The 1981 New Orleans Saints Season

The 1981 New Orleans Saints Season Schedule

Regular Season
Sept 6 Falcons L 0-27
Sep 13 Rams W 23-17
Sep 20 Giants L 7-20
Sep 27 49ers L 14-21
Oct 4 Steelers L 6-20
Oct 11 Eagles L 14-31
Oct 18 Browns L 17-20
Oct 25 Bengals L 7-17
Nov 1 Falcons L 10-41
Nov 8 Rams W 21-13
Nov15 Vikings L 10-20
Nov 22 Rams L 7-27
Nov 30 Oilers W 24-27
Dec 6 Cardinals L 3-30
Dec 13 Packers L 7-35
Dec 20 49ers W 21-17

4 Wins 12 Loses
Coach: Bum Phillips
First Round Draft Pick: George Rodgers Running Back, South Carolina

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 college 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 during the 1981 season.

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 defensive back Russell Gary (2nd round). With the second-round pick from San Diego (received for running back 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.

Stats for 1981 Saints Season
1981 New Orleans Saints Roster

Bum Phillips with Saints quarterbacks Dave Wilson and Archie Manning | New Orleans Saints 1981
Saints QB Dave Wilson on the sidelines with team mate Archie Manning and head coach Bum Phillips. Back-up Bobby Scott looks over Phillips shoulder.