New Orleans Saints make obvious choice at quarterback
By Darral Nail
Taysom Hill was told, assured even, that he would be given a chance to earn the starting quarterback position for the New Orleans Saints.
While such a concession was perhaps newsworthy, coming as it did from the Monday Night Football announcer’s booth early in the week, it should hardly have been a surprise to anyone who has followed the team closely in recent years.
Though the team has since signaled their intent to hand the starting QB reins to second-year Saint Jameis Winston, a cynical type could be left to ponder why it took so long to arrive at what many see as a rather obvious decision.
Payton deserves credit for Taysom Hill as we know him
Since Hill’s arrival in New Orleans after being jettisoned from Green Bay as an undrafted rookie, Saints coach Sean Payton has appeared intrigued, if not outright enamored, with the remarkable physical capabilities that Hill brings to the team.
Payton and his staff deserve praise for extracting what would amount to an unprecedented level of utility from a previously cast-aside player, unleashing the menacing 6’2”, 220 pound Hill across the Saints’ special teams units and, later, as a featured weapon on the offensive side of the ball.
However, it is what many in Who Dat Nation have viewed as Payton’s stubborn fixation on shaping Hill into a starting NFL quarterback that has them questioning their otherwise-revered head coach.
A look at the film confirms Saints wise to choose Winston
For all the talk of Taysom Hill as the proverbial Steve Young-in-waiting, there are some issues with his game as a quarterback that seem to consistently round into focus.
Having reviewed the film from Hill’s starting turn in 2020, both of his preseason outings thus far, and a handful of games from his senior year at BYU, there are a few well-established themes that appear to function in limiting his effectiveness as a quarterback.
Though the 31-year old former Cougar is an unquestionably dynamic and fearless player, his accuracy when throwing the football is an issue that has dogged Hill since his collegiate days. One does not need to be a quarterback guru to notice that Hill can seem less than comfortable in a formed pocket, with feet that often appear choppy and unsettled.
While he does appear to pass muster in terms of sheer pocket presence, sensing, and moving away from incoming pressure, he can look rather jumpy while doing so and tends to surrender a stable base/throwing platform when shuffling aside or pushing backward. This is in stark contrast to the throwing fundamentals machine that was Drew Brees, who would invariably end up on a strong plant foot despite his scurrying about the pocket.
While Hill’s hit-or-miss passing mechanics are almost certainly to blame for some of his ball placement woes, there are also some deficiencies in his timing as well as the ability to throw to a receiver that he anticipates coming open. If reading the middle of the field and hitting option routes on time is going to be something that Hill continues to struggle with, it is hard to imagine him being successful over the long term in leading the Saints’ offense.
While Payton has generally earned the benefit of the doubt in such matters, many (myself included) have been left to wonder why exactly it was that Taysom Hill continued to battle with Jameis Winston for the team’s starting quarterback spot (even taking reps with the first unit in the team’s practice following the Jaguars game), when it seemed obvious all along that the former was much better equipped to conduct the graduate-level offensive system that remains in New Orleans despite Brees’ departure.
Irrespective of a long and often confounding process, Who Dat Nation can find comfort in knowing that the Saints will enter the upcoming season with 2019’s NFL-leading passer in charge of a dynamic (if re-tooled) Sean Payton led offense.