Thunder and Lightning in the Saints Backfield | Tony Galbreath and Chuck Muncie

Saints Backfield Tandem of Chuck Muncie and Tony Galbreath on the sidelines
Chuck Muncie (#42) and Tony Galbreath (#34)

By 1976 Hank Stram had coached teams to 3 AFL Championships including a Super Bowl upset of the Minnesota Vikings in 1969. When he was hired by the Saints organization in 1976 fans were hoping he was the one who would finally bring a winning season to New Orleans. With quarterback Archie Manning to build around he was confident that it could happen. So in 1976 Stram made the offense a priority by drafting 2 of the top running backs in college at the time with the First and Second round choices. Heisman Award runner-up Chuck Muncie of California and All-Big Eight fullback Tony Galbreath of the University of Missouri.

The impact was evident by the end of Stram’s first season. Despite only winning 4 games the improvement on the offensive side of the ball was undeniable. Muncie led the team in rushing and Galbreath was tops in receptions. Several new team records were set as the new back-field duo, dubbed “Thunder & Lightning” by the Who Dat Nation, combined for over 1200 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns and a 4.3 yards-per-carry average. Against the Kansas City Chiefs that season Galbreath had 146 yards and 2 touchdowns while Muncie added 126 more in a 27-17 win. When Stram was replaced by Dick Nolan in 1978 the offense reached levels never before experienced by New Orleans Saints teams. In addition to the ground game Nolan brought in a capable receiving corps in Henry Childs, Wes Chandler and Ike Harris along with a revamped offensive line. Combined with a vastly improved defense the Saints of the late 70s enjoyed the best seasons the team had ever had up to that time.

The excitement of those years were short-lived. 1980 and the dreadful year of the A’ints nullified the success of the previous years. Muncie was sent to San Diego as Galbreath ended up in Minnesota. The Thunder and Lightning was no more. Not until the combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara 40 years later would Saints fans experience a back field team of comparison.


Chuck Muncie 1976-1979

There’s one thing that seems to be common when discussing Chuck. The statement “Could Have Been….”.
It is almost unanimously agreed upon that he could have been one of the greatest runners of his generation. Able to run a 4.3 40 at 240 pounds he was un-naturally gifted athlete that seemed to float and glide through defenses to big gains. If there’s one thing Muncie will be remembered for in New Orleans is that he was the first Saints Runner to gain over 1000 yards rushing. His 1198 yards – along with a 5.0 average got him a Pro Bowl appearance in 1979. He was named the Pro Bowl MVP as well. He left the Saints as their number 1 All-Time ground gainer. But in spite of the records his career in New Orleans will always be over-shadowed by his mistakes. His lack of motivation and self-control along with excessive drug use, were a constant point of frustration for coaches and players alike. Archie Manning stated that he was constantly having to instruct Muncie on what to do on plays. Manning said it was obvious his “mind wasn’t on football”. Missed practices, team meetings even games were not uncommon with far-fetched excuses. He did experience better success at San Diego earning 2 more Pro Bowls but his problems continued until he was traded to Miami in the middle of the 1984 season. He failed to make the Dolphins after failing the team’s initial drug test. He left the NFL as the 14th All-Time Leading Rusher. He is still #7 on the Saints All-Time Career Rushing list.

Saints Career Rushing Totals

Years Attempts Yards Average Longest TDs
1976-1980 788 3393 4.3 69t 28

Saints Career Rushing Totals

Years Catches Yards Average Longest TDs
1976-1980 125 1086 8.7 39 1

Tony Galbreath 1976-1980

He may not have received the attention of his counter-part but in some ways his career was much more successful.
As well as efficient counter-part to Muncie’s running he quickly showed he was an effective receiving option. As a rookie in 1976 he led the team in receiving and was voted the Saint’s offensive MVP. His 74-yard touchdown run against the Chiefs was a team record for several seasons. He was the team’s leading receiver again in 1977. In 1978 he led the team in both receptions and yards rushing. He even briefly kicked field goals when the Saints kicker was injured. Even with the high-powered offenses of the 2000s he still is the Saints #9 All-Time career leading rusher and is #10 in All-Time career receptions. Old School Saints fans will always remember his one-handed touchdown grab against Oakland on a Monday Night game in 1979.
After 1980 he was traded to the Vikings. He went to the Giants in 1984 with whom he won a Super Bowl in 1986.

Saints Career Rushing Totals

Years Attempts Yards Average Longest TDs
1976-1980 760 2865 3.8 74t 27

Saints Career Receiving Totals

Years Catches Yards Average Longest TDs
1976-1980 284 2221 7.8 38 6
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