Now that the Saints have won the Super Bowl, find out what coaches laid the foundation for the team’s success. Who are the top five head coaches in franchise history?
5. Dick Nolan (1978-1980, 15-29)
From 1968-1975, Dick Nolan was a successful head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. With two trips to the NFC Championship, Nolan hoped to bring his defensive expertise to the Saints’ burgeoning young offense. In ’78, the Saints had their best season ever, going 7-9. Had it not been for two last second TD passes by the Falcons, the Saints would have gone 9-7 and made the playoffs. The following year, the Saints improved to 8-8; their first non-losing season in history. Going into ’80, hopes were high for Saints’ fans who were “Rollin’ with Nolan.” However, the Saints started 0-12 and Dick Nolan was fired, as fans donned bags and dubbed their team the “Aints.”
4. O. A. “Bum” Phillips (1981-1985, 27-42)
Like Nolan, Bum Phillips coached his team (the Houston Oilers) to two conference title games, but could not overcome the Pittsburgh Steelers. After the Saints’ disastrous 1-15 season in 1980, owner John Meacom hired Phillips to coach the Saints. In short order, Phillips did what Nolan could not; improve the defense. After going 4-12 in ’81, the Saints improved to 4-5 in the strike-shortened 1982 season. In ’83, the Saints missed the playoffs on the last play of the season when the Los Angeles Rams kicked a last second field goal to send the Saints home with a 26-24 loss and an 8-8 record. The Saints fell to 7-9 in 1984 and following a 4-8 start in ’85, Bum Phillips resigned.
3. Jim Haslett (2000-2005, 45-51)
Following the failed stint of Mike Ditka, the Saints hired Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett. Given the infamous 1999 draft fiasco, the Saints looked to be in rebuilding mode for quite some time. However, thanks to the surprising play of QB’s Jeff Blake and Aaron Brooks, the 2000 Saints shocked the world by winning the NFC South and defeating the world champion St. Louis Rams in the playoffs for the franchise’s first playoff victory. Over the next four years, Haslett coached the Saints to a respectable 32-32 record, but never reached the playoffs again. Haslett’s final year was the fateful Katrina season, which saw the Saints fall to 3-13.
2. Jim Mora (1986-1996, 93-74)
Jim Mora won two USFL Championships while coaching the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. After going 7-9 in ’86, the Saints garnered their first winning season and playoff berth in ’87 with a 12-3 record. In ’88 and ’89, the Saints had winning seasons, but missed the playoffs. Ironically, the Saints fell to 8-8 in ’90, but made the playoffs. In ’91, QB Bobby Hebert returned after sitting out 1990 in a contract dispute and led the Saints to an 11-5 record and the team’s first division title. Next year, the Saints went 12-4, but lost their opening playoff game for the fourth time. The Saints went 22-26 over the next three years. Finally, Jim Mora resigned after a 2-6 start in ’96. As coach, Mora established the Saints as the #1 defense in the league and assembled perhaps the best linebacking corps in NFL history.
1. Sean Payton (2006 – present, 38-26)
After enduring the 3-13 Katrina season and signing a QB with a devastating shoulder injury, the 2006 Saints were even less likely to win than the 2000 squad. But offensive guru and new head coach Sean Payton refused to accept losing. In 2006, QB Drew Brees made an amazing recovery and rookies Reggie Bush and Marques Colston helped lead the Saints to the #1 NFL offensive ranking, an NFC South title and the team’s first trip to the NFC Championship. Over the next two years, the offense continued to post staggering numbers, but a porous defense kept the Saints out of the playoffs. In 2009, Payton agreed to a pay cut so the team could hire Gregg Williams as Defensive Coordinator. The rest is history. The New Orleans Saints won Super Bowl 44, establishing Sean Payton as the greatest head coach in team history.
All coaching records found at the pro-football-reference web site
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