Dick Nolan New Orleans Saints Head Coach, 1978-1980
Dick Nolan was a linebacker coach with the team when owner John Mecom chose him to replace the flamboyant Hank Stram. He had been a defensive back in the 50's with Giants and (then) Chicago Cardinals. He began his coaching career as an assistant to Tom Landry in Dallas in 1962. As Head Coach in San Francisco, he brought 3 divisional titles to the Niners and earned Coach of the Year honors there.
Nolan took the offensive tools Stram had already put into place and built upon them. The result was quite satisfactory. A 7-9 season in 1978 and 8-8 in '79 gave Saints fans a taste of winning they had not been accustomed to. Archie Manning showed the NFL he was a quarterback worthy of respect having 2 of his best seasons ever, making the Pro Bowl both years. Chuck Muncie became the first Saint to rush for 1000 yards (making the Pro Bowl in 1979) and Fullback Tony Galbreath set a new team record for receptions in 1978 with 74. TE Henry Childs and WR Wes Chandler each made the Pro Bowl in 1979. He also acquired the "Dirtiest Player in Football", offensive lineman Conrad Dobler, who only helped the O-line.
Nolan also instituted the doomed "Flex Defense" when he arrived. The "Flex" managed to give up more points than the offense scored. Going into 1980, things couldn't have looked better. After 2 years of steady improvement, including a first ever run for the playoffs the preceding year, Saints fans actually looked forward to opening day.
Unfortunately, instead of the breakthrough season fans hoped for, 1980 was to be the year of the "'Aint's" and "Bagheads". The Saints posted 14 straight loses and closed the season at 1-15. Nolan was fired in week 12 following a 27-7 drubbing at the hands of the L.A. Rams on a Monday night.