Warpaint Illustrated: How did you first become involved in the NFL and football in general?
Bill Kuharich: "I was from a football family. My dad, Joe Kuharich, was a coach in the NFL and coached the Chicago Cardinals in 1952. After that he became the head coach of the Redskins from 1954 to 1958, the head coach of Notre Dame from 1959 to 1962 and then the head coach and general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles from 1964 to 1968."
"My brother, Larry, also coaches. He's been a head coach in the Canadian League (Calgary Stampede and British Columbia Lions), Arena League, USFL and he's also been a coordinator with the USFL for San Antonio and Oakland."
"I coached when I got out of college and later went to work for the Philadelphia Stars for three years under Jim Mora and Carl Peterson. When the USFL folded in 1986 I was fortunate enough to be hired by Jim Finks in New Orleans."
"I worked under Jim in New Orleans for seven years until he got sick and eventually passed away in 1994. He was a great mentor of mine and his skills were tremendous. He not only did a lot for the Saints but he was also the architect of two of the league's all time great defenses, the ‘85 Bears and the Vikings "Purple People Eaters" in the 70's." (Jim Finks is one of 17 administrators who have been elected to the Pro Football Hall Of Fame)
On Drafting Success With The Saints:
Warpaint Illustrated: The Saints enjoyed the best years of their franchise while you were there. A great deal of that success was due to the players you were able to acquire. Off the top of your head, can you name a few of those guys that were difference makers?
Bill Kuharich: "In the late 1980's we had the linebackers of (Rickey) Jackson, (Pat) Swilling, Sammy Mills, and Vaughan Johnson. Then Craig Heyward, Renaldo Turnbull, Wayne Martin, Joe Johnson and on to Willie Roaf and Ricky Williams. There are a lot of them."
"We had a lot of good talent there and for a period we were successful. Unfortunately, when the cap hit we had an older football team and never seemed to be able to get back over the hump."
In the early part of this decade the Saints became a real force in their division and had couple of successful runs. You drafted the majority of the players on those teams. Can you elaborate on the success you had in the draft leading up to that era? Specifically your first round picks?
"I was fortunate in New Orleans with all our first rounders after Jim Finks passed away. We started in 1993 with Willie Roaf and then in 1994 Joe Johnson came in as a junior from Louisville and made an immediate impact. In 1995 Mark Fields came in for us and was a starter. Now we are talking about three number one picks and they've all had Pro-Bowl appearances."
"We drafted Alex Molden in 1996. For where he was picked and where the expectation was he didn't reach the status of those other three, although he started five years for us so we got good production out of him."
"In 1997 we took Chris Naeole, a time where we may have over-picked, but he's played nine years in the league. Although he's never been a Pro-Bowler he's been a productive starter for his entire career. With all of the misses that can happen with first round picks, I think I'd take that all the time".
"In 1998 we drafted Kyle Turley. He's another player that's been to a Pro-Bowl and had a strong career early on. Unfortunately health issues have hampered his career a little bit."
"Ricky Williams was our pick in 1999 and during that first year he battled a lot of injuries. Then the following year, the year after I left, he happened to break his ankle. After that they shipped him to Miami and he rushed for 1,850 yards."
"From 1993 to 1999 we were fortunate to not have a big blunder in the draft. You can argue that not all of them lived up to expectation but at least he majority of them are still in the league making a contribution."
"Just look at the quarterback draft in 1999. Three of the five quarterbacks are gone. Akili Smith, Tim Couch and Cade McNown are gone. Only Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper are left."
Check out Part Two of our Bill Kuharich interview on Wednesday morning.
Editors Note: This article first appeared in our 2006 Summer Edition of Warpaint Illustrated the Magazine. We're breaking it down in five parts so everyone can enjoy the entire interview with Bill Kuharich.
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