To paraphrase Anita Bryant’s husband, “a Sunday without football is like a day without sunshine…Nancy Boy!” An overt homophobia aside, I fully understand his point. Last weekend’s seemingly interminable Death March of NBA, NHL and NCAA Basketball games lacked the intensity and immediacy of a good ol’ NFL Sabbath. Kinda like following up a drunken night at Kim Kardashian’s with brunch at Khloe’s.
And with the looming lockout putting a freeze on free agency, it appears the NFL Draft will be our next infusion of real football. So with that in mind, I decided to find the Saints the worst draft ever which sadly is what angry, misanthropic, functioning alcoholics do with their free time…enjoy!
New Orleans Saints 1979 Draft
1 (11) RUSSELL ERXLEBEN-P
Yes, coming off a whopping 16 wins in the previous four years, GM Steve Rosenbloom used the 11th pick on punter Russell Erxleben of Texas thereby making him the highest selected punter ever. Now drafting any type of kicker in the first round is a risky proposition on par with, say, ordering the fish at Peter Luger's—no matter how good it is you'll still be sorry when they start carving up the sirloin. And if Old Rosey (I’m assuming that’s what they called him) needed a historical lesson to drive this point home, he had to look no further than the only K/P ever drafted higher than Erxleben, Charlie Gogolak (No. 6) by Washington in 1966.
Gogolak lasted three years in DC, made an abysmal 55 percent of his FGs and was bounced in 1969 by incoming coach Vince Lombardi, never one to look favorably on lollipop guild-sized, Ivy Leaguers with British accents parading around as real football players. Oh yeah, Washington went a NY Islander-like 17-22-3 in Gogolak's three seasons.
And therein lies the problem. Teams selecting as early as the '79 Saints or '66 Redskins generally have more problems than a coupla extra FGs or a few yards in field position is going to solve. New Orleans was in no position to be tweaking a roster that had more holes than my college underwear. Even worse, Erxleben wasn't even needed as eighth-round Green Bay castoff Rick Partridge handled the punting chores that year to the tune of a 40.9 yard average or .3 yards better than Erxleben for his career.
2 (38) Reggie Mathis-LB
Lasted two years in the NFL and started all 16 games for the 1980 1-15 ‘Aints squad that took one of the biggest poundings this side of Superfly Snuka’s appearance on Piper’s Pit. A 40-7 thrashing at the hands of the 1-3 St. Louis Cardinals in the Superdome in which NO was out-first downed 29-3, outgained 433-80 and ran 31 plays to the Cards 80…but yeah, a backup Punter was what you needed.
4 (93) Jim Kovach-LB
Remember him? Neither do I, but he was the keeper of this draft playing six-and-a-half years for the Saints. Then went on to become a Genetic Scientist…so good for him.
5 (120) Harlan Huckleby-FB
This is the kind of name that gets a kid beat up anywhere—but Arkansas. Unfortunately, Harlan grew up in Detroit so chances are he was tough. He still managed to get cut by a team that finished 23rd in yards rushing the prior year primarily because the Saints already had a highly drafted 25-year-old fullback in Tony Galbreath reminding us this draft was nothing if not superfluous.
6 (146) Ricky Ray-DB
From 1976-78, the Saints had a ground defense so bad it could’ve made the Maginot Line chuckle, never allowing less than 2,100 yards (14 game seasons in ’76-’77) or finishing higher than 21 out of 28 teams.
Still they did not select a single defensive lineman in this draft, passing on such future All-Pros as Marty Lyons, Manu Tuiasosopo, Mark Gastineau and Fred Smerlas. Ray lasted two-and-a-half seasons, intercepted one pass and departed the 8070th best player since 1950 according to the Pro Football Reference Approximate Value Scale.
7 (176) Stan Sytsma-LB
Alright, at this point, you’re not expecting much, and this guy provided it, getting cut by NO and playing (or at least suiting up) in two games with Atlanta in 1980 before being released. Nonetheless, he shows up on seven different football player bio sites in a Google search…alas all read “This Page Needs Content.”
8 (202) Doug Panfil- G, 11(285) David Hall-WR, 12(311) Kelsey Finch-RB
None of these players ever saw a down of action in the NFL, but it does harken back to the pre-ESPN days when the Draft was held in the back room of some gin mill and ran up to 30 rounds. With no Combine, advanced scouting techniques or even computers to keep track of the tens of thousands of college players teams often swung wildly, or perhaps drunkenly, in the later rounds picking folks like Andre The Giant (Washington Redskins) and Bruce Jenner (LA Rams).
Note: the Saints actually drafted Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff in the 12th round of the 1973 Draft (289 overall), but he was a legit RB for the University of Tampa and not the madman who tried to attack Dick Clark at Wrestlemania I.
So here’s hoping Mickey Loomis and the gang look to shore up the anemic run game or find a ball-hawking DB (please God, no more Roman Harper) and don’t repeat the sins of ’79.
See ya at the Draft!