Falcons Hate Week is here and to celebrate we are reviewing one of the better rivalries in the NFL. If you missed part one you can check it out here. In Part 2 we are going to look at some of the players and coaches that left New Orleans for Atlanta or vice versa.
First, lets look at players and/or coaches who were first in Atlanta then came to New Orleans…
Dennis Allen got he NFL coaching debut with the Atlanta Falcons in 2002 as a Defensive Quality Control Coach. He held this position for two years before being promoted to a Defensive Assistant in 2004, a position he held for two more years before being poached by new Saints coach Sean Payton in 2006 to be the Defensive Line Coach. And from there we know Dennis Allen’s history. He would go on to be the Saints secondary coach from 2008-2010 before being hired to be the Defensive Coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2011. He would go on to be the Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2012 and be reunited in the Big Easy in January of 2015 and officially given the title of the Saints Defensive Coordinator position after the firing of Rob Ryan in November of that same year. A position he still holds today.
Wade Phillips came to New Orleans with his father Bum Phillips. Bum became the Saints head coach in 1981 with Wade as his Defensive Coordinator. During the 1985 season when Bum stepped down as the Head Coach of the Saints, Wade became the Interim Head Coach. He, however, would not be given the job full-time the following year. After stops in Philadelphia, Denver and Buffalo, Wade Phillips found himself in Atlanta as the Defensive Coordinator. He would serve in the position for a year and a half before replacing Dan Reeves as the Interim Head Coach after Reeves was fired. Phillips again was not offered the head coaching job as the Falcons brought in new Head Coach Jim L. Mora (HEY, that name sounds kinda familiar).
That last name sounds familiar, right? Lombardi is the grandson of legendary Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi. Lombardi got his first NFL job as a Defensive Assistant for the Atlanta Falcons in 2006. It was in 2007 that Sean Payton brought Lombardi to New Orleans as an Offensive Assistant. In 2009 he was promoted to Quarterback Coach until he was hired to be the Lions Offensive Coordinator in 2014. After being fired by the Lions, Lombardi was brought back to New Orleans to reclaim his position as the Quarterback Coach.
Nolan spent 3 seasons as the Falcons Defensive Coordinator from 2012-2014. As Defense Coordinator Nolan went 3-3 against the Saints offense when Drew Brees was in his prime. Not a bad record to have because we know what that offense was capable of. He would go and spend one year as San Diego’s Linebackers Coach before landing in New Orleans in 2017.
Bill Johnson was the Atlanta Falcons Defensive Line Coach from 2001-2006 in his first NFL coaching job. After a brief stint in Denver, Johnson was hired by the Saints to be the Defensive Line Coach in 2009.
Justin Drescher was signed by the Atlanta Falcons in 2010 following the draft as an undrafted free agent. Drescher, however, did not make the team and was waived. He was then picked up by the New Orleans Saints were he would be the long snapper until 2016. In 2017 the Saints briefly brought Drescher back but he was cut following an injury in training camp and the Saints trading for a long snapper.
Luke McCown was technically signed by the New Orleans Saints first but was only on the team for 5 weeks before being cut. Immediately after being cut by the Saints, McCown was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as the primary backup to Matt Ryan, and to replace Chris Redman. After one year with the Falcons, McCown was sent back to New Orleans where he would be the primary backup to Drew Brees until 2017.
Billy Joe Tolliver
Buckle up for this one…..
Billy Joe Tolliver was the starting quarterback for the San Diego Chargers before losing his starting job. A few days later he was traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a fifth round draft pick. Tolliver was a backup to Chris Miller with rookie quarterback Brett Farve also there (THATS RIGHT, THE FALCONS HAD BRET FARVE AND LET HIM GO!!!! LMAO). Anyways, Tolliver’s biggest moment as a Falcon came against the San Fransisco 49ers when Chris Miller was hurt and Tolliver threw a 44 yard Hail Mary to Micheal Haynes to win the game. After that game Tolliver would lead the Falcons to a blow out loss to the Redskins. Things get weird and the Falcons trade Farve to the Packers and sign Wade Wilson to back up Chris Miller with Tolliver. How is it possible to mess this whole quarterback thing up so bad? Tolliver would eventually have to start for the Falcons when Miller gets injured and has to be out for the season. Tolliver is eventually benched in favor for Wilson. Then 1993 happens……Wilson signs with the Saints and the Falcons sign Bobby Hebert to replace him as the backup to Miller. Tolliver then holds out but ends up signing a one year deal to be the third string quarterback. As luck would have it, Miller is injured AGAIN and Tolliver is named the primary backup to Hebert. Hebert then gets hurt forcing Tolliver back into the starting lineup. Tolliver himself would eventually get hurt while playing the Saints. And no surprise in 1994 Tolliver was not resigned by the Falcons. What was a surprise was the Saints signing Tolliver in 1998. Tolliver was signed to be the back up to Danny Wuerffel after Billy Joe Hobert was injured. After four miserable starts by Wuerffel, Head Coach Mike Ditka gave Tolliver the starting job against none other than the ATLANTA FALCONS. Tolliver was eventually benched for Kerry Collins but in 1999 was given the job as primary backup to Hobert again. Hobert would struggle to stay healthy and Tolliver would get several starts throughout the year. In 2000, the Saints traded for quarterback Aaron Brooks and Tolliver was left to fight with Jake Delhomme. And to no ones surprise the Saints parted ways with Tolliver. WHEW. That was a lot to take in.
Wade Wilson was signed by the Atlanta Falcons in 1992 as a Free Agent. He would play one season in Atlanta and appear in 9 games in place of the injured Chris Miller and inept Billy Joe Tolliver (See Above). However, as the New Orleans Saints were preparing to part ways with star quarterback Bobby Hebert they signed Wilson to a contract and he earned that starting role over Steve Walsh. He would lead the Saints to a 5-0 start then end the season only 8-8. New Orleans then traded a seventh round pick for Jim Everette from the Rams and waived Wilson.
After being drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the 7th round of the NFL draft in 1988, Haynes would play six years in Atlanta. Haynes had a breakout year in 1991 when he was named a starter and ended the season with 1,122 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 1994 he would go to New Orleans where he played for 3 seasons. Haynes was productive for the Saints having 985 yards 5 touchdowns, 597 4 touchdowns and 786 4 touchdowns. In 1997 he would go back to Atlanta where he appeared in 12 games for 152 yards and 1 touchdown. He retired of the 1997 season. Fun Fact: Haynes was born and raised in New Orleans but still to this day calls Atlanta home.
Curtis Lofton was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft. He was immediately a starter for the Falcons and ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 94. From 2010 until his signing with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, Lofton lead the Falcons in tackles and was the “heart and soul” of the Falcons Defense.
Now let’s look at the players and/or coaches who started in New Orleans and ended up in Atlanta…
Bryan Cox had a great overall career in the NFL. He just didn’t translate that career to the New Orleans Saints in his last year as a player. The only stats Cox registered were 3 tackles. That’s it. Cox would get into coaching and eventually land in Atlanta as the Defensive Line Coach in 2014. He would be apart of the Atlanta coaching staff that would make it all the way to Super Bowl 51. In that game the Falcons would give up a 28-3 lead in the third quarter and lose the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots (Theres the promised 28-3 jab). Cox would later be fired and used as a scapegoat for the defensive performance. Yeah, since it was his fault……………
In the 1982 draft the New Orleans Saints drafted Anderson in the fourth round after a stellar career at Michigan State where he was an All-American in 1981. Despite suffering an injury in his first season he would go down as one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history and he kicked with his left leg. As a Saint, Anderson was elected to SIX Pro Bowls, kick 302 field goals while scoring 1318 total points. However, in 1994 he was released by the Saints for salary cap reasons and because the organization felt like he was starting to decline. Where did Anderson end up? None other than the Atlanta Falcons where he proved the Saints wrong that he was washed up by making yet another Pro Bowl appearance. Also in 1995, against the Saints of course, Anderson would be the first kicker in NFL history to kick three field goals of more than 50 yards. And to add salt to the wound, in 1998 Anderson kicked a winning field goal in the NFC Championship game that would send the Falcons to their first ever Super Bowl (Something the Saints had yet to do). Between 2001-2004 Anderson would play for the Giants, Chiefs and Vikings before calling it quits. Then in 2006 his phone rang from the Falcons who need his help. Anderson resigned with the Falcons and his first game back in the NFL was against the Saints in 2006 on Monday Night Football. Saints fans will remember this night as “Rebirth.” Anderson scored the Falcons there only points, 3, in that game.
Joe Horn has one of the more interesting journeys to the NFL. After being drafted by the Chiefs in 1996, four years after he left college in 1992, and spending 4 years there, Joe Horn found himself in the Big Easy. Horn easily surpassed his expectation becoming one of best wide receivers in Saints history. During the 2005 season after Hurricane Katrina, Horn was seen as not only the face of the New Orleans Saints but the face of the entire city. During this time Horn became known nationally for challenging the NFL on how it handled the team and the city after the hurricane. After the 2006 season the Saints approached Horn about a pay cut. Horn refused and asked to be released, which the Saints granted soon after. Horn was signed by Atlanta for 4 years $15 million. During the 2007 season for the Falcons, Horn appeared in 12 games, caught 27 passes for 243 yards and 1 touchdown. After disagreements with the coaching staff on his role with the team Horn again asked to be released and was cut after just one year with the Falcons.
And now to the most famous player to leave New Orleans for Atlanta. To really understand the Hebert situation you would have to go back to 1990 when Hebert had a season long hold out. It would be this hold out that would change the Saints history as well as NFL history. If you don’t know much about the 1990 holdout of Bobby Hebert read this article written by Ralph Malbrough. Good Stuff! Hebert went to Atlanta to back up Miller but as luck would have it Miller would get hurt and Hebert would become the starter and even earning a spot in the Pro Bowl in 1993. Hebert played in Atlanta for 3 year before retiring in 1996. Hebert was beloved in New Orleans for being the first Saints quarterback to lead the team to the playoffs. Although he had three playoff appearances while wearing the Black and Gold, Hebert was never able to win a playoff game. That honor would go to Aaron Brooks.