Once Drew Brees announced his retirement, the New Orleans Saints officially became one of the most interesting teams to monitor. After all, offensive mastermind and longtime head coach Sean Payton has to find a successor to one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. While fourth-round rookie Ian Book could develop into a starter down the line, Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will battle for the top spot on the depth chart.
However, the latest report on the team’s starting quarterback situation should make Saints fans nervous about what lies ahead. And given the uncertainty at the position, New Orleans may struggle to keep up with the elite teams in the NFC.
Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill will battle for the right to replace Drew Brees
With Brees no longer leading the offense, the Saints must embrace change at the most critical position in all of sports. Whoever emerges as the winner in the battle between Winston and Hill will certainly represent a drastically different style of player than the one who started 228 games for New Orleans since 2006. After all, neither quarterback comes close to measuring up to Brees from a skill set perspective.
Winston checks all the boxes from a physical standpoint. In fact, most teams would much rather have a signal-caller of his stature (6-foot-4, 231 pounds) than the 6-foot, 209-pound Brees. However, Winston’s strong arm and solid frame couldn’t convince the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to give him a contract extension. Instead, the franchise let him walk after the former FSU star posted a 28-42 record and threw 88 interceptions across five frustrating seasons.
The 27-year-old only attempted 11 passes in his first season with the Saints, so it seems like a surefire bet that Winston will see more action in 2021. Still, the No. 1 pick from the 2015 NFL Draft has to fend off Hill, who went undrafted two years later.
Tipping the scales at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, the BYU product has filled a variety of roles for the Saints since he joined the team in 2017. Pressed into action because of Brees’ rib and lung injuries, Hill performed admirably by completing 72.7% of his passes for 928 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions in four starts. But at 30 years old, it remains to be seen whether he can go from part-time player to full-time starter in his fifth year in New Orleans.
The latest report on the Saints’ starting quarterback situation should make New Orleans fans nervous
It’s obviously too early to make a final call on who will start for the Saints in their season opener against the Green Bay Packers. However, the latest report on the battle between Winston and Hill should make New Orleans fans nervous about the future.
In fact, according to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, the competition for the QB1 role may already be over.
“But from what I have heard from league sources, I’m not sure it’s going to be truly open,” Volin reported. “Hill is such a unique dual threat that he’s worth trying out as the starting QB to start the season. And if the experiment fails, Payton can fall back on Winston and a more traditional pocket-based offense and move Hill back to his Swiss Army Knife role.”
For Saints fans, the idea of Hill opening the year under center doesn’t sound particularly promising. Sure, he’s made an impact over the years as a multi-dimensional gadget player. But he left BYU with a career completion rate of 58.2% and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 43:31. Considering he’s spent the majority of his NFL career doing everything except throwing the football, does it seem likely that Hill will suddenly become a starting-caliber quarterback in his fifth year in the league?
Winston has his issues, but he has also shown the ability to play the position at a high level. If Payton wants to give his team the best chance to succeed, it makes sense to go with a quarterback who, at times, looked like a star in Tampa. But if he rather take a risk with Hill, Payton better be prepared to pay the price for leaving Winston on the bench.
Where does Sean Payton’s squad rank among the top Super Bowl contenders in the NFC?
The Saints can’t afford to not get adequate play out of the quarterback position. After all, even though they have a stacked roster, they won’t get over their playoff woes without solid results from either Winston or Hill.
Unfortunately for New Orleans, the uncertainty at that spot makes the reigning NFC South champions hard to pick as a Super Bowl favorite.
After all, does anyone think Winston or Hill can beat Tom Brady in the regular season, let alone the playoffs?
Ultimately, the Saints’ lack of a clear succession plan will come back to bite them this season. No matter how much play-design magic Payton has up his sleeve, his team seems bound to fall short of winning a Super Bowl title…again.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.