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Profile: Jim Finks - IV

Bobby Hebert on cover of Sports Illustrated after Saints 7-0 start in 1991

Frank Warren

Vaughn Dunbar

Willie Roaf

Jim Finks

The Saints got several presents for their 1991 25th anniversary season.

  • The Prodigal Son, AKA QB Bobby Hebert, rejoined the team June 4 after holding out for the entire 1990 season. He proclaimed he was "ready to play football, with no ill feelings, and winning will take care of the fans."
    Bobby was part of a group of players filing a class action suit against the league that eventually won them free agency but damages as well. Many years later, he recalled: The Saints offered me something around $700,000. I wanted the going rate for a QB at my level, around $1.2 million. I remember Mr. Finks telling me, "We own you." ... I could have gone to the Raiders, but the Saints didn't want to trade me. They said they did, but that wasn't the case. The offer they made was one of those take it or leave it deals. They felt they held all the cards. They just wanted me to sit and rot. They thought I'd come around. ... Everybody thought I was crazy (for sitting out the 1990 season), but I had enough money put away to get by. I didn't feel I was taking a risk. I didn't have any bills.
  • DT Frank Warren was reinstated after missing a year after testing positive for drugs a third time.
  • GM Jim Finks acquired WR Quinn Early, DL Les Miller, and WR Patrick Newman via Plan B, the NFL's answer to free agency in an attempt to satisfy the courts while a collective bargaining agreement with the players remained in limbo.
  • The draft produced WR Wesley Carroll, RB Fred McAfee, and TE Frank Wainwright.
  • On the negative side, G Steve Trapilo suffered a knee injury that put him out for the season, and RB Rueben Mayes announced his retirement.
    Mayes would return for the 1992 season before retiring again.

Boos mixed with cheers greeted Hebert as he took the field for the opener against Seattle.

  • Because of injuries, Bobby played in only nine games. Steve Walsh started the other six.
  • The Saints started strong, winning their first seven games.
  • But after they defeated the 49ers 10-3 in the Dome to run the record to 9-1, their first division championship was being conceded to the Saints. They led the NFC West by a whopping four games.
  • Then they lost their next four games, during which the defense, with several key players out with injuries, gave up an average of 27 points an outing.
  • But the Saints rallied and won their last two games to clinch the division on the last day.
  • However, the Falcons made the playoffs as a wild card and came to New Orleans the next week and beat the Saints in OT 23-20.
  • Despite the disappointing finish, GM Jim Finks was pleased with the 11-5 season and NFL West title.

What would the 1992 Saints do for an encore?

  • Nothing less than a playoff victory would satisfy the fans, who had now endured three postseason losses in three tries.
  • Significant changes from the 1991 lineup included rookie Vaughn Dunbar starting at RB and Craig Heyward having a healthy full season at FB. Veteran Derek Kennard took over at RG. All eleven starters returned on defense, including Pro Bowl LBs Sam Mills, Pat Swilling, and Vaughan Johnson.
  • The Saints bettered their 1991 record by one game, 12-5, but finished second in the NFC West by two games to the 49ers.
  • Once again, they hosted a wild card game, this time against the Philadelphia Eagles. And they suffered another heartbreaking loss. Leading 20-10 entering the fourth quarter, they gave up 26 points, including a 35y TD pass from Randall Cunningham, a safety, and an 18y INT return by Eric Allen.

The 1993 draft turned out to be Finks' last one.

  • He drafted T Willie Roaf and TE Irv Smith in the first round. Roaf would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in August 2012.
  • Once the draft ended, Jim's wife took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He had chain smoked for years and never could quit the habit.
  • His health declined rapidly, making him too ill to continue as president and general manager. On July15, 1993, Finks stepped down from both positions. Club owner Tom Benson retained him as a consultant while leaving his positions open.
  • He died May 18, 1994, at age 66 at his home in Metairie LA.
  • That same year, he was elected to the Saints Hall of Fame.
  • He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995 as an administrator. The Louisiana Hall of Fame honored him in 2000.
  • The other two teams for whom he served as GM also recognized him. He was inducted the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor in 1998. The Chicago Bears retired a special "GM" designation in place of a number.
Here's the statistics that best summarize Jim Finks' impact on the New Orleans Saints.
  • From the beginning of the franchise in 1967 through 1985, the Saints finished .500 or better just twice and never won their division or made the playoffs.
  • From 1986-1992, Finks's tenure as GM, the Saints' record was at least .500 every season. They won their division for the first time and made the playoffs four of the seven years. Included were four double-digit win campaigns.

In summary, Jim Finks, with the assistance of the coach he hired, Jim Mora, made the Saints a consistently successful professional football team for the first time in their history.

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Saints Saga Archives - I

First Draft
Dazzling Debut: Archie Manning
Dazzling Debut: John Fourcade
The Sad Tale of Russell Erxleben
Could've, would've, should've
Profile: Billy Kilmer
"Shut that music off!"
Record Setter: Seven INTs
Profile: Morten Andersen
Memorable Game: Aints No More
Mascots to Fit the Team
Saints Get Moore from Lance

Saints Saga Archives - II

Bobby Hebert's Terrible Year
Memorable Game: Rams 10/23/94
Bum Takes Over
Dazzling Debut: Aaron Brooks
The Longest Boo
Profile: Tom Dempsey
The Love Affair Started Early
Record Breaker: 12 TD Passes
Firsts: Andersen Points, OT Victory
The Great Pizza Revolt

Saints Saga Archives - III

Profile: Ironhead Heyward
"One of the Oddest Two-Play Sequences in Saints History
"The Man Belongs in the Hall of Fame"
Profile: Michael Haynes
Ditka's Regime
First Victory
Memorable Game: Raiders 1979

Saints Saga Archives - IV

Streak Buster:Tampa Bay 1977
Dazzling Debut: Deuce McAllister
First 2-0 Start
"The Case of the Purloined Playbook"
Profile: Danny Abramowicz
"Black Sunday"
Dixon's Quest
Record-Setting Punt Returner
Profile: Bum Phillips
Memorable Game: Bears 1977

Saints Saga Archives - V

First 1,000y Rusher
Dazzling Debut: Marcus Dowdell
River City Relay
Emeril Helps the Saints I & II
Profile: Boy Owner I & II
We Sucked!
Profile: Bobby Hebert I, II, & III

Saints Saga Archives - VI

Hank Returns to KC
Streak Buster: Lone 1980 Win
Say Two Hail Marys and Beat the Saints
That Penalty Hurt!
Record Setter: Sam Mills 1992
Unlikely Victory
Big Plays Win It
First NFL Game in Mexico
Payton-Brees Regime Begins

Saints Saga Archives - VII

Take Me Out to the Brawl Game
Profile: Don Reese I and II
Memorable Games: Vince's Redskins I, II, III
Dobler Returns to the Dome I and II
Saints in Blue and Gold?
Walter Payton Gets the Record
Saints-49ers Shootout

Saints Saga Archives - VIII

Record-Setting Performance: Joe Horn 2003
Not So Dazzling Debut - Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson
Memorable Game: Pearl Harbor Day Disaster 1980
Memorable Game: Saints-Eagles 2007 Playoffs
Record-Setter: George Rogers
He looks funny in white pants
Profile: Monty Stickles

Saints Saga Archives - IX

Season in Time: 1987

Saints Saga Archives - X

Biggest Margins in Saints History
Firsts: Seven Wins, NFC Player of Year - 1978
Streak Buster: 1980 Opener
Profile: Jim Finks I

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