Will Sean Payton and Taysom Hill finally quiet doubters and critics as they usher in the "Taysom Hill Experience" in New Orleans Saints Football?
UPDATE (11/22/202 at 6:15 AM CST)
According to NFL reporter Ian Rapoport, a source says Sean Payton's decision is based on that he "just wants to know" if Taysom Hill is the future for the Saints at quarterback. Thus, my theory was right. Coach Payton is going with his "gut" feelings and the Taysom Hill Experiment is being elevated to the Taysom Hill Experience today.
Saints fans and Who Dats from all over the world welcome to the Taysom Hill experience. Well, the day finally comes in the Big Easy, where Taysom Hill is no longer an experiment but an experience.
Like a skillful gambler, Sean Payton has yet to show his hand and acknowledge Hill will start over Winston on Sunday against the Falcons. Reports from Adam Schefter, Diana Russini, and Tom Pelissero have him penciled-in as the starter. This may be the case. Or, not.
Is this a great Sean Payton Bluff? Possibly. I also bet and believe Coach Payton is going "all in" with Taysom Hill.
I cannot recall if Cris Collinsworth or Mark Schlereth shared how Sean Payton believes he has to be "uncommon" in his decision-making and play-calling. While many a Taysom Hill fan rejoices, an equal number of NFL experts are still scratching their heads attempting to rationalize his choice.
I told 103.7 The Game's radio host Jordy Hultberg on Friday, "as a coach, sometimes he must go with your gut" in making these calls. Maybe in this instance, Payton's gut could have been the deciding factor, but let's face facts. The NFL has been evolving from the pure pocket passer to the "dual-threat" quarterback for some time now.
LEADERSHIP AND CONSISTENCY
One of my favorite movies is Any Given Sunday with Academy Award winners Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx. When the stalwart veteran QB Jack "Cap" Rooney, played by Dennis Quaid, goes down from back injury, Steamin' Willie Beamen enters stage left to keep the team afloat upon Cap's return to the lineup. Sounds familiar in the NFL.
No matter the physically god-gifted talents Beamen possessed, he still had to become a leader of men. He learned this in the end as he watched Cap in a playoff game, where eventually, Beamen was called on to help the team win.
Leadership has never been a question for 30-year-old Hill. While at BYU, he returned from devastating injuries and kept leading his team. Saints fans quickly gravitated to Hill because of his gritty and passionate style of play. He won them over early and often.
The question about Taysom is not his physicality nor his leadership, but his consistency. Can he make the plays in the passing game, which were an issue for him in training camps and preseason games? As a player, all you need are the repetitions in practice and confidence placed in you from your coach to make up the difference.
EVOLUTION OF THE QUARTERBACK
Randall Cunningham (Eagles, Vikings, Cowboys, Ravens) to Michael Vick (Falcons, Eagles, Jets, Steelers). The two NFL MVPs, Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) and Lamar Jackson (Ravens), and now Kyler Murray (Cardinals) - the NFL QB cannot be a static player, but must be mobile and a passing threat.
The best example of a quarterback who embodies this style is none other than "DangerRuss," also known as Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. Last week, he matched Drew Brees and Brett Favre as the only three NFL quarterbacks to throw for more than 30 touchdowns in four consecutive years.
In May, after the Saints signed Taysom Hill to a 2-year, $21M contract extension with $16M in guarantees, Coach Payton told Fox's Jay Glazer, "No smokescreen, he's the guy." Meaning, Hill is the future starter after Brees in New Orleans.
With this in mind, this makes his decision an easy one, rather than uncommon. Right?
PROTECTING THE FOOTBALL & CONSISTENCY
The move to start Hill over the more NFL accomplished Jameis Winston may have raised some eyebrows, well, many eyebrows, perhaps with a fair bit of concern.
Hill has been a sparkplug or "change a pace" type of quarterback/running back/tight end/receiver/all-purpose player for New Orleans. The last extended period Taysom has under center was in the 2019 preseason. He has completed 10/18 passes, 205 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT in his NFL career with a passer rating of 72.7. Those are not elite Drew Breeseque passing numbers, but not many are at the level of a 20-year NFLer headed to the Hall of Fame. Hill does have 11 (7 receiving, 4 rushing) touchdowns in his NFL career.
The one caveat or "fly in the ointment" is his bruising running ability which could cause turnovers. Hill has 5 fumbles in his career. 4 fumbles in 2020. Taking care of the football on the ground and passing is important for a quarterback. Examine what happen to Winston in Tampa Bay. In 2019, he passed for over 5,000 yards, but he threw for 30 interceptions and had 3 fumbles.
Offensively, the Saints will call on Hill to read defenses, go through receiver route trees, anticipate the passes, and make critical plays. It appears Sean Payton is confident that Taysom is the man for the job.
THE GAMBLER'S "ALL IN" DECISION
Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons defense will face a wildcard in the form of Taysom Hill, the full-time quarterback.
ESPN's Diana Russini reported the team would not have an offensive package prepared for Jameis Winston. Sean Payton has laid all his cards on the table, and he's rolling with Taysom Hill for this entire game. He has been teasing the NFL with Hill the past few years, and now it's time for him to unleash Hill and his new offensive scheme.
Is Sean Payton gambling with the future of the New Orleans Saints with Taysom Hill? I don't know the answer. Yet, on Sunday, after hearing the praises and shouts of the church's saints, fans will be called-on to witness a new chapter in New Orleans Saints football. You see, this unique experience will become just as much about Taysom Hill, the quarterback, as it will be about Sean Payton, the head coach.
The mellow voice of the departed Kenny Rodgers crooned in The Gambler":
"If you're gonna play the game, boy,
You gotta learn to play it right,
You've got to know when to hold 'em,
Know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run,
You never count your money,
When you're sittin' at the table,
There'll be time enough for countin',
When the dealin's done." (Lyrics from The Gambler by Don Schlitz)
After tomorrow's heated rivalry on the pelletized turf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, we will know the answers.
Will it be Sean Payton's greatest gamble, besides Ambush? Or, a Genius Move? Is it the Taysom Hill Experiment or Taysom Hill Experience?
At this point in New Orleans Saints history, ready or not, it's Taysom Hill Time!