Prior to the Drew Brees era, the New Orleans Saints were typically one of the NFL’s least successful franchises. However, throughout their history, the team has still rostered some great players. Here are five you may have forgotten played for New Orleans.
5. Mark Brunell, 2008-2009
Brunell is known for being the first quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He started eight seasons for the team, but he also spent the final part of his career as a backup for the New York Jets. Before that, he spent time with the Saints. Brunell barely played under center for the Saints, but he did provide a veteran presence for starter Drew Brees, and also served as the team’s field goal holder. He won his only Super Bowl with New Orleans, as the team beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV.
4. Earl Campbell, 1984-1985
Campbell is a Hall of Famer despite having a relatively short career. He was drafted first overall in 1978 by the Houston Oilers, and rushed for more than 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his first four seasons, and topped that mark again in 1983. He played in only nine games in 1982, but aside from that year, Campbell was a Pro Bowler in each of his full seasons in Houston. He also made three All-Pro teams, while winning one MVP award.
Six games into the 1984 campaign, Campbell was traded to the New Orleans Saints for a first-round pick. Campbell had requested a trade the previous season, so this wasn’t surprising for the Oilers. However, this was a puzzling move for New Orleans, because the Saints had just drafted George Rogers first overall three years earlier. Rogers led the league in rushing as a rookie, and had topped 1,100 yards in 1983. Rogers finished the season with over 900 yards, and moved on to Washington afterwards. Campbell carried the ball only 50 times in eight games, and had just 158 carries in 1985. He retired after that at the age of 31. Campbell rushed for 833 yards and one touchdown on 208 carries with the Saints, who did not get a great return on investment with him.
3. Ken Stabler, 1982-1984
Stabler spent 10 years with the Oakland Raiders, making four Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team, and winning one MVP and one Super Bowl. He started for two seasons with the Houston Oilers before signing in New Orleans in 1982. He was originally the backup to Archie Manning, but when Manning was traded in the middle of the season, Stabler stepped into the starting lineup, and started a total of 22 games with the Saints. Stabler went 11-11, throwing for 3,670 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions. He retired during the 1984 campaign at the age of 39. “The Snake” was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, a year after he passed away.
2. Adrian Peterson, 2017
Peterson is one of the greatest runners of all time, and has spent the last two seasons with the Washington Redskins. Before that, he had an incredible run with the Minnesota Vikings from 2007 to 2016. Every year that he played in at least 14 games, Peterson topped 1,200 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. But in between Minnesota and Washington, Peterson had a very forgettable 2017 campaign. He signed a two-year, $7 million deal with the Saints, but had just 81 rushing yards on 27 carries through four games. He was then traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional sixth-rounder, and fared a bit better with Arizona before landing on injured reserve. He’s rebounded quite well in Washington, but many Saints fans have chosen to erase Peterson’s stint in New Orleans from their memory.
1. Champ Bailey, 2014
The seventh overall pick in 1999, Bailey is one of the NFL’s all-time best cornerbacks. He made 12 Pro Bowls and was a seven-time All-Pro selection throughout his 15-year career. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019, his first year of eligibility. Bailey never won a Super Bowl, as he played his final season in 2013, just two years before the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 with Peyton Manning. However, Bailey did not intend to end his career after being released by Denver. In 2014, he signed a two-year deal with the Saints worth $7 million. But he was 36 at that point, and his age showed during the preseason. He didn’t make the 53-man roster and was released before the season began, and ended up officially retiring with Denver a few months later.