Gary Cuozzo – The First Saints Quarterback



Gary Cuozzo, the first New Orleans Saints Quarterback passing in 1967
Gary Cuozzo - the Saints first starting quarterback in 1967

University of Virgina quarterback Gary Cuozzo had been a back-up to Johnny Unitas for 4 seasons when he was dealt to New Orleans for the Saints first of 2 1st-round draft picks New Orleans had been awarded as the NFL’s newest expansion team. At the time the trade looked good on paper but ended up being the one of the many bad front office moves that plagued the team throughout the early years of New Orleans Saints history.

His passing numbers weren’t bad for a quarterback at that time period and he was credited with all 3 of the Saints victories of the first season, but the knock on him was he lacked leadership and lost the starting job to rambunctious Billy Kilmer by seasons end.

He was traded to the Vikings in 1968 (for two 1st-round picks that ended up being no benefit to them). When Joe Kapp left the Vikings in 1970 Cuozzo ended up in the starting role and led them to an NFC Central Title and a playoff appearance against San Francisco 49ers.

He ended his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972 after the Vikings traded him for former Saints return-man John Gilliam. Cuozzo career ended here backing up Jim Hart while Gilliam went on to have 4 very productive seasons with the Vikings making Pro Bowl selections every year.

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