When the Redskins touch down in New Orleans on Saturday, the eve of their season opening matchup with the Saints, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will find himself in familiar territory.
Twelve years ago, the Saints hired Haslett as their head coach – this following stints in 1995 and ’96 as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator for the team.
It marked Haslett’s first head coaching job in the NFL. He got off to a strong start, leading the team to a 10-6 record in 2000. Haslett’s sixth season (in 2005) proved the most challenging of them all as Hurricane Katrina hit, devastating New Orleans and displacing the Saints. The damage caused by the storm forced the Saints to play three home games in San Antonio and four in Baton Rouge, and another in the Meadowlands.
New Orleans endured a 3-13 season, and Haslett was fired following the season.
Asked this week about the challenges of that season, Haslett fought to maintain his composure.
“You really don’t know — nobody really knows — what that team went through that year,” Haslett said, his voice cracking. “It brought back some bad memories last week when the hurricane [Isaac] hit. I felt bad for the people down there, really down south in the lower lying areas. I felt bad for those people because it was like déjà vu seven years later or whatever. I felt for those people down there.”
Haslett still has warm feelings toward the organization, and he commended Saints owner Tom Benson and General Manager Mickey Loomis for the way they guided the franchise to a rebound from the difficult year.
“That was something that wasn’t easy on the organization and they did a nice job coming out of it and obviously winning the Super Bowl, putting a heck of a football team together, and obviously having the quarterback was a big piece,” Haslett said referring to Drew Brees, who signed with the team in 2006. “I’m glad for those guys. I’m glad for Mr. Benson, Mickey, all the guys who were down there – [wide receiver] Devery [Henderson] who we drafted and [wide receiver] Lance Moore and [defensive lineman] Will Smith and all those guys because they were part of it.”