Saints May Be Off Schedule, But On Script for Success in 2021

In 2017, the Saints missed out on Mahomes. New Orleans could be 'on script' with either Winston or Hill ready to assume the starter's role this season.
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The New Orleans Saints officially has closed the chapter on the storied and illustrious career of Drew Brees. The club filed the official paperwork with the NFL and placed Brees on its reserve/retired list.

The NFL's all-time passing leader, Drew Brees, will no longer hear his name called and run out of the Superdome's tunnel and onto the playing field after 15 seasons as the Saints' leader and signal-caller.  

Saints Sean Payton, Mickey Loomis, and Drew Brees

Head coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis knew someday the Drew Brees era would end and began laying out the framework for a succession plan years ago.  

Lest we forget, the Saints were selecting Patrick Mahomes as their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.   

Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs knew of New Orleans' interest in Mahomes as they sat at No. 11.  

The Chiefs swiftly executed a trade with Buffalo at No. 10 and grabbed Mahomes for themselves.  

Mahomes goes on to win the 2018 AP MVP Award and Super Bowl LIV title.

The reality is apparent; a change in New Orleans was in the works before 2020, allowing Brees to ride off into the proverbial sunset and retire.  

If New Orleans selected Mahomes, an ugly ending to the Brees story could have materialized. Fortunately, it did not. However, did the delay in change damage New Orleans' last two campaigns for a second Lombardi Trophy with Brees at the helm?

PAYTON'S NEW CHALLENGES

New Orleans and Brees are moving on, and new challenges are ahead, especially this season.   

After all, transitioning to a new starting quarterback is never an easy mission for a head coach.

Albeit, the Saints quarterback situation is better than what most analysts and fans may believe.   

In the Sept. 12 season opener versus Green Bay, either Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill will usher in the new era of New Orleans Saints football. 

Regardless of who the player is that Sunday, you can sense Coach Payton's confidence, and here's why.

PAYTON AND CARMICHAEL TANDEM

New Orleans still has the offensive wizardry of Sean Payton.  At the same time, another figure is just as important, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.

He is maybe the league's best second-in-charge of a top offense.  

Since 2006, Carmichael has interpreted and translated Payton's plans to the Saints' quarterbacks and offenses.  

The two coaches remain constants with the franchise and continue succeeding together.

Towards the tail-end of Brees' career, Payton and Carmichael still had three Top 5 NFL offenses since 2018.

Their experience, football knowledge, creativity, and solid partnership are the big reasons the Saints' next quarterback will have a chance to succeed this upcoming season.

Think about it, without Brees in the lineup for nine games the past two seasons, Payton and Carmichael were keenly aware of how to develop a game plan that accentuates a quarterback's talent and win with a 9-1 record.

SAINTS OFF SCHEDULE, BUT ON SCRIPT?

Tailoring an offense around Jameis and Taysom is the same and although subtle differences do exist.

Jameis Winston, 27, is closer to a traditional pocket passer.   The former overall No. 1 pick contrasts Brees with youth, increased mobility, and a stronger arm to connect further downfield with receivers.

Taysom Hill, 30, presents more of a problem for opposing defenses being an off-schedule player - similar to Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. 

A defensive coordinator will have to prepare his team for either the run-pass-option and Hill's speed more than his passing accuracy.  Still, the passing option on each play poses a threat to defenses.

The intangible traits of both Winston and Hill are close as well. 

Both are family men, have solid leadership skills, confidence, and teammates gravitate to them.  The true elite quarterbacks have another dynamic that becomes a must for New Orleans' success.  

Can they elevate the level of play for themselves and their teammates?  

Jordan did it, Brady did it, can Winston and Hill do it?

During the offseason, both men conducted workouts.   Winston scheduled time with team receivers Tre'Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Juwan Johson, and tight ends Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett, as well as running backs Tony Jones, Jr. and Ty Montgomery.

Setting the sessions and bonding off the field is an important factor and not on a stat sheet.

SAINTS CONCERNS FOR WINSTON AND HILL?

Winston and Hill can be risk-takers at times.  In New Orleans, a quarterback's ball security is more of the focus than the big-play ability.

Jameis was ushered out of Tampa due to his 2019 high turnover rate. His ability to play the position at a high level (5,000+yards and 30 touchdowns) was not the concern, but it was the 30 interceptions, decision making, and ball security. Plus, a chance for the Bucs to nab Tom Brady did not help his case.

Hill's ball security comes with questions as well. Besides his 2 interceptions, Taysom laid the football on the ground 10 times in 2020.  Plus, preventing fumbles is the one element Hill must work on for 2021.

WHAT'S THE FINAL CALL?

It's too early to know how the quarterback competition will play out for New Orleans.

Nonetheless, 2021 poses a significant challenge for Payton.  

The elephant in the room will be the lack of Drew Brees' presence.

Exactly how will Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill find success under Payton's watchful eye?

We don't know.

Nonetheless, we shall see.


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