The year was 1980 and there was actually a lot of genuine hope coming into the New Orleans Saints season. There may be some good memories for some. Amazingly, this was way before Who Dat Nation was born. The Saints came into 1980 with their best finish since their inception in 1967 at 8-8 under Dick Nolan.
The Saints finished up the 1979 season with one of the best offenses in the NFL, ranked in the top 5 in offense especially in rushing. Chuck Muncie ran for over 1,198 yards and Tony Galbreath added 708 yards to make the Saints running game a force in the NFL. Both also added nearly 100 receptions for over 900 yards.
In order to fully comprehend the 1980 season, a short flashback will be necessary to put it in perspective. In 1979 the Saints were 7-6 after week 13 coming into a huge Monday Night Football Game in the dome.
Monday Night Football was quite different back then. The fact is, if you didn’t have a decent team, an appearance would be unlikely. Also, it was the first Monday Night game in the Superdome, the last being in 1974 in Tulane Stadium.
Furthermore, the Saints had never won a Monday Night game in their previous three tries. The Saints were rolling along with a 35-14 lead midway through the third quarter until Ken “The Snake” Stabler led a comeback to beat the Saints 42-35. That game was one of the harshest for old school Saints fans, as the Saints would get eliminated the week after from playoff contention.
Even after that heartbreak, nothing could prepare Saints diehards for the season of 1980. The Saints drafted two great players in Stan Brock, a tackle, and Dave Waymer, a defensive back, who would play key roles for years to come.
The season that had so much hope became the darkest of all seasons. The Saints skidded to 14 losses in a row to begin the season as Archie Manning ran for his life.
The Saints became the “Aints” after local sports broadcaster Buddy Diliberto donned a brown paper bag to hide his face. Those bags ended up becoming historic lore game after game in New Orleans. No one wanted to show their face.
The Saints also lost another heartbreaker in Week 14 after they shredded the 49ers in the first half 35-7 to only see another comeback loss of 38-35. Dick Nolan was fired before the end of the season and the fans were left with a team that looked dysfunctional.
The sole celebration came in Week 15 when the Saints beat the Jets 21-20 to salvage some dignity in not being winless. Buddy Diliberto put it best when he said:
"“When you go to heaven after you die, tell St. Peter you’re a Saints fan. He’ll say ‘C’mon in, I don’t care what else you’ve done, you suffered enough.”"