Saints Mount Rushmore Plus One: The front office

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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) The Advocate lists the top Saints at the positions of quarterback, running back, tight end, receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, defensive back, coach/general manager.

Here is a look at the front office....

COACHES/ADMINISTRATORS

1. Sean Payton (2006-13)
In just seven seasons on the sideline, Payton is already second-winningest coach in Saints’ history. As the architect of one of the NFL’s most productive offenses, which has led the league in total yards four times and finished no lower than sixth since he took over, Payton has stamped himself as one of the top coaches and playcallers. Teaming up with quarterback Drew Brees, Payton has a 73-39 regular-season record for a winning percentage of .652 and has a 6-4 postseason mark with a victory in Super Bowl XLIV. Since 2009, Payton has a 53-19 record counting the playoffs.

2. Jim Finks (1986-93)
Finks transformed the Saints from lovable losers to a legit franchise after he was hired by Tom Benson as the team’s general manager. Finks hired Jim Mora as coach and charted a course that would, in the next seven seasons, see the Saints, who’d never been to the playoffs before they arrived, make the postseason four times. From 1986-92, they compiled a 69-42 record and claimed the club’s first division title in 1991. Finks was elected to the Pro Football in 1995 -- a year after his death from lung cancer.

3. Tom Benson (1985-2013)
After purchasing the Saints in 1985 from original owner John Mecom Jr. to keep the franchise from relocating to Jacksonville, the New Orleans-born Benson has presided over a long period of success. That success includes, of course, the franchise’s only NFL championship in Super Bowl XLIV after the 2009 season. The Saints have a 239-224 regular-season record in 29 seasons since Benson purchased the club and have had 12 winning campaigns in that time after having none in their first 18 seasons with Mecom.

4. Jim Mora (1986-96)
Brought in by Finks two weeks after Benson hired his general manager, Mora had no NFL head coaching experience when he came to New Orleans. But he had guided his team to three USFL championship games -- winning two -- and brought a no-nonsense mentality to the team. He and Finks built a tough, aggressive defense that was among the NFL’s best in the early 1990s. Mora had a 94-74 regular-season record and is the franchise’s all-time wins leader. He also won its first division title and took it to the playoff four times.

5. Mickey Loomis (2000-13)
Loomis, who is responsible for all of the team’s football operations, just completed his 14th season with the Saints and 12th season as general manager. Loomis, who hired Payton in 2006, has presided over the most successful period in Saints’ history with an 86-52 record since 2006 -- one of the best records in the NFL in that span -- with a victory in Super Bowl XLIV. Loomis, twice named the NFL Executive of the Year, has a philosophy of using every avenue available to him to build teams through free agency, the draft and trades.

NEXT WEEK: The Advocate’s Saints Mount Rushmore