Saints Pivotal Moments
1981: New Coach; Great Draft Choice
It's a rare head coach who keeps his job after a 1-15 season. And Dick Nolan wasn't an exception to the rule. He was fired even before the 1980 season ended. Who would be the new coach?
The Saints got a break when the Houston Oilers unexpectedly fired their coach, Oail Andrew "Bum" Phillips, after he had taken the team to within one game of the Super Bowl in two of their previous three seasons. The Saints faithful were so fired up over the selection that they put bumper stickers on their cards that read "Faith, Hope and Bum."
Phillips wrote in his autobiography that "... defense was what I became best known for. When I accepted Sid Gillman's offer to coach the Chargers defense in 1967, I installed my 3-4 defense ... Most teams at the time used the 4-3 defense."
Gillman hired Phillips again in 1974 as defensive coordinator for the Oilers. After being outscored 827-363 in the previous two seasons, each of which ended with 1-13 records, Hou­ston improved to 7-7. Having resuscitated the franchise, Gillman retired and turned the reins over to Bum.
Houston improved to 10-4 in 1975 but fell back to 5-9 in '76 and 8-6 in '77.
L-R: Bum Phillips, Earl Campbell, Bud Adams, John Mecom Jr.
Approaching the 1978 NFL Draft, Phillips set his sights on RB Earl Campbell, the Heisman Trophy winner from Texas. To get the #1 pick, the Oilers gave Tampa Bay TE Jimmie Giles and their first and second round picks in the '78 draft as well as their third and fifth round picks in '79.
With Campbell gaining 1450, 1697, and 1934y in the next three seasons, the Oilers went 10-6, 11-5, and 11-5 and made the playoffs each year. In '78 and '79, they lost the AFC champ­ionship game at Pittsburgh both times. Then they lost to Oakland in the Wild Card round in '80. In all three years, the team that eliminated the Oilers won the Super Bowl.
Houston owner Bud Adams surprised the NFL world by firing Phillips after the 1980 season because he refused to hire an offensive coordinator. "I didn't feel like we needed it," said Bum, but "that's his privilege as an owner, and I respect it." Also, Adams felt that Bum got too close to his players and wanted someone with"amore disciplined approach" to get the Oilers over the hump and into the Super Bowl.
Mecom Hires Bum
Phillips didn't stay unemployed long. Two days after Adams fired him, he signed a five-year contract with Saints owner John Mecom Jr. Mecom and Adams, both in the oil business in Texas, were good friends. Like Mecom, Bum was born and raised in the Houston area.
Bum immediately set about to recreate the Oilers with the Saints, bringing Pat Peppler, his assistant general manager with Houston, to New Orleans. Three Oilers assistants also joined Phillips: offensive coach King Hill, linebackers coach John Paul Young, and Bum's son, Wade, who became the Saints' defensive coordinator.
Bum continued his policy from Houston of having no offensive coordinator, developing a strong running game, and playing physical defense.
Saints General Manager Steve Rosenbloom and Director of Player Personnel Dick Stein­berg resigned when Phillips was hired. Bum basically took over personnel decisions, starting with the 1981 draft, which would turn out to be one of the best in franchise history.

L-R: George Rogers, Rickey Jackson, Frank Warren, Hoby Brenner
Saints Have First Pick
This time, Phillips didn't have to make a trade to get the #1 pick. The Saints abysmal 1-15 record "earned" it for him. And once again, he had his eye on a Heisman Trophy-winning run­ning back. This time it was George Rogers from South Carolina.
The Saints went through the motions of listening to trade offers for the #1 pick. The day before the draft, Phillips told the press, "We're still talking, but we're still waiting for someone to offer us something we think the pick's worth. We've had some teams talk about some of our other picks, too, but we're pretty hard to deal with on draft choices. We have some high ones, and we're going to keep them unless someone offers us good, proven players. So far, they haven't."
True to form, the Saints immediately drafted Rogers with the first pick. The New York Giants used the second pick on LB Lawrence Taylor from North Carolina. Two would be­come the offensive and defensive Rookies of the Year, respectively.
Saints Additional Picks
New Orleans had 17 additional picks. These are the ones that proved beneficial.
Round 2 #51: LB Rickey Jackson, Pittsburgh
Round 3 #57: DE Frank Warren, Auburn
Round 3 #71: TE Hoby Brenner, USC
Round 6 #144: CB Johnnie Poe, Missouri
Round 10 #249: RB Hokie Gajan, LSU
Round 12 #305: DT Jim Wilks, San Diego State
Supplemental Draft: QB Dave Wilson, Illinois
Rickey Jackson is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So he somewhat replaced Lawrence Taylor, who preceded Rickey in Canton.
Bum Phillips, Coach, Cowboy, Christian: An Autobiography by Bum Phillips with Gabe Semenza (2010)
"New Orleans Saints Coaching History–Bum Phillips (1981-1985),, Ken Trahan (2020)