I always feel a little weird delving into topics like this because I worry it makes me look like a bad fan or something. That said, I'm a stat geek and I went on a historical tear of numbers last night out of dumb curiosity. I'm also somewhat deficient but intensely interested in Saints history, so I periodically like to revisit the 60s and 70s when I wasn't around. And let's be honest, the team topics are pretty bleak anytime you reference that time period. And let's also face it, this time of year is just REALLY boring so I'm desperate for topics to discuss. I'm also slightly programmed to talk about how awful the Saints were during the offseason because of one playoff win in my lifetime prior to the Sean Payton era. Admittedly, there's a dark place inside me that occassionally enjoys discussing the worst aspects of negativity that surround a franchise I otherwise obsess over and love with a deep passion. No stone unturned, right? Based on that, I present to you the starting lineup for the all time awful Saints team, starting with offense:
QB: Heath Shuler (1997) – Many of you remember how much of a disaster Shuler was as a high ticket free agent signing, and I also maintain he's the worst open market pick up in team history. But this one isn't as obvious as you might think. His statiscal line of 2 touchdowns and 14 interceptions just one season into his 7 year $19.5 million contract was horrible, no question about it. But I strongly considered Karl Sweetan of 1968. Sweetan completed 34.9% of his passes with 1 touchdown and 9 interceptions. The sample size was small as Sweetan only played three games, but his interception percentage of 11.5% is higher than anyone in team history with at least 20 pass attempts. Shuler at least completed 52.2% of his passes, and his INT % at 6.9 (second in team history with at least 20 attempts) was almost half of Sweetan's. Sweetan's short stint was much worse than Shuler's season at the helm, but ultimately I went with Shuler due to expectations and the investment made in him.
WR: Albert Connell (2001) - Another player the Redskins hooked us up with. Connell played for the Saints in 2001 only but was supposed to be a big time addition. The Saints gave him a 5 year, $13 million deal that included a $2.5 million signing bonus to catch 12 passes that season. Apparently that wasn't enough loot for him, because he elected to steal $4000 in cash from Deuce McAllister's locker. I blame him for Deuce's current bankruptcy issues.
WR: Lindsay Scott (1982-1985) - The Saints had huge expectations for the UGA star picking him 13th overall in 1982. The guy rewarded them by being completely incapable of catching a cold, or getting open. He scored just one touchdown in four seasons and never had more than 24 catches in a year.
HB: Vaughn Dunbar (1992-1994) – I remember being very excited about this pick as most said he was going to be a superstar in the league. 3 years later, he was out of the NFL alltogether. Dunbar would average just 3.5 yards per carry in his short career and he had trouble hanging on to the football. The Saints had a nice run of backs around this time with Reuben Mayes, Dalton Hilliard and Craigh Heyward but Dunbar didn't come close to following suit. After a poor rookie season in 1992, he had a serious injury that cost him the 93 season entirely and he never recovered from that. Honorable mention to Troy Davis who averaged 3.0 yards per carry on 150 carries, but had less expectations coming in.
FB: Jim Taylor (1967) – In the Saints' inaugural season they picked up one of the all time greats in the history of the game, Jim Taylor. At that point he was completely washed up, though. They gave up a lot to get him and put their hopes he'd dip into the fountain of youth. The future hall of famer saw the football a lot as fullbacks got tons of carries in those days. He would turn in a dreadful season of 130 carries for 390 yards and 2 touchdowns (3.0 yards per carry). His average per carry is tied for worst in team history for a back with at least 100 carries.
TE: Irv Smith (1993-1997) - The 1993 draft wasn't all bad as it brought the Saints William Roaf, but Smith was a 1st round pick in that draft as well. The Notre Dame product was a mediocre blocker, he was slow, and he dropped more crucial passes than I could ever care to remember. He never scored more than 3 times in one season and he averaged less than 27 receptions per year in his 5 seasons with the Saints. Irv was also the king of false start penalties and was good for at least two a game.
T: Sam Holden (1971) – The investment of a 2nd round pick in this player yielded 9 horrific games of performance. As bad as almost any draft pick the Saints have ever made. He would never play in the league again.
T: Keno Hills (1996-1998) - How Hills remained with the team as long as he did (3 seasons) despite constantly getting beat like a drum was beyond me. Hills was famous in the late 90's for inviting any player he was blocking to positively pummel his quarterback. He was later arrested for heroin possession with intent to distribute while also carrying a fire arm. As overweight as he was I can't imagine he used that much heroin.
G: John Shinners (1969-1970) - Shinners was a 1st round pick in 1969, and just the third player drafted by the Saints in the 1st round in team history. He ended up having a fairly lengthy and decent career, but only played two mediocre seasons with the Saints to start before they got rid of him. Should have hung on to this one.
G: Royce Smith (1972) - Smith was drafted 7th overall and he was supposed to give the Saints some stability on the offensive line. Back then Archie Manning was the quarterback and continually running for his life and Smith was drafted to help protect him. Instead, Smith lasted 2 disaster seasons with the Saints before ditching town to the hated rival Falcons and not faring much better. Smith died in 2004 at the young age of 54.
C: Olin Kreutz (2011, pictured) – The 4 game Kreutz experiment in 2011 sent back bad center playing 100 years. He was brought in as a massive name in NFL history to replace Jonathan Goodwin and he proved to be a complete disaster. By far one of the worst free agent signings in team history. Not only was he terrible, but he quit on the team after being benched. The roster still could have benefited from his teaching and experience, but he decided to jump ship and call it a career during a playoff race. This all despite being elected captain by his peers, great example to set to the youngsters. What a chump.
Anyone you disagree with?
My top 10 worst free agent pickups in team history
My top 5 worst draft picks in team history
Stats on Pro Football Reference