70 yards. Myers later said “You could almost feel the entire thing just burst, right there.”

The Saints went nowhere, squandering what was the biggest lead in NFL history at the time to lose 38-35 in Overtime.

1980 Comeback

In Week 12, the Saints played a Monday Night game against Los Angeles. They were 0-11, and this was the beginning of the bag-head craze. So ugly you can’t even watch, but poke eye holes, in case something happens. New Orleans would lose the game, 27-7.

Other notable losses included a 40-7 thrashing to the Cardinals and a 41-14 blasting to the Falcons.

New Orleans’ only win of the season came in Week 15, in New York, in which the recorded temperature was 5 F, with the wind blowing at over 40 MPH. New Orleans barely tiptoed by with a 21-20 win, with the previously mentioned Tommy Myers clinching the win with a last second interception.


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