Faith, Hope and Bum
Coming off the worst season ever in New Orleans, 1981 began with the resignation of General Manager Steve Rosenbloom. Shortly thereafter, owner John Mecom hired Bum Phillips to take over one of the NFL's worst teams of all time. Bum Phillips had enjoyed great success with the Houston Oilers, bringing them to 3 consecutive playoff appearances. Two of those appearances brought Houston all the way to the AFC championship game. Saints fans were hoping he could do the same in the city that the NFL forgot.
He began his work at New Orleans by drafting Heisman Trophy winner and Earl Campbell clone George Rodgers with the number one pick of the collage draft. Rodgers would lead the league in rushing with 1,674 yards (setting a new rookie rushing record) and be named Sporting News Rookie of the Year. He had a total of 9 100+ yards rushing in 9 games.
The 1981 draft also brought in a wealth of talent to the struggling Saints. Along with Rodgers, some other notable draft picks were Dave Wilson (1st round supplemental) and defensiveback Russell Gary (2nd round). With the second-round pick from San Diego (received for runningback Chuck Muncie) we picked Rickey Jackson of Pittsburgh. Jackson's rookie year was nothing short of spectacular leading the team in sacks with 8. His numbers were 125 tackles (85 solo), 10 passes defended and 2 fumbles caused. Some other players taken were defensive end Frank Warren (3rd round), tight end Hoby Brenner (3rd round), corner back Johnnie Poe (6th round), fullback Hokie Gajan of LSU (10th round) and defensive end Jim Wilks (12th round).
Archie Manning saw limited duty due to injuries so backups Bobbie Scott and rookie Dave Wilson saw some playing time. Running back Jack Holmes led the team in receiving with 38 catches. Dave Waymer led the team in interceptions with 4.
Despite only winning 4 games, the Saints played tough every game and managed a first time ever season sweep of the Rams.
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