When Bum Phillips, the new Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints in 1981 took over he began the almost impossible task of transforming one of the worst teams in football history into a competitive squad. After choosing Heisman trophy award winner George Rodgers, he began to work on the defense. With their second pick of the 2nd round they choose an All American Linebacker from Pitt named Rickey Jackson. Jackson would spend 13 seasons with the Saints and end up the All-Time Career Sack Leader. He would also earn a Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers.
Also pictured above is 6th round draft pick Glenn Redd from Brigham Young. He would unseat long time Saint middle-linebacker Joe Ferderspiel for a starting spot on the 1981 Saints defense. He even managed an interception in 21-13 victory over the Los Angeles Rams that year. Redd stayed with the team until 1986.
In the photograph above both rookies, Jackson and Redd, are converging upon a Pittsburgh Steelers ball carrier during the week 5 game at the Super Dome. Jackson had 8 tackles (7 solo), 2 forced fumbles and a sack in the 20-6 loss.
Bums first season as the Saints head coach saw marginal improvement. and while he only produced 4 wins in 1981 his first draft produced some of the most recognized names in Saints History as players like George Rodgers, Rickey Jackson, Hoby Brenner, Jim Wilks, Hokie Gajan, and Fran Warren were added. The defense did improve as well. In 1980 the Saints were dead last or next to last in just about every measurable defensive statistic recorded. Under Bum personal changes, that first season saw the defense improve considerably. Most notably to 11th in total yards given up. Each year thereafter the defense got better. Some would even argue that it was Bum Phillips that laid the foundation for those great defenses of the late 80s and early 90s.