The New Orleans Saints finally not just make the playoffs in 1987, but had their first winning season as well. But several of those players that played for the 87 Saints were also there before Jim Mora got there. Like their great outside rush end Rickey Jackson, their great inside linebacker Sam Mills, their great halfback Rueben Mays, safety Dave Waymer, tight end Hobey Brenner and many others. The Saints under Bum Phillips and later Jim Finks and Jim Mora, drafted very well for the Saints for about five years in the 1980s. What Jim Mora brought to the Saints was teaching them how to win. He won championships in the USFL with the Baltimore Stars and that is the only reason why he went to the NFL which was to win. But he inherited a talented team and added to that.
If you look at the Saints of the early 1980s and then later in the late eighties and early nineties they were basically the same team on both sides of the ball as far as their philosophy, they were just better. But run they ran the ball real well and got big pass plays off of their running game and could put together long ball-control drives. And then on defense they could take away your running game and attack your quarterback with their 3-4 blitz pressure defense. Their 3-4 blitz defense was called the Dome Patrol. Where you had Rickey Jackson on one side and Pat Swilling on the other side. Both linebackers the essentially the size of smaller defensive ends with great speed. Where you would need an offensive tackle to block them. And then your three down lineman are there to eat up blocks and space to free up your linebackers to rush the quarterback and attack the runners.
As I mentioned in the piece about the 1983 Saints, Jim Finks and Jim Mora, didn’t inherit a bad 2-14 football team. The were 5-11 in 85 and 6-10 in 86, the first season under Mora. Mora, inherited good players on defense and offense and what he did with that was added to that and bring in more players on defense and offense. Like quarterback Bobby Hebert, who gave them a consistent passing game. And wide receiver Eric Martin, who gave them a very good possession receiver on the outside with good speed. And then they had Dalton Hilliard to go with Rueben Mays in the backfield. It took the Saints 21 seasons to become winners, but it didn’t happen overnight. They were building their good team for several years and finally put it all together in 1987.
HBO Sports: Inside The NFL- Featuring The New Orleans Saints- 12/10/1987