Jim Mora, gets a lot of credit for turning the New Orleans Saints into winners and a consistent playoff team for the first time in their franchise history in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And he and Jim Finks deserve a lot of credit for that, because of how the drafted and the teams that Coach Mora brought to New Orleans. That played great defense and ran the ball well with solid quarterbacking. But the Saints had been very close to becoming a very competitive team and even a playoff team and flirting with the playoffs in the late 1970s, in 78 and 79. And just missed the NFC Playoffs in 1983 under Bum Phillips. Bum, inherited a 1-15 team from 1980 and they just barely missed the playoffs in 1982 and 83. Fell back a little in 1984 finishing 7-9 and then Bum retires at the end of the 85 season.
It was not like Jim Finks and Jim Mora inherited an awful 2-14 team, or something that had almost no talent on either offense and defense. And most the talent that they did have were past their primes. Which is what Jimmy Johnson inherited with the 1989 Dallas Cowboys. Bum Phillips built the Houston Oilers into a consistent winning and playoff team that came within one game of the Super Bowl both in 78 and 79, by putting together strong tough defenses and a power running game with Earl Campbell, with a strong offensive line. Which is what he did in New Orleans by putting together the best pass defense in the NFL in 1983 that had a very good pass rush as well. With defensive end Frank Warren and rush end Rickey Jackson. And a strong power running game with George Rogers and Wayne Wilson.
The theme of the 1983 Saints was, “A Little Bit More.” Which is exactly what they needed finishing the season with an 8-8 record and coming within one game of making their first playoff appearance and having their first winning record ever. From about 1978-84 or so, they were consistently flirting with having both a winning season and making the NFC Playoffs. 1980 and 81, would be exceptions to that. They had a strong pass defense and pass rush, but gave up a lot of yards on the ground. Great power running game averaging 150 yards a game rushing, but didn’t have any great receivers. And needed to run the ball the lot to move the ball and score points. This was a team was very close, but needed “A Little Bit More.” Needed more weapons in the passing game and a stronger run defense. But the Saints under Bum Phillips improved real fast and he deserves a lot of credit for that.