These Two Numbers Aren’t Retired, But Here’s Why You Won’t Ever See Any Saints Players Wearing Them Again
The New Orleans Saints do not retire jersey numbers, but there are at least two that you will never see on the field again.
Earlier this week, NOLA.com sports columnist Jeff Duncan did a story highlighting the unspoken rule when it comes to No. 8 and No. 9 in the Saints organization.
An “unspoken thing”
Like I said earlier, the numbers worn by former Saints quarterbacks Archie Manning (8) and Drew Brees (9) aren't officially retired nor are there any orders from Gayle Benson, or any Saints executives that prevent the numbers from being given out to any players on the current Saints roster.
It is just understood that those numbers aren't available—or as the kids say, "IYKYK."
But according to this great piece from Duncan, the "mystery" behind how the numbers have remained so guarded with no official protection goes a little deeper than that.
Who are the gatekeepers?
They are known as Chief and Bum. Dan Simmons and John Baumgartner are the Saints' equipment managers and since 1973, any player who wears a jersey number has had to go through one of them or the other. The protection of No. 8 started in 1982 when the Saints traded Manning away to the Houston Oilers.
There was a parking lot moment that led to an unspoken rule that still stands to this day and it seems like the same stipulations apply to No. 9, famously worn by Drew Brees.
Even when beloved Saints running back Mark Ingram made his return to New Orleans after a trade with the Texans, he was "nudged along" to pick a different number. Ingram says he even suggested making a personal call to Manning and his request was still shut down.
Why don't the Saints retire numbers?
Every team in the NFL approaches the number retirement thing a little differently, but the Saints are one of the teams that don't partake—at least not in an official capacity. For comparison, the Bears and the Giants are both teams that have over 10 numbers retired each.
Another thing to know is that the league actually frowns upon retiring numbers as roster limits increase. Could you imagine a team just running out of numbers?
Instead of retiring numbers, the Saints started a Ring of Honor in 2013 and so far, Archie Manning, Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson, Willie Roaf, Morten Andersen, Will Smith and Tom Benson have been featured.
The Argument for Colston
We've barely made it through voluntary OTAs and minicamp and some fans are already groaning about rookie WR Chris Olave wearing No. 12—famously worn by legendary receiver Marques Colston.
While Colston was an amazing player with an even more amazing path to greatness, could you imagine if we started retiring the number of every fan favorite on a team with so many beloved personalities?
Speaking of which, why isn't Colson in the Ring of Honor yet?
Also, is the "unspoken rule" just a QB thing? One would imagine that the Founding Father of the Who Dat Nation Bobby Hebert would be in this mysterious group of numbers that are off-limits. Even though Hebert eventually moved on to play for the arch-rival Atlanta Falcons, he was the quarterback who had a 65% win percentage and in 1987, led the Saints to their first-ever playoff appearance in franchise history.
Fans have famously argued for other Saints to be considered for "retirement" as well.
But would this unspoken retired number thing be such a mystery if there was any rhyme or reason? Check out Jeff Duncan's full story here to see if you can figure it out, but for now, we'll just enjoy the gap between Taysom Hill and Tre'Quan Smith as the Saints gear up for the 2022 regular season.