We're close to finalizing a "Bizarro Saints' Mount Rushmore" on the Podcast that should have the majority consent of the esteemed panel (which includes Ralph Malbrough, Dave Cariello and Kevin Held) but I wanted to spare you the suspense and give you my votes prior to that episode. As we concluded on the podcast, there are no real rules for Bizarro Saints' Mount Rushmore. We each embraced slightly different guidelines but mine simply asks the following question: could this person be considered for the regular Saints' Mount Rushmore? If the answer is yes, then they're out. So for me that rules out people like Archie Manning and Tom Benson. Buddy D is one that I really considered, too, but ultimately I decided he was at least worthy of the possibility of being tied to team history in a positive way. You have to admit, though, the man was bizarre. For the record I had none of these guys in my Saints' top 4, but I think they belong in the discussion, so clearly I feel differently about my four selections for this bizarro edition. Beyond that, this could include people utterly terrible, famous in Saints history, embedded in the legend fabric for good and bad reasons, or otherwise. With further ado I present you my bizarro Saints' Mount Rushmore:
1. Aaron Brooks: Without question the most polarizing and controversial player in team history. If you just look at stats prior to his last season, the dude was pretty good. If you watched the games, you understand why so many fans hated him. While Brooks had a hard time holding onto the football and was prone for head scratching mistakes at the craziest times, he was also incredibly gifted physically. He also led the Saints' to their first ever playoff victory in team history in his first season as a starter (filling in for the injured Jeff Blake). He would throw for 400 yards, he would rush for 100 yards, and he would make incredible plays that left a lot of people talking about his potential. But his penchant for idiotic comments in the media, coupled with his bad habit of smiling after bad turnovers really turned the fan base on him. And honestly, some may disagree with me on this but his race didn't help things. New Orleans is a very segregated city with some racial tension, and with the face of the franchise being a controvesial black quarterback I think it added fuel to the fire. I wish that wasn't the case, but if you were in the middle of all the arguments about pros vs. cons on Aaron Brooks that definitely factored into the discussion from time to time unfairly. And frankly it was a mixture of biggotry and oversensitivity which is always a lethal combination. Brooks had some very good seasons and some really poor ones, but his coach's blind commitment to him utlimately did them both in. The Saints had a very capable backup quarterback in Jake Delhomme who remained on the bench as the Saints continued to put Aaron Brooks out there compromised with an injury in the heat of a playoff race. That was when the controversy reached a boiling point. Jake Delhomme would go to the Panthers the next season and lead them to the Super Bowl. Ugh. "Brooksie" would excuse that with the memorable line "Jake is a good quarterback on a great team and I'm a great quarterback on a good team". Pretty much tells you all you need to know. This was his most memorable play:
2. Tom Dempsey: The comedy of this player's history with the team is almost too much to believe as true. Dempsey was a kicker with a stump as a foot. He was born with no fingers or toes on the right side of his body, and so he used a modified shoe to kick, which some suggested gave him more power. Dempsey hit an NFL record 63 yard field goal below. That record still holds today, though it's been tied a few times. That kick, of course, cost the Saints the 1st overall pick because it gave them a win at the buzzer. That kick would for a long time remain the most memorable play in team history, sadly, because there was absolutely nothing else to hang their hat on. And of course, that play was made by a guy with half a foot that was terrible. Classic Saints history, kids. Dempsey kicked two seasons for the Saints with a 53.3% conversion rate.
3. John Mecom, Jr: I'm not a huge fan of Tom Benson for what happened during the Katrina era, and even prior to that, but Benson buying the team from Mecom in 1985 is still the best thing that could have ever happened. Mecom made joke decision after joke decision in a comedy of errors that led to the Saints not once having a winning record in his 18 years of ownership (8-8 twice). He's the figure head during an era of incessant losing and he deserves much of the blame for putting the wrong people in place to make him successful while not making the necessary investments. He embodies that pre mid 80s era of the Saints where the team was a laughing stock to anyone that followed the NFL.
4. Mike Ditka: I have two former players, a former owner, and so I wanted to round this off with a coach. I was very conflicted between Ditka, Bum Phillips and Hank Stram. All three were very high profile names brought in by the organization past their prime to help turn around the team's fortunes. All three were of course horribly unsuccessful, but Ditka to me was the most disappointing because of the expectations that came with him. Every decision he made was horrendous, from drafting Alex Molden, Vaughn Dunbar and Chris Naeole (ok he wasn't that bad) to signing Heath Shuler as a free agent. Ditka coached three seasons in New Orleans, going 6-10, 6-10 and 3-13. The most notable decision he make was trading the Saints' entire draft (picks in round 1 trough 7!) and a 1st and 3rd rounder the following year for the rights to draft Ricky Williams. Right after that pick, Ditka posed with Williams for ESPN the magazine for this ridiculous picture. That's the clincher for me. Williams, of course, would never come close to living up to the hype, although the Saints did at least salvage getting two 1st round picks back for him from the Miami Dolphins. I wish I could find the youtube were Saints fans heckled him on the way inside the Superdome tunnel and he grabbed his privates at them, but instead this is a pretty good gem:
So who did I miss? Who would be on your Saints' bizarro Mount Rushmore? I thought long and hard about Jason David.