(every Friday during the NFL season, OOB will run a nostalgic feature about the Lions’ upcoming opponents)
How gratifying it must be to be Archie Manning. Maybe now he realizes that all the losing he experienced as a player might just have been worth it, if this is the payoff.
Quarterback Manning, who wallowed on nothing but bad teams in his 14-year NFL career, is now living vicariously through the exploits of his QB sons Peyton and Eli. Both of them made the Pro Bowl, the first time quarterbacking brothers have made the team in the same season.
Archie as a Saint; gotta love the black pants w/white jerseys!
Archie made two Pro Bowls, in 1978 and ’79, but the best his New Orleans Saints teams could muster was an 8-8 record in ’79. A look at his stats at Pro-Football-Reference.com shows an unsightly 35-101-3 record as starting quarterback. But Manning wasn’t the reason, usually, that the Saints lost football games in the 1970s. There was plenty of blame to go around. The Saints were still going through expansion growing pains in that decade, having joined the NFL in 1967. Ironically, on the opening kickoff in their first-ever game, John Gilliam took the kick back for a touchdown. You can’t debut, as a team, any better than that.
But Gilliam’s kick return would be the high point of the franchise for the next three-plus years.
Enter Tom Dempsey.
On November 8, 1970, Dempsey booted a 63-yard field goal as time expired to beat the (who else?) Lions. The Saints had just fired their coach, Tom Fears, and gave replacement J.D. Roberts another rousing debut. But the Saints wouldn’t win another game that season, finishing 2-11-1.
So the Saints had Gilliam’s KO return on their opening play, and Dempsey’s improbable FG three years later, and that was pretty much it for football fun in New Orleans until the mid-to-late 1980s, when the Ragin’ Cajun, QB Bobby Hebert, led the Saints to respectability and even a playoff berth in 1987.
But back to Manning.
The Saints drafted Archie with their no. 1 pick in ’71, out of Ole Miss. He was to be the franchise savior (sound familiar?). But considering the players with which the Saints surrounded Manning, you could have sued the team for lack of support as Manning’s attorney and have been able to make quite a case on his behalf.
The Saints of the 1970s were awful. Maybe their nadir was in 1977, when they became the first team ever to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — at home, no less. The Saints had hired Hank Stram as coach, and that loss pretty much ended Hank’s brief tenure in the Bayou. They had two pretty good running backs — Tony Galbreath and Chuck Muncie — and marketed them as Thunder and Lightning. But the only thing that Mother Nature gave the Saints in the ’70s were black clouds.
Manning spent 1982-84 with Houston and Minnesota, and those teams weren’t any good, either.
But now Archie Manning can kick back, relax, and watch his sons achieve the personal and team success that he never did. Both have won Super Bowls — in consecutive years — and both have a good shot at doing it again this year. Well, check the part about relaxing. As any parent will tell you, it can be anything BUT relaxing to watch your kids play and/or perform — no matter how old they are. But the last two football seasons have ended with a Manning hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy, so we’re back to the opening paragraph: it’s probably worth all the anxiety.