Enter the Ditka Era. Hall of Famer Mike Ditka took over as Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints following the disaster of 1996. 6 wins were produced despite an anemic offense that saw 4 different quarterbacks shuffled in and out of the starting blocks. New-Kid-on-the-Block Heath Shuler was obtained from Washington, but failed to do much of anything. Veteran backup Doug Nussmier didn't do any better. Heisman Trophy award winner Danny Weurfeul showed flashes of greatness but remained inconsistent. The offense finally began to show a little life when Billy Joe Hobert was picked up after being dropped by Buffalo midway through the season.
Despite the inaptness of the offense, the defense was the surprise of the season. Together with the special teams (with performances from kick returner Eric Guillford and kicker Doug Brian) the Saints managed to keep most of the games close. They were fourth in total defense and set a new team record for sacks in a season: 58.