The New Orleans Saints find themselves in a bit of a quandary at the moment, as the team tries to come to terms with the loss of starting QB Drew Brees; who’s expected to miss the next 6 games as he recovers from surgery for a torn ligament in the thumb on his throwing hand.
And while back-up #2 QB Teddy Bridgewater is expected to start in Brees’ absence, there are more than just a few Who Dats that would like to see #3 QB Taysom Hill get an opportunity to run the team’s offensive attack should Bridgewater show any signs of struggle; as he did at times in the team’s loss this past Sunday to the Los Angeles Rams.
The most compelling reason for the desire from fans to see Hill under center over Bridgewater stems from the notable “spark” or emotional lift that the team seems to get when Hill is in the line-up at QB,
And while no one is suggesting that Bridgewater shouldn’t be given every opportunity at redeeming himself after a sub-par 17 out of 30 passing performance against L.A. the other day, it would seem almost logical that Saints head coach Sean Payton at the very least should (and very likely will) give consideration to inserting Hill at QB should Bridgewater falter yet again when the Saints face the NFC rival Seahawks this Sunday at Seattle.
It goes without saying that the 29-year old Hill has firmly established himself as the Saints offense’s “gadget” player, and has lined up at a handful of different positions on the field such as WR, TE, and even at RB when he’s been called upon by Payton; who has on more than one occasion noted to media how enamored that he is with the former BYU star, who he’s even compared favorably to former NFL Hall of Fame QB Steve Young.
Last season as Payton and the coaching staff increased his usage, Hill touched the ball a grand total of 40 times, in which he gained 200 yards from scrimmage as a runner and receiver, while adding two touchdowns. But he was used sparingly at QB, with a stat-line of 3-of-7 for 64 yards with an interception.
But as most Saints fans are well aware: Hill was able to show some big-time improvement at the QB position in the past several months leading up to this moment in time; which began when he started dedicating himself to working on and improving his skills specifically as a pocket passer.
Several weeks ago back during the recent Pre-Season, Hill led the Saints to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over the Los Angeles Chargers after the team had performed very poorly in the 1st Half of the contest, and found themselves down by a score of 17-3 at halftime.
Hill led the Saints offense to two 2nd half touchdown drives and a total of 16 points on the scoreboard; with a thrilling combination of running and throwing that clearly displayed Hill’s athletic prowess and his obvious progression from last season to now, as a pure passer.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) August 19, 2019
In fact, Hill’s thrilling performance was enough for ESPN’s Mike Triplett to make this observation at the time:
“Sunday’s game made you wonder a bit whether Bridgewater or Taysom Hill is a better bet to become Drew Brees’ long-term successor. Hill had 136 passing yards, two passing TDs and 53 rushing yards while rallying the Saints to a come-from-behind win. CBS’ announcers revealed that Sean Payton compared Hill’s potential to Steve Young.”
Hill then followed that performance up with another solid outing against the Jets at New York the following week, and after he initially struggled early and threw two incompletions to begin his night under center; he was able to eventually settle down and led New Orleans on a meticulous drive downfield. Hill finished that night with a steady-if-not-spectacular 8-out-of-13 passing for 127 yards.
This was a beauty from Taysom Hill between two defenders 🔥#NOvsNYJ
— PFF (@PFF) August 25, 2019
As it is, not all Saints fans are convinced that Bridgewater will become the eventual “heir apparent” to Brees; which might be behind the reason why the sizable number of Taysom Hill fans within the fan-base, feel that the dynamic athlete has now earned the right to merit consideration as the “heir apparent” to Brees, himself.
Nevertheless, with regard to the supposed back-up QB ‘controversy’ between Bridgewater and Hill in the minds of some Who Dats, it’s important to remember that making player evaluations during the NFL Pre-Season can be very misleading.
And especially when you take into consideration that your starting QB can be going up against the opponent’s 1st team defensive unit; while the next QB that takes over in the 2nd half of the game (usually the 3rd string QB like Hill did last month) ends up getting to face the opponent’s 2nd and 3rd team players — most of whom are either rookies or young players desperately battling to earn a spot on the Final 53-man Roster.
That’s a sentiment not only held by most observers and analysts that cover the NFL. but even Payton himself.
“That factors in a lot,” Payton said after the game’s conclusion. “Sometimes, depending on the position, it can be challenging. It can be challenging for the running back, the quarterback. So we try as best we can to get them with other personnel on the field. That’s part of it.”
But undoubtedly. a lot of the debate among Saints fans within the past 48 hours as to which of these two players is better suited to lead the team in the future, stems from the panic and realization that Brees is not only just a mere mortal and “human” as he now deals with the thumb injury, but also because he’s getting closer and closer to retirement.
If you consider yourself a Saints fan, however, you have to have known that this moment in time (a significant injury to Brees and eventually his retirement from the NFL within the next few years) was inevitable.
But with the events of the past two seasons that have seen the Saints just barely miss out on getting to the Super Bowl in consecutive years because of back-to-back last-minute heart-breaking losses in the Playoffs, that fact had been somewhat forgotten until the events against the Rams this past Sunday.
And it’s a subject that most Who Dats have either tried to ignore or pretend wouldn’t be happening anytime in the near future, but that future is now suddenly here (at least temporarily) after his injury against the Rams, and it has most Saints fans in a complete state of panic.
If Bridgewater isn’t able to get things going against the Seahawks this Sunday, chances are that Hill might get head-nod from Payton to fill in at QB call over Bridgewater, and allow the coaching staff to utilize Hill’s crazy-good athleticism to open up their offensive playbook.
I asked Sean Payton about if he has to limit Taysom Hill's usage in other positions now that he's the No. 2 QB. His response: "You're assuming he's the No. 2."
— Rod Walker (@RodWalkerNola) September 18, 2019
To his credit, Hill looked good when he was given opportunities to throw the football ball in the preseason; and while most observers and analysts feel that Bridgewater is the better talent as a passer, there’s no disputing that Hill is the more effective runner.
Against the Rams this past Sunday, Bridgewater drew criticism for his inability to connect downfield to the team’s receivers and at times seemed to lack confidence as the leader of the offense; which is the reason why so many within the fan-base are hoping to see Hill enter into the picture and get his shot at running things.
The one “saving grace” for New Orleans is that the NFC South Division appears to be WIDE OPEN this season, and especially so now that Brees will be out of action for the 6-game minimum.
It’s the main reason why many observers League-wide yesterday were suggesting that the Saints needed to do everything within their power as an organization to play to their strengths without Brees.
And by putting Taysom in the line-up over Teddy B. it might yield positive results for a team that desperately could use some right about now.
The Saints are fortunate to have a (1-1) win-loss record currently, and in spite of being the “underdog” this coming Sunday at undefeated Seattle (2-0) and then again next week when they come home to face the undefeated (2-0) Dallas Cowboys; it’s important to realize that their season isn’t over by any means.
After their game against the Cowboys, the Saints have a string of games that they can be competitive in without Brees: at home vs. Tampa Bay in Week #5, followed by games at Jacksonville, at Chicago, and then back home against the Arizona Cardinals.
Even if the Saints only managed to go (3-3) without Brees. it would give them a break-even win-loss record at (4-4), and keep the Black and Gold squarely in the hunt for the NFC Playoffs (and remain in contention to still win the division) when Brees gets back.
As an added benefit, this season’s schedule gives the Saints a perfectly-timed Bye Week (in Week #9), which is when Brees tentatively is expected to return.
They’ll have an easier 2nd half of the schedule by most accounts, and although they will be facing the Falcons and Panthers twice each in five of their remaining six NFC South contests, they all will be winnable games if Brees is back under center by that point.
Bottom line: there is a consensus-building that by putting their fate in the hands of Bridgewater, the Saints would be taking a huge risk and won’t be in the most favorable position to win games.
However. those very same folks feel that Taysom Hill would help them do that — and by doing so, would give the Saints the best chance at “salvaging” their season and keep their dreams of reaching Super Bowl LIV (54) this upcoming February in Miami, alive and well.
This coming Sunday as the Saints do “battle in Seattle” against the Seahwawks, we’ll see if Sean Payton himself, is thinking along those very same lines……