The Mora Era Begins
Disciplinarian Jim Mora takes over the New Orleans Saints and along with new general manager Jim Finks finally brings a little respect to the Crescent City. Mora had coached the Philadelphia Stars to 2 USFL championships and Jim Finks had managed winners in Minnesota and Chicago. With standouts from the defunct USFL, Mora and Finks began to put together a team that finally started to show some promise. With linebacker Rickey Jackson and defensive end Bruce Clark, the Saints already had a defense in place, so much of the off-season was spent in getting the offense together. Jim Dombrowski was drafted in the first round and became an instant starter at offensive tackle. Runningbacks Dalton Hillard of LSU and Reuben Mayes of Washington State were drafted second and third. Linebacker Pat Swilling and runningback Barry Word were also brought on in the 1986 draft. Future Hall of Famer Earl Campbell decided to call it quits before the season started. Campbell had been brought in a couple of years earlier by Bum Phillips, but couldn't return to the form that had got him 5 Pro-Bowl appearances.
The season started slowly, losing 3 of the first 4 games. In the win against Green Bay, receiver Eric Martin had 3 catches for 164 yards. Against San Francisco, kick returner Mel Gray set a new team record with a 101-yard kick return. It was the first kick returned for a score since 1977.
In the 6-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, the defense had only the fifth shutout in team history. Eric Dickerson could only managed 57 yards on the ground.
In route to 1353 yards and Rookie of the year honors, Reuben Mayes had big games against Tampa Bay (172 yards), New England (157 yards) and Miami (203 yards- 3 yards shy of the team record). He also became only the third Saint to rush for 1000 yards. Former Viking receiver Mike Jones was the leading pass catcher with 48 catches for 625 yards and 3 TDs. And despite pressure from hometown favorite Bobby Hebert, Dave Wilson's remained the starting quarterback. His numbers were 342 attempts, 189 completions, 55% completed, 2353 yards and 10 TDs.
The Dome Patrol racked up 47 sacks on the year as Rickey Jackson and Jumpy Geathers each lead with 9 apiece. In the secondary, Dave Waymer nabbed 9 interceptions.
Rickey Jackson, Morten Andersen and Reuben Mayes where all selected to the Pro Bowl.