The offseason began with rampant rumors the franchise was on its way out of town. Original owner John W. Mecom Jr. was anxious to sell the team, and he threatened to move to Jacksonville, Florida if no suitable owner could be found. In May, local car magnate Tom Benson stepped up and pledged to meet Mecom's asking price of $70 million. Mecom and Benson sat down with Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards and hammered out a deal, which was finalized May 31.
Coach Bum Phillips offered to resign when Benson completed his purchase, but Benson declined the offer. The season got off to a disastrous start, as the Saints were routed 47–27 at home by the Kansas City Chiefs, and an angry woman poured a cup of beer on Phillips as he exited the field. With the team 4–8 following a victory at Minnesota, Phillips resigned. His son, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, took over as interim coach for the final four games.
The Saints finished with a non-winning record for the 19th time in 19 seasons, going 5–11. Benson promised big changes following the campaign, which he delivered upon.
On opening day, quarterback Dave Wilson set the unwanted record of completing only two of twenty-two passes: the lowest pass completion percent in an NFL game for any quarterback with a double figure total of attempts.