It took two sculptors, 14 years, hundreds of men and thousands of tons of dynamite deep in the heart of the Black Hills region of South Dakota to build Mount Rushmore, which celebrates the great contributions presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
The Advocate is taking the same skill, precision, passion and thought to forever immortalize past and present members of the New Orleans Saints. In this 10-week "The New Orleans Saints Mount Rushmore Plus One Series" (it's "plus one" because we have some extra explosives left over from last year's Mardi Gras) a group of sportswriters at The Advocate votes and lists the top Saints at the positions of quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, coach/general manager.
Now, here is the final Saints Mount Rushmore Plus One....
1. Sean Payton (2006 - )
In just seven seasons on the sideline, Payton is already the second-winningest coach in club history with 79 victories. As the architect of one of the NFL’s most prolific offenses, leading the league in total yards four times and finishing no lower than sixth since he took over in 2006, Payton has stamped himself as one of the NFL’s top coaches and play callers. Payton has a 73-39 regular-season record (.652 winning percentage). He also has a 6-4 postseason mark and a victory in Super Bowl XLIV for a franchise that had won just one playoff game in the 39 seasons before he arrived. Since 2009, Payton has a 53-19 record counting the playoffs.
2. Drew Brees (2006 - )
Before he signed with the Saints in 2006, the franchise had just one Pro Bowl quarterback -- Archie Manning. In his eight seasons with the Saints, Brees has been voted to seven all-star games -- tying the club record of William Roaf. The numbers tell you everything you need to know: 38,733 passing yards, 283 TDs, 124 interceptions, 67.3 percent completion percentage and a 99.0 passer rating. He also has 22 touchdown passes and only five interceptions in 10 postseason games in leading his team to an 80-47 record and 86-51 mark counting the playoffs.
3. Rickey Jackson (1981-94)
One of the greatest players in franchise history, Jackson was the first person who spent the majority of his career with the Saints to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The team’s all-time sack leader with 115, Jackson was inducted in 2010 after being voted to six Pro Bowls. A warrior who missed only two games in his Saints’ career (because of a car accident), he ranks second with 195 games played. He led the team in sacks three times and tied for the lead twice. Jackson, who brought a tough, aggressive mentality to the field, had seven interceptions, forced 38 fumbles and recovered 27 fumbles.
4. William Roaf (1993-2001)
A 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Roaf, the eighth overall pick in the 1993 draft, was one of the greatest players in club history. The 6-foot-5, 312-pounder was the foundation for the Saints’ offensive line for nine seasons. A dominant pass and run blocker at left tackle, he was selected to a club-record seven Pro Bowls from 1994-2000 and was a four-time first-team All-Pro pick. After being traded to Kansas City, he made four more Pro Bowls and four more All-Pro teams, giving him 11 and eight, respectively.
5. Archie Manning (1971-75, 77-82)
Manning was the first “face of the franchise” as the second overall pick of the 1971 draft following an outstanding career at Ole Miss. The problem was the Saints didn’t surround him with a lot of talent and he suffered through some of the franchise’s leanest years in the early 1970s. Despite having to run for his life most of his time, he still ranks second in passing yards with 21,734 and was the club record-holder with 115 TD passes until being passed by Aaron Brooks (120) and Brees (284).
Others receiving votes: Jim Finks, Jim Mora and Tom Benson.